Second Life is an online virtual world developed by Linden Lab which was launched on June 23, 2003. A number of free client programs called Viewers enable Second Life users, called Residents, to interact with each other through avatars. Residents can explore the world (known as the grid), meet other residents, socialize, participate in individual and group activities, and create and trade virtual property and services with one another. Second Life is intended for people aged 13 and over,and as of 2011 has more than 20 million registered user accounts.
Built into the software is a three-dimensional modeling tool based around simple geometric shapes that allows residents to build virtual objects. There is also a procedural scripting language, Linden Scripting Language, which can be used to add interactivity to objects. More complex three-dimensional sculpted prims (colloquially known as sculpties), textures for clothing or other objects, and animations and gestures can be created using external software. The Second Life Terms of Service provide that users retain copyright for any content they create, and the server and client provide simple digital rights management functions.
In 1999, Philip Rosedale formed Linden Lab, developing computer hardware allowing people to immerse in a virtual world. In its earliest form, the company struggled to produce a commercial version of the hardware, known as “The Rig”, which was realized in prototype form as a clunky steel contraption with computer monitors worn on shoulders. That vision changed into the software application Linden World, in which people participated in task-based games and socializing in a three-dimensional online environment. That effort would eventually transform into the better known, user-centered Second Life. Although he was familiar with the metaverse of Neal Stephenson’s novel Snow Crash, Rosedale has said that his vision of virtual worlds predates that book, and that he conducted early virtual world experiments during college years at the University of California San Diego, where he studied physics.
On December 11, 2007, Cory Ondrejka, who helped program Second Life, was forced to resign as chief technology officer.
In January 2008, residents spent a total of 28,274,505 hours “inworld”, and, on average, 38,000 residents were logged in at any particular moment. The maximum concurrency (number of avatars inworld) recorded is 88,200 in the 1st qtr. 2009
On March 14, 2008, Rosedale announced plans to step down from his position as Linden Lab CEO and to become chairman of Linden Lab’s board of directors.Rosedale announced Mark Kingdon as the new CEO effective May 15, 2008. In 2010, Kingdon was replaced by Rosedale, who took over as Interim CEO. After four months though, Rosedale abruptly stepped down from the Interim CEO position. It was announced in October 2010, that Bob Komin, Linden Lab’s chief financial officer and chief operating officer, will take over the CEO job for the immediate future.
In 2008, Second Life was honored at the 59th Annual Technology & Engineering Emmy Awards for advancing the development of online sites with user-generated content. Rosedale accepted the award.
In May 2009 concurrent users averaged about 62,000. As of May 2010 concurrent users averaged about 54,000. The perceived decline in median concurrent users over this time correlates precisely with new policies implemented by Linden Lab reducing the number of bots and campers.
In June of 2010, Linden Labs announced layoffs of 30% of its workforce.
In November 2010, 21.3 million accounts were registered, although there are no reliable figures for actual long-term consistent usage.
During a 2001 meeting with investors, Rosedale noticed that the participants were particularly responsive to the collaborative, creative potential of Second Life. As a result the initial objective-driven, gaming focus of Second Life was shifted to a more user-created, community-driven experience.
Second Life’s status as a virtual world, a computer game, or a talker, is frequently debated. Unlike a traditional computer game, Second Life does not have a designated objective, nor traditional game play mechanics or rules. As it does not have any stipulated goals, it is irrelevant to talk about winning or losing in relation to Second Life. Likewise, unlike a traditional talker, Second Life contains an extensive world that can be explored and interacted with, and it can be used purely as a creative tool set if the user so chooses.
It also used to be for any age, but now requires users to be at least 18 years of age to access Adult areas, with underage users unable to access those areas.
There are three types of what is allowed in sims in Second Life 1. PG (no extreme violence or nudity) 2. Mature (some violence, swearing, adult situations, some nudity) 3. Adult (nudity and violence)
Residents and avatars
There is no charge for creating a Second Life account or for making use of the world for any period of time. Linden Lab reserves the right to charge for the creation of large numbers of multiple accounts for a single person (5 per household, 2 per 24 hours) but at present does not do so. A Premium membership (US$9.95/month, US$22.50 quarterly, or US$72/year.) extends access to an increased level of technical support, and also pays an automatic stipend of L$300/week into the member’s avatar account (down from an original stipend of L$500, which is still paid to older accounts; certain accounts created during an earlier period may receive L$400). This stipend, paid into the member’s avatar account, means that the actual cost for the benefit of extended tech support for an annual payment of US$72 is only US$14. However, the vast majority of casual users of SL do not upgrade beyond the free “basic” account.
Avatars may take any form users choose (human, animal, vegetable, mineral, or a combination thereof) or residents may choose to resemble themselves as they are in real life,or they may choose even more abstract forms, given that almost every aspect of an avatar is fully customizable. Second Life Culture comprises many activities and behaviors that are also present in real life. A single resident account may have only one avatar at a time, although the appearance of this avatar can change between as many different forms as the Resident wishes. Avatar forms, like almost everything else in SL, can be either created by the user, or bought pre-made. A single person may also have multiple accounts, and thus appear to be multiple Residents (a person’s multiple accounts are referred to as alts).
Avatars can communicate via local chat, group chat, global instant messaging (known as IM), and voice. Chatting is used for localized public conversations between two or more avatars, and is visible to any avatar within a given distance. IMs are used for private conversations, either between two avatars, or among the members of a group, or even between objects and avatars. Unlike chatting, IM communication does not depend on the participants being within a certain distance of each other. As of version 126.96.36.199, voice chat, both local and IM, is also available on both the main grid and teen grid. Instant messages may optionally be sent to a Resident’s email when the Resident is logged off, although message length is limited to 4096 bytes.
Second Life has an internal economy and internal currency, the Linden dollar (L$). L$ can be used to buy, sell, rent or trade land or goods and services with other users. Virtual goods include buildings, vehicles, devices of all kinds, animations, clothing, skin, hair, jewelry, flora and fauna, and works of art. Services include “camping”, wage labor, business management, entertainment and custom content creation (which can be broken up into the following 6 categories: building, texturing, scripting, animating, art direction, and the position of producer/project funder). L$ can be purchased using US Dollars and other currencies on the LindeX exchange provided by Linden Lab, independent brokers or other resident users. Money obtained from currency sales is most commonly used to pay Second Life’s own subscription and tier fees; only a relatively small number of users earn large amounts of money from the world. According to figures published by Linden Lab, about 64,000 users made a profit in Second Life in February 2009, of whom 38,524 made less than US$10, while 233 made more than US$5000. Profits are derived from selling virtual goods, renting land, and a broad range of services.
The Linden can be exchanged for US dollars or other currencies on market-based currency exchanges. Linden Lab reports that the Second Life economy generated US$3,596,674 in economic activity during the month of September 2005,and as of September 2006 Second Life was reported to have a GDP of $64 Million.In 2009 the total size of the Second Life economy grew 65% to US$567 million, about 25% of the entire U.S. virtual goods market. Gross Resident Earnings are $55 million US Dollars in 2009 – 11% growth over 2008.In March 2009, it was revealed that there exist a few Second Life entrepreneurs, who have grossed in excess of 1 million US$ per year.