10 years of foreseeing the end of Second Life; 10 years FAILING to prophetize the end
Ironically, high-brow journalists, technologists, critical thinkers and all the cultural elite of our planet are constantly debunking false prophets who routinely claim that the "end is near" and that they should pay for "salvation" — this started hundreds of years before Jesus Christ (who was also a prophet-of-the-end-of times), and it still goes on.
The intellectuals laugh at them all the time and make fun of them publicly. And it's generally agreed that those prophets are to be scorned, despised, and, of course, totally ignored.
When a *journalist* prophesizes the end of Second Life, however, reality is suspended. Suddenly, and only in this special case, myths are able to be spread, intermingled with lies, defamation, and utter nonsense and absolute ignorance about reality. And what for? Because, like end-of-times prophets have found out long ago — people are willing to PAY for it. Mm hmm. Articles about the end of Second Life pay well. So well, in fact, that journalists have been making money out of it for a decade. And, very likely, will continue to do so.
Nevertheless, unlike other kinds of religious prophets, journalists engaging in mythological believes proclaiming the end of Second Life are acclaimed by the "we told you so" community. A community who is willing to read the story over and over again, and continue to do so for endless years. In 2053 journalists will still print stories about the end of Second Life, and their audience will nod in agreement, saying "yes, yes, we have been saying that all along for forty years. It's true. Second Life is doomed to fail, we always knew that."
Now you know why end-of-time prophets are still around. Their story still sells.
Sorry to disappoint you, but, like all myths, that one is not true. Not only is Second Life still around, but its company, Linden Lab, turns over some 100 million USD annually, and Second Life is an economy that shuffles around 0.7 billion USD annually, in a virtual world of 31 million registered users, of which a million use it routinely. Many commenters remember the days when their own companies were hosting conferences and meetings in Second Life. At that time — half a decade ago! — Second Life was about a fifth of the size of what it is now, in population, virtual land size, and, most important, in its economy.
So everybody left Second Life at the completely wrong time — "it grew and grew", as the old Monty Python song for "The Life of Brian" goes — but there were no journalists left to watch the growth.
Now, there is something that "ended" in Second Life, and, to a degree, I'm happy that it happened. Second Life "ended" being a mainstream product. That's the simple, plain fact. It's not for everybody. It's not for the masses. It's not for clueless companies and organisations who have no idea what to do with it. Instead, it's a niche product, addressed for a very specific market, and a highly lucrative one. So what "failed" in Second Life was the belief that it could appeal to the mass market and become mainstream. But that was never its intended purpose. It was just what journalists and marketeers thought it would be. They just created a myth — a strawman, if you prefer — and when their created myth broke apart, they lamented its demise.
Niche markets are lucrative markets. Look at Adobe's Photoshop. It's not a mass-market product. Did Adobe "fail"? No, because they couldn't care less if their products are mainstream or not; what they care is to look at the balance at the end of the month. The same applies to AutoDesk, Oracle, and the gazillions of companies addressing niche markets. Rolex doesn't manufacture mainstream watches, but that never stopped them to be lucrative and successful. In fact, one might argue that niche markets are "the" thing to invest, because they shuffle a lot of money, have relatively little competition, and a very tight, happy user base.
It's not just "people" who continue to use Second Life (several thousands of them for lucrative purposes). There are also organisations — anything that requires simulation and training can be handled there very easily at a fraction of the cost of developing it on different platforms. Again, one might say that all these organisations are just niche markets — and yes, that would be quite correct. So it's not surprising to see Coca-Cola — a mainstream brand — failing inside a niche market. Suppose that Coca-Cola started to sponsor Adobe Photoshop plugins. Would they succeed?
So, good, honest journalists, who shun religious end-of-times prophets, should abstain from doing the same mistakes, curb their rethoric, do some homework, and ask themselves: what did fail in Second Life? Ah, so people promised it would once displace Facebook, and that failed? Right. Correct. Who were "those people"? Other journalists and marketeers. Aaaaaah. So does that mean that people predicting ludicrous, impossible futures for Second Life have all failed? Yeppers, because Second Life was none of what those people have predicted.
So that's why no matter how often we predict the end of Second Life, it refuses to die, but continues to grow a bit every year? Yes indeed. Because you're predicting the end of a Second Life that never existed: a Second Life for mainstream users. Instead, it's a platform for a niche market for elite users, who have no patience for mainstream products … and are willing to spend time, and, more importantly, money in that niche market.
Try to get your facts right. Or you should be despised, shunned, and laughed at like the next prophet predicting that the world will end in Dec. 20, 2012, hit by planet Nibiru. It's on its way now, you know, only a few weeks are left... this is the last chance to publish a few articles about it!