a place for planners

Opening the floor up to why SecondLife will fail.

Just thought I would open a post to why Secondlife will not be the next big thing. In my opinion it has the elements to be successful but there are too many holes in it to really take off. I see it as a great platform for the next metaverse site to really take off from. If anyone can prove why it will be the next big thing then those comments are welcome too.

1. Accountability
Just like early dating sites, people can go into Secondlife and be who they like and then get away with action that would not pass in society. The reason being is that they are not accountable to anyone. With the early dating sites people would go on dates with people and then be quite blunt and rude because they knew they would never see that person again and it would not get back to their close friends.

The reasons myspace and social networking sites work was because people were accountable for their actions. Everything they say and do is visible to their whole network of friends.

At the moment there are to many people having sex in the streets and rude behaviour for it to really take off with the general population. It needs to become more accountable needs to add the successful elements of social networking to really take off.

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Interesting. There's a good paper that Nick Gadsby of Wardle Maclean did at this year's MRS about online gaming: he suggests that the world of warcraft model is much more likely to thrive than the Second life one because it's more engaging and self-sustaining. You can find him at
Good topic Julian.

I get your point but for me Secondlife is closer to MMORPG than social network. In dating sites and social networks, people have real identities mainly because either it allows them to achieve their “final” objectives (meet someone or have sex in the real world) or simply because interactivity is much more limited.

At some point, Myspace’s benefits are limited is you only stay in the online world. For MMORPG, I think it’s different. In Word of warcraft, gamers spend hours playing together but this team of “friends” most of the time exists only in the virtual world. They don’t necessary want to meet up as their “story” or “friendship” exists only online.

Then, I agree that world of warcraft is, at the moment, more engaging as you have this collective mission that creates links between gamers. Secondlife stays quite personal for now. The main advantage of Secondlife is the almost absolute freedom of creation even though it is quite complex for non early adopters.

Do second life users want to create link between real and virtual world… I’m not sure. And that’s why for me fake identities don’t really matters.

Then to come back to social and dating network, it’s interesting to see their evolutions.

In dating site, they had this problem of “fake identities” and today if you still have people being "rude" as they don't want to show up in the real world, most of the people have "real" profile.

In France, for example, Meetic drove this behaviour by organizing parties, dinner, trips... where people from online could meet in the real world. It was hard to participate if you had a fake identity.

On the other hand in Myspace, you have more and more fake identities often to promote something and spam robots… Myspace can’t really control that and as it become more and more mainstream; you have less and less freedom (every day Myspace announces that they don't allow this widget or this 3rd party tool anymore). This, as much as fake identity, can piss off users and hurt Myspace.

Of course nothing is black and white and it’s hard to predict. The thing I’m sure is that SL is a great experimentation. Maybe it’s, indeed, too early to become mainstream but it’s interesting to see how it may impact other area such as e-commerce for example.

If you’re interested here is a good presentation from Ilya about SL and e-commerce.

And here is the interview of SL’s founder made by Stanford’s students at Iinovate.

I think there are a larger number of reasons for it not taking off. I'll start with why it won't take off as a game/universe in its own right and then explain why I don't think its any good as a platform for (some) advertisers.

1. Accessability as a game

I'm one of the biggest geeks I know and proud of it - but even to me the initial set up of the character let alone trying to navigate took far too long. The vast number of options which can be tinkered with would be daunting to most people and the set up time is going to cause a huge drop off in the number of players who register and then go on to actively play it.

If you have a look at the homepage, only 1/5th of the people who have registered an account have actually logged in in the last 60 days. This to me just shows that people have registered because of the hype to see what it was all about and then realised within minutes of downloading it that it takes too much time to get in to. And for those who do get a bit into it - many will realise that if they wanted to spend their time playing an MMOG there are much more fun options out there like World of Warcraft and very soon LOTR online and Warhammer online. Although this is purely speculation - I believe quite a large number of the active population are only logging in because they have monetary interests in the game and are seeking to either make a living or make some extra cash.

2. Immediate competition

Despite 2nd life being the first success of its kind, and being unique in having a real world economy - the simple fact that it isn't that much fun to 'play' is going to really hurt it when the PS3 3D environments come out which will also be free and almost certainly will be much easier to set up in and navigate.

