Second Life is an online multimedia platform that allows people to create an avatar for themselves and then interact with other users and user created content within a multi player online virtual world. Developed and owned by the San Francisco-based firm Linden Lab and launched on June 23, 2003, it saw rapid growth for some years and in 2013 it had approximately one million regular users. Growth eventually stabilized, and by the end of 2017 the active user count had declined to "between 800,000 and 900,000". In many ways, Second Life is similar to massively multiplayer online role-playing games; nevertheless, Linden Lab is emphatic that their creation is not a game: "There is no manufactured conflict, no set objective".
The virtual world can be accessed freely via Linden Lab's own client software or via alternative third-party viewers. Second Life users, also called 'residents', create virtual representations of themselves, called avatars, and are able to interact with places, objects and other avatars. They can explore the world (known as the grid), meet other residents, socialize, participate in both individual and group activities, build, create, shop, and trade virtual property and services with one another.
Philip Rosedale formed Linden Lab in 1999 with the intention of developing computer hardware to allow people to become immersed in a virtual world. In its earliest form, the company struggled to produce a commercial version of the hardware, known as "The Rig", which in prototype form was seen 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 eventually transformed 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 his college years at the University of California, San Diego, where he studied physics.
Second Life began to receive significant media attention in 2005 and 2006, including a cover story in BusinessWeek magazine featuring the virtual world and Second Life avatar Anshe Chung. By that time, Anshe Chung had become Second Life's poster child and symbol for the economic opportunities that the virtual world offers to its residents. At the same time, the service saw a period of exponential growth of its user base.
Recognizing improvements in computing power and particularly in computer graphics, Linden Lab began work on a successor to Second Life, a VR experience called Sansar, launching a public beta in July 2017. Uptake was low and Linden Lab halted development in 2020 to focus their attention fully on Second Life. The rights to Sansar's assets were sold to Wookey Search Technologies, who are expected to continue development on the title without Linden Lab. Second Life, the usage of which peaked in the first decade of the 21st century, has been cited as the first example of the metaverse, a concept which has been taken up by other major corporations such as Facebook in 2021. As a notable precursor (which retains a small and loyal following), it provides several examples of virtual reality social issues and lessons learned.
Second Life's status as a virtual world, a computer game, or a talker, is frequently debated.[who?] Unlike a traditional computer game, Second Life does not have a designated objective, nor traditional game play mechanics or rules. It can also be argued that Second Life is a multi-user virtual world, because its virtual world facilitates interaction between multiple users. 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[vague], 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. In March 2006, while speaking at Google TechTalks, Rosedale said: "So, we don't see this as a game. We see it as a platform."
Avatars can travel via walking, running, vehicular access, flying, or teleportation. Because Second Life is such a vast virtual world, teleportation is used when avatars wish to travel instantly and efficiently. Once they reach their destination, they may travel in more conventional means at various speeds.
In Coming of Age in Second Life: An Anthropologist Explores the Virtually Human, anthropologist Tom Boellstorff notes that the interface of Second Life is designed with the purpose of disconnecting a player's virtual identity from their physical identity in mind. As of 2015 Second Life has made it possible to display one's legal name in the player's profile or as their screen name, but when Boellstorff first published the book in 2008 users were required to select a last name from a pre-determined list of options. Boellstorff describes this mentality as being in direct contrast to the one held by other mainstream social media websites, where anonymity is shunned and users are encouraged to make the link between their online and physical presence clear.
The ability to create content and shape the Second Life world is one of the key features that separate this from online games. Built into the software is a 3D modeling tool based on 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. Sculpted prims ("sculpties"), 3D mesh, textures for clothing or other objects, animations, and gestures can be created using external software and imported. 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 (DRM) functions. However, Linden Lab changed their terms of service in August 2013 to be able to use user-generated content for any purpose. The new terms of service prevent users from using textures from third-party texture services, as some of them pointed out explicitly.
There is a high level of entrepreneurial activity in Second Life. Residents of Second Life are able to create virtual objects and other content. Second Life is unique in that users retain all the rights to their content which means they can use Second Life to distribute and sell their creations, with 2.1 million items listed on its online marketplace. At its height circa 2006, hundreds of thousands of dollars were changing hands daily as residents created and sold a wide variety of virtual commodities. Second Life also quickly became profitable due to the selling and renting of virtual real estate. 2006 also saw Second Life's first real-world millionaire; Ailin Graef, better known as Anshe Chung (her avatar), converted an initial investment of US$9.95 into over one million dollars over the course of two and a half years. She built her fortune primarily by buying, selling, and renting virtual real estate.
Major tech corporations have tried to use Second Life to market products or services to Second Life's tech-savvy audience. IBM, for example, purchased 12 islands within Second Life for virtual training and simulations of key business processes, but has since moved on to other platforms due to maintaining costs. Others, like musicians, podcasters, and news organizations (including CNET, Reuters, NPR's The Infinite Mind, and the BBC) have all had a presence within Second Life.
Virtual goods include buildings, vehicles, devices of all kinds, animations, clothing, skin, hair, jewelry, flora and fauna, and works of art. Services include business management, entertainment, and custom content creation (which can be broken up into the following six categories: building, texturing, scripting, animating, art direction, and the position of producer/project funder). L$ can be purchased using US dollars and other local currencies on the LindeX exchange provided by Linden Lab. Customer USD wallets obtained from Linden Dollar sales on the Lindex are most commonly used to pay Second Life's own subscription and tier fees; only a relatively small number of users earn enough profit to request a refund to PayPal. 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.
Assets are stored on Isilon Systems storage clusters, comprising all data that has ever been created by anyone who has been in the Second Life world. Infrequently used assets are offloaded to S3 bulk storage. As of December 2007[update], the total storage was estimated to consume 100 terabytes of server capacity. The asset servers function independently of the region simulators, though the region simulators act as a proxy for the client, request object data from the asset servers when a new object loads into the simulator. Region simulators areas are commonly known as sims by residents.
In May 2007, Sweden became the second country to open an embassy in Second Life. Run by the Swedish Institute, the embassy serves to promote Sweden's image and culture, rather than providing any real or virtual services. The Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Carl Bildt, stated on his blog that he hoped he would get an invitation to the grand opening. 2b1af7f3a8