What is Second Life?
Some of my friends are really into Second Life, they say it's the future of the Internet. Looks like Sim City on drugs to me... What is the big deal with Second Life -- who is playing and why?
Get a Second Life!
Second Life is a sophisticated, online 3D digital world that could be the biggest thing in cyberspace since sliced electrons -- or the loudest dud since Pets.com. It's more than just another Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game (MMORPG)... think MySpace meets AOL in a global 3D virtual reality environment.
Second Life is populated by customizable onscreen characters (called avatars) who represent individual members. There are no assigned roles. The avatars, with Star-Warsian pseudonyms like Trulia Fivestorm and Republikos Quisling, walk, fly or teleport through the Second Life Metaverse -- meeting, interacting, playing, building, dating, buying and selling. It's those last two, buying and selling, that have caught the imagination of the Internet's heaviest hitters, who see Second Life as the possible future of online commerce.
Because it is both network and graphics intensive, Second Life requires a high-speed Cable or DSL connection (satellite and wireless not recommended) and has somewhat rigorous hardware requirements: PC users need Windows XP/2000 or better, a 1.6GHz Pentium 4 or Athlon 2000+ processor with 512MB or more of memory. Mac users will need Mac OS X 10.4.3 or better, at least a 1.25 GHz G4 processor and 768MB or more of RAM. You'll also need an nVidia GeForce FX 5600, 6600, or ATI Radeon 9600, X600 graphics card. If you don't have adequate horsepower, memory, bandwidth and graphics card, Second Life will not perform well on your computer.
How is Second Life Different?
What makes Second Life unique among virtual reality worlds like World of Warcraft or EverQuest, is that it was launched as an undeveloped grid, an online wilderness. Second Life content is developed by it's members, who then own the protected intellectual property rights to their creations in the real world. That means that anything created in Second Life, from shopping malls and gaming platforms to fancy duds for avatars, can generate real world money.
Entering Second Life is easy and free, although Premium membership at $9.95 a month is necessary to buy real estate and create environments. Simple registration prompts guide you through the process of customizing your personal avatar (which can be anything from a lanky legged surfer dude to a top-hatted alligator), choosing your name and downloading the Second Life software. Need help choosing a Second Life name? Check out the Web 2.0 Name Generator.
Once inside, residents can buy 16 acre real estate parcels, called islands, on which they develop homes, gathering places, stores, theaters, nightclubs, even brothels. Yes, a good deal of the goings-on in Second Life are in the adult realm, although mature events are rigorously separated from underage users. (The under-18 crowd is encouraged to use Teen Second Life.)
The in-world currency is Linden dollars, but there are systems for exchanging for real world US dollars. As of this writing, you can buy about 280 Lindens for one US dollar. The SL Exchange website is a place outside of Second Life which acts as a currency exchange.
The Second Life Environment
The environment in Second Life will be familiar to anyone who has played The Sims, Grand Theft Auto, visited Disney World or read Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash. But make no mistake. This isn't a game. It is potentially a whole new Net. Reuters has opened a news bureau in Second Life and interviewed such luminaries as Arianna Huffington there. Sundance held a screening of the movie Strange Culture simultaneously in the real world and in Second Life. The British Broadcasting Corporation broadcast a pop concert within Second Life. IBM CEO Sam Palmisano and 300 of his executives hold global virtual reality business meetings there - "I'll have my avatar call your avatar" - and serious political candidates like California congressman George Miller and Virginia Governor Mark Warner have established Second Life identities to hold political rallies and campaign for office.
The list of corporations doing business in-world as the residents call it, include Microsoft, Warner Brothers, Nike, Major League Baseball, Dell, Adidas, General Motors and Circuit City, all drawn by a new way to move product.
Second Life was created in 2003 by Philip Rosedale, the former top tech at RealNetworks. It's operated by his Linden Labs, a San Francisco boutique corporation that has a Who's Who of web heavies beating down the door to invest. Mitch Kapor, creator of Lotus, eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, Amazon's Jeff Bezos and Microsoft's technology architect Ray Ozzie all got in on the ground floor. You may encounter any or all of them in Second Life. Rosedale's avatar is easily recognizable by his leather chaps over pizza explosion briefs and the huge lips on his black tee-shirt.
About $900,000 worth of business is transacted a day among the more than 3 million residents. Most is done by major corporations but some 17,000 Second Life residents are reported to be making at least $1000 a month. Some have carved out full time jobs in Second Life as traders or designers. And Second Life is not a playground,
as analysts suggest that avid users skew to a median age of 30. Some people transition so often from Second Life to "Real Life" that when you mention meeting a friend, they'll say "SL or RL?"
Is Second Life For You?
Second Life is a somewhat chaotic if vibrant world and all is not always well. Rapid growth has strained its array of servers. There have been repeated hack attacks, called griefings, in which a grey digital goo swallows the landscape, or digital genitalia float across the sky. Residents responsible have been subjected to a digital incarceration but Linden Labs or individual victims may be forced to resort to real world legal remedies in the future. As members hail from 100 different countries, this could prove difficult. Linden Labs' decision to open the source code to developers could make Second Life vulnerable to further attacks and expose serious privacy concerns.
However, such problems are considered largely trivial by the 20,000 new members who enter Second Life for the first time every day. Some are looking to cash in on a digital gold rush, while others just want to escape from reality for a while. You may love the concept, or find it to be a time sink. This SL satire expresses how some feel. :-)
Got comments about Second Life? Post your thoughts below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 2 Feb 2007
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Most recent comments on "What is Second Life?"
