Second 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.