Writing the annual review is a lot of work and takes time I will be using for RL projects. Ciaran and others have written their reviews of 2014. I’m going to skip mine this year. But, I do have some thoughts on 2014 and the coming 2015.
I have been tracking concurrent user numbers for the past 3 years.
There has often been a discussion about whether or not there is a seasonal aspect to the use of Second Life. I think the chart answers that question. It shows most clearly in the peak concurrent users line and a bit less in the minimum line, but it is still there.
Notice that about July-August of each year there is a low point in the numbers. From then to February-March the numbers increase to a peak then start to fall to the February-March low point. It seems pretty consistent from year to year for the last 3 years.
I started tracking concurrent users when The Lab stopped reporting stats and Tateru Nino posted there were no seasonal trends in Second Life user data that she could find. See Dwell On It article: Summer/Winter variation in Second Life usage? Data says no. (April 2011) What she was saying seemed to contradict what many of us thought we were experiencing. But, she had data and that can be pretty convincing. But, I wondered. So, I started collecting data.
On my graph the black lines are trend lines. There is no doubt there is a downward trend. In max concurrent users the downward trend is slowing. But, in the minimum concurrent users line it is a consistent decline with a slight increase in rate. You have to put a straight edge on the line to even see the curve. So, I put a transparent blue line on the trend so it is more obvious. The average concurrent users trend line is a different trend calculation and does NOT reflect a possible rate change as the other two lines do. It simply shows the straight line rate of decline over the past three years from beginning to end of the data set.
Daniel Voyager in his article 2015 Second Life grid statistics update shows the loss of regions and hopes that ‘somehow’ Second Life recovers. I think it is obvious the Lab thinks they have to do something and SL2 is the apparent answer. Only time will tell how well they do and whether the Oculus 3D Immersion brings new life to the Lab’s worlds.
I think the real key to growing the user base and making virtual worlds the marketing success everyone thinks they can be (interesting hint at this in a recent Hamlet article: MIT Journalism Head Shares Letter from the Metaverse) is making them accessible to search engines like Google and Yahoo and providing one click access like any web page has. I hope Ebbe has picked up on that aspect of general web use and is adding it to SL2.
There are 3+ billion Internet users today. 1.4 billion have made searches using Google today as I write this (1/11 – 8:36 AM). Reference If 0.1% of those people search for something that is on SL2 and get to see a new 3D world… that is an easy 3 million visits to SL2 before 9AM… a bit more than the average million or so sign-in’s per day the Lab says they have now.
But, to get those people into SL2 two things absolutely have to happen. Search engines like Google and Yahoo have to be able to find things in SL2 and build a URL that will take you to a 3D location in a virtual world. Well that is not that hard to do. The tech exists. Some was even built into SL. Look at the URL’s in my blog that take you to a specific article in my blog. The date info could just as easily be 3D coordinates.
You may not realize it, but there are very few pages in my blog. My WP metrics say there are 27 pages and with this article 2,504 articles. I modified the theme for this site and I can guarantee there are not 27 ‘pages’. There are about 6 templates that are what are generally thought of as HTML/web pages that make up this site’s theme. All the 27 pages and 2,504 articles that seem to have their very own pages come out of a database (105mb) and are displayed dynamically using one of only a few templates. My point here is that Google and Yahoo are indexing content I keep in a database, which is hwere everything in SL and SL2 is and will be kept.
The second requirement is the SL2 system has to get incoming visitors to those locations without sign up or software download. How useful would the web be if you had to sign up before you could see any web site or download a special program to see their content? If we want to post or purchase something, then we do have to sign up, but at that point we have ‘motivation’ to get something we have decided we want. It will need to be the same for SL2, one click access from a search engine.
Facebook-Oculus and Yahoo-Cloud Party are no doubt figuring out how they will make such a system work. While the Lab has fantastic experience with and knowledge of how to make a virtual world work, they have unfortunately consistently failed to create a working search system. I think they have and have had the technical ability needed to make a working system. But, they got lost in trying to make it ‘fair’, something like trying to legislate honesty… impossible.
Google figured out how to deal with the abuse problems some time ago. A simple free market solution. Google’s computer system cannot control the abuse nor is it designed to. But, it can detect abuse in an amazingly short time (it used to be days, but they seem faster at it now).
The penalties for abusing the system are horrendous. Google simply removes all references to an abuser’s site from their database. The site essentially disappears from the Internet and their visitor traffic drops to near zero. For a time any web designer that was associated with abuse would find all the sites they could connected to had been removed from Google’s database. Total banishment and no appeal. The Lab never seems to have learned the lesson and, as best I can tell, kept trying to build an abuse proof search system for SL.
We’ll see if they have taken a new look at the how they handle search with SL2. Of all the things that may contribute to SL2’s success or failure, I think this search and access are likely the most influential. If I ran Linden Lab on this point I would make SL2 accessible to search engines and use Google search for my in world and market place search. I would look for a way to make search information placed in SL2 by users connect with the SL2 user and let Google/Yahoo deal with the abuse. Don’t like the way SL2 search works… talk to Google. Problems solved.