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Summary:

Second Life is still a vibrant virtual world — with over 12.2 million registered users and more than 54,000 online the last time I logged i…

imageSecond Life is still a vibrant virtual world — with over 12.2 million registered users and more than 54,000 online the last time I logged in — but you wouldn’t know it from the media coverage (or lack thereof) lately. It wasn’t always this way, as MediaShift’s Mark Glaser recounts, in a post covering how Second Life’s media hype has fizzled.

At its peak in 2006, Second Life had a story on the cover of Business Week, a 12-page spread in Wired, and numerous blog posts about brands like Coca-Cola, Scion and even the NBA establishing in-world presences. Reuters, CNET, CNN and Wired also set up virtual news bureaus, though all but CNN killed off their in-world coverage about a year later; their stories also shifted from paens to diatribes about how advertisers were “wasting millions” in the virtual world. “It was a typical hype-and-backlash scenario,” Glaser writes. “Some journalists simply tired of SL, as so many people tried it and then bailed because of its steep learning curve and high technological requirements.”

Now most of the news in and around Second Life is pushed into the tech or gaming sections of mainstream publications, or from devoted blogs like Wagner James Au’s New World Notes and the long-running Second Life Herald. Meanwhile, organizations are increasingly using Second Life for distance learning and virtual tradeshows as opposed to marketing; parent company Linden Labs rolled out the Second Life Grid, which organizations like IBM, Stanford and NASA have used to create their own private worlds within Second Life.

So what does this have to do with Twitter? Twitter’s hype has reached a fever pitch. Celebrities including Britney Spears and Shaquille O’Neal Tweet regularly, and with stories on CNN, in the WSJ and the NYT, among others, it’s garnering about half as much news coverage as Facebook, with barely a tenth of Facebook’s traffic (via VentureBeat). Flush with $35 million in new funding (and still no business model yet), Twitter could be headed for an incredible backlash. As Rob Hoff, the Business Week editor who penned the Second Life cover story, told Glaser: “This kind of cycle is endemic to journalism, for better or worse: Build ‘em up, tear ‘em down.”

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  1. "I think twitter will eventually die, just like every other media does"

    Really?? Which "every other" media has died out?? Id love to see a list of those.

  2. Second Life was always a niche product, with inflated numbers and very good PR. It helps that 3D words provide ample artwork with which to illustrate articles in print publications, unlike Twitter or Facebook.

    Fundamentally, SL is really no different from the IRCs and MOOs of yore, or the other 2D and 3D chat programs that predate it, like The Palace in '90s. If you're going to be in a 3D world, there ought to be a POINT to the virtuality, which is why World of Warcraft and other MMMORPGs consistently generate traffic and revenue that put SL to shame.

    I'm not sure it's fair to lump Twitter or other media darlings in with SL, though. Twitter may not have a revenue model yet, but it is providing real utility to its users.

    I hope SL continues to stick around for the niche that enjoys the virtual-interior-design and dress-up-doll forms of socialization and interactivity it offers. But I'm happy to hear that the mainstream media has finally moved on to something else.

  3. I found SL through a niche blog about virtual world fashions — but the media hype had definitely piqued my interest for a few months before I actually created an account. Once there, though, I was more annoyed by the buzz than anything else.

    With Twitter it was the same way, the press sparked the interest, but something more personal (a friend's account) actually pushed me to join.

    Clearly that's why startups want press, to drive adoption. I guess the bigger issue is whether their product can withstand the hype.

  4. Twitter is becoming a spammer platform like every other communities based on web 2.0
    A pity!

  5. it's not about registered users, it's about how those users interact with the site/technology. Second Life was a carnival oddity that was getting a ton of press and no one had the stones to say that the "emperor isn't wearing any clothes". They didn't want to be the ones that poo-poo'd the next myspace/facebook. Look at how people user twitter, it's very different. I'm not saying that twitter will be here in 10 years in the form it is now, but comparing it to second life is apples and oranges in my opinion…

  6. There is a BIG difference between Second Life and Twitter.

    The barrier of entry for Second Life is much higher. You need to design a character, learn how to fly and learn how to build.

    With Twitter you need a current web browser and a working connection to the Internet.

    With SL you can only have a few hundred people on the same server watching the same event. With Twitter you can have a conversation with the world.

    And when you tap into the power of Twitter search you can find out what the rest of Twitter is saying about you, your product or your service.

    Sure people use Twitter for SPAM and for telling the world they are going to get a coffee but Twitter is way more powerful than what most people think and the social connections and ramifications are just starting to emerge.

    Best of all you don't have to design your avatar or learn how to fly.

  7. Did you copy this article from Forbes, or did Forbes copy it from you? Anyway, the comparison between Second Life and Twitter is so ridiculous, that any economic analysis based on this construction can only fail. Please only write about Second Life, if you have an idea what you are talking about!

  8. I don't get twitter Saturday, February 21, 2009

    I have used both. I don't get Twitter…But I have used Second Life….I have to agree with profesortiki. Both applications are online that's about the the end of the comparison.

  9. Love the discussion, but just want to note that the comparison wasn't about Second Life / Twitter's functionality — it was about the media hype surrounding them. Both companies/services have been in the spotlight — the question again, is whether Twitter's hype will fizzle out the same way SL's did.

    And though my time in SL has decreased significantly, I spent a solid two years actively involved in-world: I bought property, hosted events, played in an RPG and sold furniture, among other things. So I'm very familiar with the pros and cons of SL.

  10. People bash twitter and defenders bristle, ditto on Second Life.

    Amusing. So…

    "Twitter is way more powerful than what most people think and the social connections and ramifications are just starting to emerge."

    I agree, but substitute "Twitter AND Second Life are…"

    Bashing things because you personally don't "get" them is stupid no matter how you slice it. There are amazing uses of both. End of story. Dig enough to find them, go use them, and shut up with the mindless criticism. Sheesh!

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