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  ‘Second Life’ Population Goal: 1 Million Users in 2006  
Posted 2005-12-31 by Tony Walsh
Second Life maker Linden Lab has its work cut out for it next year. Membership in its virtual world skyrocketed to over 100,000 accounts in the last half of 2005, putting a massive strain on the company's product on all levels: Hardware, software, and human-driven systems. Pseudonymous insider Ben Linden has made some interesting projections about Second Life's tensile structure going into 2006, most notably that Linden Lab considers a tenfold increase in membership to be not just a possibility but a target, and that Linden Lab thinks a strong competitor to Second Life will become a noteworthy opponent. My guess is that the ailing There--currently Second Life's closest competitor--will continue its downward spiral next year, but that the avatar-based chat service IMVU will pose a serious threat to Second Life population increase in 2006.

Ben Linden weighs what can be done with Linden Lab's limited resources in the context of Scaling, Polish, and Innovation, settling on Scaling as the most important area of development: "This is by far the most critical," he writes. "[A]s long as we keep the servers up and running, we should be able to stay flat on user acquisition – we can re-architect the system to the point where we can scale to our target number, and then start working on polish and features again." While I agree this seems to be the best approach, I'm not confident that Second Life's system can be reworked quickly enough to satisfy the latest batch of new accounts--new users have recently been faced with downloading numerous software patches, global denial-of-service attacks, and poor performance. The user-base may have passed the 100k mark, but how many of those users will remain in the face of these largely unsolved problems? How will the user-base ever level out at 1 million virtual-world residents within the next 12 months?

Retaining the status quo for a tenfold increase in membership isn't likely to retain customers, in my opinion. Long-standing customers have been treated to plenty of Innovation and some Scaling since Second Life's launch, but are still waiting for badly-needed Polish (something arguably impossible without completely rebuilding Second Life's entire VR engine). New customers won't be experiencing any Scaling (it is invisible to them) or Innovation (invisible or too advanced for newbies), and won't be getting any Polish until after the Scaling is done. Doesn't sound like a recipe for one million accounts to me, but it does sound like a recipe for disappointment if Linden Lab continues marketing their product as something more than it actually is.
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Comment posted by Aesop Thatch
January 3, 2006 @ 12:19 am
Just as a note, Mr Walsh, the Teen Grid obtained aprx. 5000 users just before the grid went to 100l.
Comment posted by Tony Walsh
January 3, 2006 @ 10:06 am
Is the Teen Grid up 24/7 yet?
Comment posted by Aesop Thatch
January 3, 2006 @ 11:36 am
Yes, officially on Jan 1 06, but, there wasn't a 10pm logout on the 31st either.
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