Thursday, June 29, 2006

Second Life reaches 300,000 residents

Early metaverse platform Second Life is celebrating today as the number of residents climbed past 300,000, just ahead of the June 30 mid-year point. This is quite impressive for starting with 100,000 at the beginning of 2006 and in comparison to other early metaverse worlds (There, Sims Online, for example) that have not been as successful at growing participation.

Despite all the activity, the surprise continues to be the lack of applications for Second Life given its potential as a metaverse world. In general, Second Life remains narrowly defined both in the minds of creators Linden Lab and residents, but there is a slow evolution from chat, commerce and gaming applications to a wider variety of discussion, education, collaboration and information presentation uses. One minor challenge is that updates to the SL event listing software have not been made and it is often difficult to adequately specify and find events, also events are often announced to RL (real life) email groups rather than posted in SL for a wider community participation (for example, the haphazardly occurring Second Life Future Salon).

One of the most interesting ways to evaluate Second Life or any technology is to identify whether it complies with MEST (Matter, Energy, Space, Time) Compression, essentially the idea that newer technologies make more efficient use of resources. This is true in Second Life in at least three main domains, first SL as a revolutionary low-cost and wide-reach platform (available for free to anyone with a PC not more than a few years old and a broadband connection) for communicating and collaborating with hundreds or thousands of global others. Second, in the domain of design and building small-scale or large-scale physical objects either for use in SL or RL, or using SL as a simulation platform, there are clearly far fewer resources used and the 3-d capabilities may provide value that 2-d modeling cannot, however the building and design tools are still in early versions. A third MEST capability is in the domain of creating content like machinima with the recording tools and ease of "re-shooting" and trying different scenarios of the platform.

Metaverse participation is not constrained to joining one of the few currently available worlds; anyone can design and create multiple metaverse platforms with open source 3-d engine such as Irrlicht or the Croquet platform.