Well… everyone is talking about the decrease in the number of concurrent users. I have certainly noticed the currently online numbers displayed at login decreasing. In 2009 I was seeing 80,000 and climbing. Now it is rare to see 70,000 and common to see around 40,000 to 65,000 with the median generally reported to be about 52,000. So, is SL dying? Is the sky falling?
In my previous article Second Life Regions Closing I pointed out that bloggers tend to give you one side. I think it is common for people to get an idea and write about it. Once we believe something or decide on something everything we see that can support it, we add to our evidence file… memory… whatever. Evidence that goes against our thinking tends to just get ignored. We tend to self-confirm our thinking, right or wrong. Only when we are curious and without an opinion are we open to seeing both sides of an issue. In other words we are mostly biased. That is how I know chocolate is a weight loss health food.
Hamlet posted the stats available in Why is Second Life Concurrency Slipping? Likely Less Login Hours — But Not Necessarily Less Users. All through 2010 user hours were going down. The number of concurrent users was also decreasing. These two go hand in hand. But, the number of people logging on, more than once, in a given reporting period increased throughout 2010. At the end of 2009 the Lab was reporting 750,000 unique users logging on more than once in the reporting period, (Quarterly based on monthly login – Logging on in more than one month in a quarter, qualifies one as a repeat login Reference) and 800,000 at the end of 2010. That indicates more residents entering the world. But, since they spend less time online, you are less likely to be on when they are on, thus lower concurrency.
The key question we are interested in is; what do these numbers mean? I see lots of explanations given. Everyone has their favorite bright idea or ideas. Some think it means people are leaving SL. I perceive many of those seeing the numbers meaning a loss of players as somewhat hostile toward SL, the Lab, or the world, real or virtual, in general, may be they are just pessimists.
I think Hamlet is closer to the real meaning on this one. Core users that make up most of the activity in SL are spending less time in SL. I tend to agree with that spin on the information.
Less Time – Less Interest?
Second Life residents have many more ways to participate in SL. I suspect many of those ‘ways’ are taking time, not interest, way from SL. Consider these ideas:
- Mesh developers are spending most of their time on ADITI (preview grid) where they can work with mesh. I can’t find information on how logins to ADITI are counted. So, this may not be a factor at all. I think all logins are handled by the same servers, whether one is going to the main grid or one of the test grids. So, I suspect a login to ADITI is counted just as a login to the main grid (AGNI).
- Bots have an affect on the real numbers. Yeah, they probably do. But since we have almost no data on bots we can’t tell whether the bot numbers are distorting things or not. How many bots are there? Do they logon regularly, like weekly because of weekly rolling restarts, or more or less often? Does the number of bots change? Are they a growing, decreasing, or static population? We have no hard data. Make your own speculation about how many there are and what affect that number has on the SL stats.
- Creators are working outside Second Life. This is probably going to be a real factor in the Repeat Login and Concurrency numbers. Those designing mesh and sculpty objects generally work in a program outside SL. As mesh becomes more popular and hits the main grid we likely are going to see more of an impact from this behavior. These creative types will still login multiple times per month and be counted as repeat logins. But, they are likely to spend less time in SL and thus reduce the concurrency numbers.
- OpenSim – I’m one of the people that builds stuff in OpenSim. I write my scripts there and test them there. I can see the regions’ stats only available to land owners because I own 9 regions in OSGrid (down right now for RL reasons). I run the sim in one of my computers and can see lots of interesting information as well as the land stats available in the viewer. Also, uploading textures, sculpties and mesh is free, well donation based. So, I spend more time in OpenSim and that means less time in SL. I login to SL less often and spend less time in SL because I am building and testing outside SL. I suspect significant numbers of other content creators are doing the same.
- Some people are following friends in SL on Twitter, Facebook, and other social networks. This means they spend less time in SL and likely login less often. While it is not a loss of interest in SL, it does drop the numbers. Are login connections from various Twitter and iPhone apps counted? Are they known to LL? I suspect so. They aren’t reported, so again we don’t know.
So, are the problems in SL and the advancement in social technologies, the Lab has yet to adopt, taking people out of SL? Probably. But, that doesn’t necessarily mean those people are leaving SL or losing interest. It may mean that. But, we don’t have the information to know. It is much more probable that how people are using SL is changing.
We know that most of the problems people are aware of in SL are being addressed. We also know that Rod said there are jaw dropping improvements coming… whatever that may be.
The statistics we see today do not tell us what is coming. We tend to project from history, which is what stats are. In many cases that works. But, in this case things are changing. So, projections based on stats from pre-change times are NOT good predictors of what is to come post changes… plus right now several indicators are mostly flat, they could shift either way. So, in the end, we really don’t know much from the Concurrency numbers.