Second Life 2.0 and the Competition

The Second Life™ blogosphere is abuzz about the coming new world being built by Linden Lab. Everyone wants to know what it will be like and whether we will be able to transfer out inventories. But, today I came across Gwyneth Llewelyn’s article NeXT Life. In the title Gwyn is making a play on the 1990’s Steve Jobs ‘other’ company NeXT, which eventually became the Mac OSX.

Fashion for Life - 2014

Fashion for Life – 2014

In her article she takes an in depth look at who Linden Lab’s™ competition is and how they stack up. She also suggests some interesting ways for the Lab to deal with that competition. In all I like the long article. I shouldn’t complain about length after the article I wrote yesterday. 

Starting out I saw that Gwyn’s facts suffer a bit of the Telephone Game’s factoring. The only point I wish to correct are her statements about Linden decisions being questionable as each big decision has cost them users. I just don’t see it as that simple.

Gwyn says that with each big announcement and change in SL we lose population. For instance when ‘they’ decided to disallow gambling (July 2007) we lost 30% of the active users. I can’t find any support for that number. Then in August 2007 in-world banking was banned because of the collapse of in-world banks. Wikipedia claims that cut the SL economy in half. But, I see no way to separate the loses from banning gambling and banking. Nor can I verify the quantifications.

I also cannot say that Linden Lab’s decisions on these issues were bad. US law on Internet gambling had changed. That was going to create problems for SL and the Lab did not want to deal with the red tape and state-by-state enforcement of the Federal and state laws in the US. No matter what the Lab did gambling was going to be restricted. I don’t see that they had any choice that would have been acceptable to users.

With decision banking all sorts of problems are still coming up and US laws change to give the central government more control of our lives. Since scammers could setup fake banks, something done in RL too, in world and Linden Lab’s customers were getting ripped off they had to do something. So, in 2007 in-world banking as we think of banking was banned. Whether we lost more users from the ban or the swindle, I can’t find anything that believably says. But, again I don’t see where the Lab had much choice but to make a decision.

Gwyn also sees the creation of Zindra as costing the Lab SL users. I can’t find a dip in SL stats that suggest that is true. If it doesn’t show in the user stats, does it matter? If so few people left that it didn’t make a difference, why worry? And refrain from moving forward because a few people may leave if it offers the opportunity for appeal to a larger audience?

I can’t see that Gwyn’s idea the Lab makes consistent bad decisions holds up. So, I can’t agree with her projection that the decision to build a new world will cost them users, or at least cost enough users to matter. When I looked at the user chat from the SL11B event with Jeccisa Lyon I found 5 or 6 people of the 96 there the problem people. If those 6 left, even if they represent 6% of all users, I wouldn’t mind. I think SL would be better off without them. Player retention might increase if we had fewer poisonous people in SL. I’m not suggesting we through them out. But, if they chose to leave as we improve the world, OK.

The rest of Gwyn’s article seems to be more in line with how I see the world.

But the competition…

Gwyn points out that for the first time ever the Lab’s Second Life is going to have serious competition. Blue Mars pulled users and content creators. Cloud Party did too. But, they closed and most of those users are back in SL. Facebook’s world is unlikely to close even if it loses money for 5 years.

Blue Mars was technically advanced. Cloud Party was too. Those did not draw a flood of new users. They did not go mainstream drawing a billion users. Gwyn at length examines how High Fidelity (HyFy) and a new Facebook virtual world (VW) will gain users in ways that Mars and Party didn’t. And how they will have some of the same problems along with there unique problems.

Her conclusion is a new VW just because it is a VW is unlikely to attract new users. But, we have thousands of new users per day signing up for SL. So, I believe there is some disconnect in her thinking on this point. With 10k to 40k new signups per month, I think, we not need so much to attract new players as we need to learn how to keep them.

Is an easier to use viewer going to increase player retention? Probably. Is an easier to use world going to retain more users? I think that even more likely. Will better performance that is more like other computer games going to retain more players? It will help, especially the performance part. So, can this new world deliver those things? I think and hope so.

Gwyn examines in detail the facets of FB and HyFy and how they may work and succeed and/or fail. She then makes comparisons to SL and what she calls NeXT Life or I call SL2. These are well done comparisons revealing a number of insights that had not occurred to me.

Gwyn writes, “I believe that Linden Lab should be doing some deep thinking about what real arguments they have for the majority of residents to switch over and continue to spend money in their new platform as they have done so far in Second Life.” Well… yeah.

I suppose they are doing the thinking. I think this is where the marketing will make the difference. I worry based on the Lab’s past marketing, but Ebbe seems to seeing his way through the marketing maze and he is doing things differently.

Some of the points that Gwyn sees that should make it into marketing in some form is that FB is going to give us a fascist world where the FB management rules. Losing a few million users when they have billions… it is going to have all the worst aspects of an insensitive bureaucratic government. HyFy is looking like it will be the wild west where it is likely to be full on buyer beware with ‘region’ providers handling most enforcement and banning issues. NeXT Life or SL2 will be somewhere in between. How to convey that in a professional way is going to be the marketing trick of the day.

