Do you remember Second Life? It was a virtual reality world launched in 2003 where people could meet online and lead a second life as the name implies. It was once the coolest thing since sliced awesome, up there with Twitter nowadays. Second Life got blanket coverage in the press and it was going to revolutionize the way we used the Internet.

What was Second Life all about?

On the platform, you signed up and picked an avatar for yourself such as a knight or princess, very much in the spirit of Dungeons & Dragons. In your second life you played out your alter ego, and you did it alongside other real people’s alter egos.

I never actually used it myself but I certainly read enough newspaper articles about it. Second Life was tipped to become the Internet 2.0, with everyone signing up and interacting on it. By 2007 the site had four million users which was an impressive figure back then but dwarfed by most large social networks of today.

In the virtual world that was Second Life, you could own real estate and do remember the country of Sweden buying what was an online-only Swedish Embassy for no less than $10 million – must have been quite a coup for the company.  

Where is it now?

The latest news about Second Life have largely been…. no news. I haven’t heard a word about Second Life for the last five years probably. It is actually still in operation (see for yourself) but at a much lower activity level. From being the next big thing to not even get mentions in the news must been quite a roller coaster for the company. I believe Second Life as a business is pretty much dead as a dodo but it did achieve something remarkable nevertheless.   In a sense, you could claim that social media is where Second Life is nowadays. It paved the way for online communities of people, where you could interact with strangers and build relationships. This was something new to the Internet, at least at that scale, which opened up for the others.  

Why social media nowadays?

Howcome social media took off and Second Life withered away? Well one reason for this might be that using avatars online isn’t the best way forward, it’s not real enough. With the advent of social media people have been given free platforms to interact online with REAL friends and family. This has attracted more users than Second Life could ever have dreamt of, Facebook has 300 times more users than Second Life at its peak.   I think it’s worth noting that the first social network that achieved scale was MySpace. The trouble with MySpace is that most people were using avatars there as well as opposed to real pictures and names. As soon as Facebook came out, most people (myself included) defected as it felt more like the real deal.   So I guess what I’m saying is the more real the online world is, the more attractive it seems to be to users. I dread the time where it gets so real you can’t tell the worlds apart – that’s when we really have the option of a Second Life.   Did you ever use Second Life? Still do? Please tell us what you think of its demise!