In this episode we look at a first and long running virtual world which has been going on for almost two decades – Second Life. It pioneered many of the concepts that are being used or talked about in the current planning and execution of other metaverse contenders. We’ll also look at it from the point of view of one of the early “citizens” of the world of Second Life. Through his first-person view, we’ll watch how it developed.
When Philip Rosedale founded the online community “Second Life” which started in 2003 but launched publicly in 2007, he made the claim that “The 3D web will rapidly be the dominant thing and everyone will have an avatar.”
Second Life is the oldest example of what would eventually come to refer to as the metaverse. It captured the Imagination web users and grew rapidly to almost a million users.
It consisted of a virtual world, where you interacted as avatars. It had, and still has, an economic structure and a currency. It had much of what we think of when we hear the term “metaverse” – all done with a simple keyboard and screen interface.
Despite its meteoric rise, its growth stalled at the million-user level and it’s never really grown past that. It added sound, allowing the computer microphone and speakers to be used in the interface. But in contrast to the virtual and augmented reality planned for future metaverse offerings, it seems almost quaint by comparison.
We can learn a lot from what made Second Life attractive as well as what held it back
Its simplistic user interface and tools were reflections of the limitations of 2007 computing and internet speeds. Everything in Second Life from the avatar you used to the chair you sat in had to be created with tools that by today’s standards are primitive and time intensive.
Only a ‘hard core’ following would be willing to put the time and effort into, That definitely slowed down adoption.
It was not an open platform like Facebook. It didn’t sell your data. It didn’t sell its citizens as eyeballs to advertisers. It was a subscription model. People paid a modest monthly fee.
Second Life is evolved from a gaming environment. It was round for almost 3 years before it went into beta. The three years before beta was required to build out the infrastructure and get started at a basic level – essentially what might be called a “Minimum Viable Product (MVP). It was necessary to build an environment – a metaverse – that ran on predictable rules
Despite the limitations of its interface and many growing pains, it remains to this day a functioning version of what a metaverse could be.
In this episode, we’ll detail the development of Second Life through our commentary and with the firsthand experiences of one of its earliest citizens. It’s an experience that was described as “fascinating, exciting and terrifying” at the same time.
For those stories we’d welcome you to listen to the episode to get them first hand.