I see today that AM Radio’s regions are going to close in 6 months. (See: AM Radio Regions Closing Down In 6 Months – by Daniel Voyager) It seems every week or so some region is closing. I have to wonder how many regions are closing and if the closings are a Second Problem or just the natural evolution of the grid.
Metaverse publishes stats on the number of live regions available on SL. Since December 2010 the number is static. Growth can be said to have reached plateau… or stopped depending on how one wants to spin it.
Tyche Shepherd posts region growth on Doll’s Tea Party (blog) and in a thread in SLUniverse.com. The latest information being for the week ending April 10. Net growth is 16 regions. A list of the names of new regions are in the post and are the regions that closed. Newly opening were 146 and closing were 129. Eighteen of the new regions are returning regions. The 16 new regions represent a 0.05090% net growth. There are 31,430 live regions. The 149 would represent a 0.4645% growth. But we have regions closing almost as fast as they are opening.
From the plateau SL either begins to expand and grow or shrink and wither. Remaining unchanged is the least likely possibility. But, is growth or contraction more likely?
Many are writing about what SL needs to survive, grow, and flourish. Few tie their writing to what Linden Lab is actually doing to improve SL. A lot of effort is going into improving Second Life. For instance in February 2011 ArminasX Saiman blogged My Five Things about what it would take to revive Second Life. One of his five things is sim capacity. I think he really meant region capacity. As most of us know, regions hit population limits at 40 and 80 avatars depending on server. In 2010 Phillip Rosedale stated the Lab’s intention to fix that problem. If you read this blog, you have read the series of steps being taken by the lab to increase the limit. We may see a big jump in population limits this year.
Another of the five is search. There is no doubt it is broken. Even searching for people is a bigger problem than in the past. The DGP4SL Blog has been writing about resident frustration with SL Search and how to somewhat design your regions for possible good search placement. But, you will seldom hear that the Lab’s project with the largest number of employees is the search tool. Of course everyone has their idea of what is going on with search. Mine is that rather than have search results be search results as Google does, the Lab’s idea is to make search fair. If I’m right search will never work in any useful way. ‘Fair’ is not an absolute but a relative term and relative by person and scenario. Political activists use the idea of fair as they know it can never be attained. But, my hope is that as more of the web pages generated by regions become available to Google(currently 1.9 million SL pages) we will be able to use RL Google to find things… or maybe not.
Generally we are given gloomy news. Bloggers are all worried that SL is dying. It may be. But, lots of effort and money is going into moving SL to new levels. I see many of those worried that SL may be dying are contributing to its demise. I wonder if they even realize what they are doing.
Any famous area closing is news. Many of us will like to make our final visits and say good bye amd get our last pictures. My complaint is that without some perspective or balance to the sadness and downer news SL begins to seem gloomy. I personally think this year will change SL in many positive ways. I have doubts and concerns and would do things differently, if I ran the place. But, I try to keep things objective and balanced.
Will SL grow? New chat is coming that should greatly improve group chat. None too soon, because infrastructure changes to prepare for the new chat system seem to be degrading the current group chat. With the new XMPP Chat will be the possibility for loads of new chat apps and integration tools to work with social networks. I think those can improve SL’s visibility. The ability to find friends and connect within in SL could improve player retention, which is probably SL’s biggest problem.
Mesh is coming. Mesh will remove an obstacle to professional level modelers. We are already seeing some gorgeous builds on the Preview Grid. A number of developers are crying for a Mesh Release date. I think when we hear that date or see the release we’ll see an up tic in new regions opened.
We can’t know what the future will bring. While holding a blue sky ideal or wearing rose colored glasses is foolish and unrealistic, so too is being gloomy and pessimistic. I have hope and doubts. But, we’ll know much more by the end of this year.