07 Feb 2007
Looks dull to me as well. Least when I can play call for duty 3. It does more for me than that piece of crap game would lol...
13 Mar 2007
Yes I thought what's the big deal myself about Second Life? I downloaded and joined and it is really kinda cool. Met some new friends and email buddies who live all over the world. It's extremely different from other avatar based so called virtual worlds yet it's format makes you feel right at home. I'm not a die hard Second Life user but I do go in couple times a week and wander around. I have not bought property or used thier monetary sytem. I have however had new clothes and vehicles given to me and that is awesome. Everyone should try it at least once.
13 Mar 2007
Second Life is different things to different people. For some it's a comms device. For some it's an outlet for their creativity. For some it's a taste of freedom but for nearly everyone, it's an education. It may be creaking a bit at the seams but for many of us it's a Second Home.
15 Mar 2007
You said: "Linden Labs' decision to open the source code to developers could make Second Life vulnerable to further attacks and expose serious privacy concerns."
I guess this is why Linux is such an un-secure OS, not!. You really are down on open source aren't you Bob?
EDITOR'S NOTE: Not at all... I love Linux and think open-source is great. But the ability to see the source code does give BOTH the Good Guys and the Evil Doers the ability to see where exploitable weaknesses are. Security holes in Linux are reported and patched all the time. Just yesterday there were TEN security patches issued for RedHat Enterprise Linux, six of which were labelled Important or Critical. Check out http://www.reallylinux.com/docs/security.html
15 Mar 2007
A local high tech school held an open house in SL concurrently with real world. And its part of their Masters degree curriculum. Phone companies and others here have stores online. So its wothwhile be aware of it.
On the downside, its a huge time vacuum. It takes hours to just build a decent avatar and a lot of it is illusion as opposed to an alternate form of reality. Its usability and accessibility must get much better before the average person would find it useful. New forms of etiquette must be discovered. And there will be the gaffs, like meeting a potential employer online while a scantily clad warrior princess. Still, it does indicate to me what some of the potential is. Where the web may wander in a number of years.
23 May 2007
SL is certainly a fascinating space. Fun, social, readily accessible to a game literate group or even a dinosaur like me.
I see its potential as its greatest asset. Business, communication, education...as Bilbo99 & David say huge educational potential - from virtual med labs through to virtual lectures and experiences that mimic RL without the cost often associated. [Of course it will guarantee work for programmers too :-)]
Can't you picture the psych, sociology, anthropology theses it can generate? A host of new cultures exist here.
Imagine the potential it has at overcoming that "me & keyboard social isolation" distance course participants often cite.
29 May 2007
Great! To read this. It's really difficult to explain to people who have never heard about it, what SL is about. Thanks a lot.
06 Dec 2007
Second Life is for those losers who can't cut it IRL. Also for those who can't get a date/a girl/boy friend IRL. Nothing but a prime playing field for predators, scammers, pedophiles, etc. to work their evil. And how lame do you have to be to pay REAL money for FAKE clothes, images, etc.? How can you make money selling fake items/services? At least with games like World of Warcraft or Everquest, you're actually playing a game and having fun. This is just an glorified hybrid of the Sims and an IM/chat program...
EDITOR'S NOTE: Maybe so (and I don't dabble much in ANY virtual reality stuff) but I don't see Warquest as being any different at all. Take a look at Webkinz and other VR worlds that kids are using today. It's only going to get bigger, and at some point (soon) it will no longer be possible to marginalize those who participate in VR as "losers."
06 Dec 2007
I joined recently and its actually okay. I wander around and... well, thats all I really do, but anyway its interesting so far, but he monetary system is odd(to me).
Gymmy Sinatra is a Loser
13 Aug 2010
SL is for losers who can't cut real life. All it is is Virtual Barbies. Get a life!
08 Sep 2010
@ Gymmy,why do you people troll us and put us down and stuff like that? There are various universities using SL for meetings and such.
09 Jul 2011
yes, this article is very old, but i thought i would reply anyway...
Since this article IS so old, SL has grown even BIGGER now and much more money is being made these days than when this was wrote...
For example, i know a couple that are ""detectives" as in they live on SL to find out if someone is cheating on their spouse in the game... and you get charged real money for this service... but in real life these ""detectives" are both walmart employees.. they make about $1,500.00 a month doing this service in the game!!
i know google has there own island they pay rent on for there employees to ""have a break"" during their normal RL shift...
and as for the adult portion of this game, there are PAID dominatrics that work on the game to do things to your virtual person, and they get paid as well and make almost 2 - 3,000.00!! a month!!
What you do in SL these days is limited only by how creative you can think!! Go try it out! if it's not your thing, or you dont see the potential simply uninstall it and forget it ever existed, you've got nothing to lose!!
30 Aug 2012
I tried Second Life.
Near the end of my trial of testing it, I told one user that it's not for me and I prefer to do things in a real tangible life. The person tried to use some sort of psychology mumbo-jumbo on me, "What's really going on in your head..." and that I should stay in Second Life. No thank you.
The users I came across in Second Life were either sickly, crippled, and/or lazy people. Another class of people were just like what you see on The Jerry Springer Show.
I don't care if some of them are confined to a wheelchair...read a book or get a rewarding hobby. Do something other than sit and stare at the SL pixel crap fantasy and make-believe.
I will never understand why they enjoy to sexually animate their avatars. I hate to think what the they are doing or thinking while sitting there watching their avatars have sex.
To me, this alone makes them some of the most pathetic people in this world.