Blog Post

Second Life Takes Aim at Skype

talking in slSecond Life creator Linden Lab will announce on Wednesday that SL users have generated 15 billion voice minutes on their internal avatar-to-avatar VoIP service since the product was launched 18 months ago, and are now forecast to do 15 billion total voice minutes in 2009. By contrast, Skype handled 65 billion total voice minutes last year, according to parent company eBay (s ebay) (PDF).

Since Skype users aren’t usually communicating with each other in a virtual world, this might seem like an apples-to-oranges comparison. However, Linden has been emphasizing Second Life’s voice chat feature as a utility for educators and corporations with an SL presence who use it to conduct in-world conferences and other voice-driven applications. And tomorrow, the company will also announce a battery of voice services usable outside SL, including “AvaLine,” which enables mobile phone-to-avatar calling.

Linden VP Joe Miller told me the company believes this puts it in competition with Skype. Judging by SL’s high voice usage rates, it’s certainly a niche competitor. Then again, with Second Life’s roughly 750,000 monthly users compared to Skype’s 42 million-plus daily users, it’ll be a long time if ever that the VoIP giant feels the virtual pressure.

14 Responses to “Second Life Takes Aim at Skype”

  1. Two Worlds

    Hey, I noticed you are a “contributing” writer on this blog. So…if I understand correctly your position on GigaOm is basically this:

    “Yo, Hamlet, we need someone to do a writeup on some new development with that Second Life thingy that you used to work for those people for, so…uh…send something our way and we’ll, I dunno, toss twenty bucks your way, how does that sound? Oh yeah, and also you can continue to kiss a$$ in order to get that coveted ‘staff writer/real job’ position you’ve been jockeying for.”

    Also Deadpan, that isn’t a bug, that is an awesome “suprise feature”. Nothing’s funnier than teleporting out just in time to avoid some dick’s orbiter gun, then hear “D*mn it…he got away…”.

  2. I hope they fix the ‘soul delay’ bug where, after teleporting, your voice locus is where you tp’d from.

    “Okay, I’ll see you folks later”
    “Man, what a bunch of [colorful expletives deleted]”
    “Uh…. us bunch of [colorful expletives deleted] can still hear you!”
    “[expletive deleted]”

    • Wolf –
      Second Life users log 36M user hours per month. 1 Billion voice minutes per month is 16.6M voice hours/month. That’s 40% of the time with their voice channel active.

  3. I really hope that Linden Labs will tolerate competition in this market in their world. We’ve been developing the same technology independently and recently announced its availability to early adopters (

    Practice shows that monopoly in telecommunication leads to a poorer experience and more expensive service — things that customers can hardly appreciate.

    I believe that Second Life residents will benefit only having a truly competitive environment for their VoIP needs — by having more feature-rich and cheaper service.

  4. You would be surprised just how many users of SL prefer Skype over in-world service for voice communication. The largest complaints I’ve heard is the comparison of quality between the two.

    Now, in all fairness, in-world voice is ranged where Skype isn’t (unless you count the conversation you overhear in the distant when a friend on skype doesn’t mute their mic when they step away from the computer). I personally haven’t had many quality issues with “SL Voice” but I, more times than not, find users who use Skype exclusively.

    As a side comment, the second largest reason folks prefer Skype is the out-of-world text messenger capability with their SL friends–something SL failed to produce beyond an Alpha phase.

    • Yep, count me and a number of my friends among the Skype-using crowd. We got used to using it before SL added voice support, and we just stuck with it. As a side bonus, when we switch between SL and EVE Online (where many of us fly together as part of the same player corporation), we don’t lose our voice connection.