3. User base and targeting possibilities.

I should stress that I say it sucks for 'some' advertisers because from the perspective of a UK client which is seeking to advertise in the UK - there is no way of targeting the relevant users in 2nd life, and more importantly 90% of the 2nd life population is from the US so no matter what we do there will be silly amounts of wasteage.

4. Brands generally aren't any good at integrating into hardcore online communities.

As we've already seen there has been huge amounts of backlash from the community concerning brands which have poorly created a presence in the online universe.Very few have tried to do something meaningful which adds to the user experience - the only one coming to mind is Vodaphone which has introduced an SMS service in game (however I'm pretty sure people can talk to others in their friends list anyway.. not certain though).

5. So which advertisers could it be good for?

Well clearly global brands due to the lack of targeting - but more specifically ones in the US who aren't hoping to get the attention of many users outside of the US (as these are few and far between). These brands could potentially integrate very well into the universe and community by offering something to the users and by not plastering their property with massive branding which the community would consider an eye-sore. I'm not sure if this has already been done - but it would probably be a breath of fresh air if a brand actually asked the community before it tried to integrate, how they would like to see that brand interact with the universe and advise what it could offer which would be greeted with a warm reception.

The stats I've used are from 2nd life itself - however the rest of the bumpf is all my opinion so feel free to let me know why I'm wrong if I am.

I think way too many marketers and corporations see SL as a holy grail for communications. hey continue to use games as THE model to jump into 2L. This is due in part to the fact that games are social in nature. Online games allow chat communication, an ability to always be connected and evenly matched competition, highly desirable to a global audience who can simply log on to connect and play. Markets seem to think of SL as the "social game". That is exactly why it doesnt work. It isn’t exactly a game, there are no monsters to slay or movies to download (yet); Linden Labs only sells its users land with nothing on it. Second Life is more of an open-platform, with everything created by the users themselves. And most people don't have time to create red polka-dot jackets, they just want to connect or play around.

The biggest activity in Second Life is shopping, and most users don't have the time or inclincation to create their own property (you start with nothing and must buy or create it). Marketers are creating spaces and things but they aren't properly adjusted to virtual needs. A virtual house branded Adidas or Reebok isn't trying that hard.. A virtual Coldwell Banker will get me a virtual house, but how is that going to translate in real-world sales? And better yet no one has demonstrated users want to make the transition. Marketers havent figured out SL, and won't until they can better tie virtual behaviors and needs into their real-life counterparts.

Also Julian you are right on in terms of accountability, the shennanigans going are clearly not governed and only detrimental. I myself signed up and within 2 minutes had already been solicited for sex. This type of wild-west environment is something marketers aren't really suited for, being left to fend for themselves among hackers and computer nerds who aren't necessarily acting conventionally. They are more or less slow targets
Hmm. I second that. Also all games/platforms akin second life has a targeted shelf life that most people seem to forget. Games are quite similar to music actually,like how pop acts rise and fall and then another pop acts erupt on the scene again. If second life for example, say its like justin timberlake... Wow is perhaps like david bowie, always changing, always something new and of course always a joy to listen to, even with your mates . They are both iconic.

well, could additional expansion packs save second life and prolong its playability? .
Thought I should add this. Posted on my blog recently about some info that suggests that 2nd life only has about 300k unique users who regularly play.

Hmmn I think maybe you're attacking the 'planner' mindset too short sightedly. Even from a consumer perspective, 2nd life has limited appeal and although somewhat resembles the Metaverse, is no where near it in terms of functionality.

Ultimately it is an online space where not a lot happens, that isn't massively fun to be in, and has controls/commands that aren't easy to get to grips with.

There's no doubt that its a neat idea, even if it is a stolen one; but having said that it has limited appeal to fanboys and 'self employed' people looking to make an easy dollar without having to get up off their asses.

Frankly.. the real reason SL will "fail".. hardware can't keep up with the ways people want to be able to use the place.
I think it will fail because every time I go there, the streets are empty. In the real world, when we're in a city that's dying, a clue is the lack of people. We associates people will liveliness. Second life doesn't have that.

However, it's getting people use to the idea of online worlds. And I suspect, online malls will be the offspring. And that's relevant to us. Because until 3D shopping comes along, online shopping will be very purposeful. A 3D world will let it become social.
Apple computer just got a patent for: "A method of representing activity in an online store comprising: receiving information associated with the activities of a second visitor to the store; receiving an indication of the presence of a first visitor at the store; and displaying to the first visitor a representation of the activities of the second visitor."

A sort of Second Mall.




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