From what we have seen of people’s reactions so far Gwyn’s insight on identity transfer and content transfer are probably the most accurate when she writes, “Remember, on HF or Facebook, nobody will know your name, nobody will recognize your avatar, you won’t have any money, and your inventory will be empty. [Linden Lab] Tell them how awesome ‘NeXT Life’ will be. Then hire them [content creators] — yes, pay them money — to convert a substantial part of their content to ‘NeXT Life’. In return, they will ‘allow’ residents switching over to pick brand new copies of their content, for free, in exchange for the equivalent content they had in Second Life. This would save all the costs of planning to migrate content. Let the content creators do that for you — probably what you’d spend would be about the same.

Now there is an idea. Getting this into a marketing plan and users on board is the opportunity Gwyen hopes the Lab sees. Me too.

If you want to understand what is likely to happen with the Second Life we now have, the coming new Linden world, HyFy, and the coming Facebook world, you need to read Gwyn’s analysis of these things in: NeXT Life. I think it will help one understand the forces at play.

5 thoughts on “Second Life 2.0 and the Competition

  1. Take a look at Pussycat Catnap theory about new registrations . Simply put, all those signups are not users — they’re community board spammers. This would be completely consistent with the numbers: 10k register every day, but only a handful show in-world. The software that LL uses to run the community boards is well-known by forum spammers: only rich companies with millions of users need to use that kind of software; SL’s websites list very high on the many Internet rankings because of their traffic; so they’re naturally a target for spambots.

    Anyone who runs a website knows how the ratio between legitimate users and spambots is. In most of my own blogs — the ones that have more than, say, 50 visits per day — the ratio of legitimate comments to spam is about 1:1000. So, as I suggested back in March, there isn’t really an issue of user retention. SL just gets a handful of new humans every day. Sure, many leave, but, quoting myself —

    […]it’s totally different to address a problem that affects, say, 10 or 20 new registrations per day, than to imagine there is a huge problem affecting 9.990 new users per day.

    As for the rest… Ciaran Laval has recently discussed the issue about the ToS. Content creators may not want their ‘old’ content ported to a ‘new’ world, so my proposal for an automated transfer, while technically possible (for unscripted objects), may not work for legal issues. Of course LL can change their ToS. But I think it makes better sense to engage the content creator community and give them a financial incentive to move their content to SL2 and exchange, for free, old content for new.

    Ironically, I just saw a comment on New World Notes from a content creator saying exactly that. I’m sure he didn’t read my article (I have few visitors!). But he already stated that he would be on SL2 and allow all his former customers to exchange content they had bought in SL for new content in SL2 — and he was appealing fellow content creators to do the same. And he was doing this for free, without even LL’s support! All he needed to know was the avatar name and item bought — most content creators keep a record of that — so that he could check it on his database.

    My whole point (perhaps it needs a shorter article!) was that LL does, indeed, have very good arguments to push people from SL into SL2. But the arguments we have heard are the very same that the competition also has: come to our new world, it’ll be shiny new. Well, all others are. LL has to make a difference. Ebbe has a background in marketing, surely he can draw a five-step list of arguments as an elevator pitch to convince SL residents to move to SL2 instead of HiFi or FB VW?

    I’d expect at least that from a CEO of LL.

    • I do manage some high traffic sites that use Adwords. They do get bombarded by spammers. One automotive site was being hit on the order of 4,000 times per second. We ran more server capacity than we needed for users to provide adequate response time. But, blogs and forums and other sign up and email forms associated with them are filtered. We separate out spam number from actual users. I have no doubt that Linden Lab is capable of the same. To believe that 99.9% of new signups are spammers, that is an extra ordinary claim and will need extra ordinary proof.

      The 1:1000 ratio does not stand up for any of the sites that I or my associates support. On this blog the spam runs 1:28 and I can easily see the numbers in the stats.

      So, one also has to believe the Lab cannot figure out whether they are being spam’d or actually have humans signing up. Or, that they would lie about it.

      I agree with Ciaran that some creators have issues with the TOS, I do too. But, I can find any stats that show the number that have left or a stat that shows a dip or down trend starting with the change.

      The idea that SL has good reasons to push SL users to SL2 is not as accurate a statement as you might make. There are reasons we can think of that seem to suggest they would think as we have. But, as yet I’m not seeing that Ebbe has adopted them. Someday that may be true. You make good arguments for why it could come to that someday.

      Your suggestion that the Lab hire content creators seem like a good idea. I like it. That some content creators have thought of it already, suggests it is a generally rational idea. I pointed out in an earlier article that some merchants may start making offers of buy now and we’ll provide a copy in SL2 when it opens. They did that with standard size items when the Deformer was in progress.

      It would be interesting of the Lab adopts it.

  2. \But, we have thousands of new users per day signing up for SL. So, I believe there is some disconnect in her thinking on this point. With 10k to 40k new signups per month, I think, we not need so much to attract new players as we need to learn how to keep them.\

    On one of her latest articles called ‘understanding second lifes culture’, Gwyn analyze those numbers in depth (As she uses to do ^^) and she refers to a theory proposed by Pussycat Catnap. What if most of that new signups were forum spambots? Maybe she stick with that theory. Personally.. that one made me think.

    • See Gwyn’s comment.

      Their numbers WAY over state what I see in my personal experience. That Pussycat Catnap took some time to figure out what was happening and then block it… well, most the people I have worked with learned years ago about the spam problems and new sites are built with blocking and detection and stats differentiation because of spammers.

  3. Pingback: Linden Lab - A New Virtual World PlatformVirtual London News | Reports on the Virtual Community of London

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