But it is starting to feel a little like it.
Rod Humble was interviewed on Bloomberg West, and he talked with enthusiasm of the financial health of Linden Lab and the health of the user-generated content market. New sign ups are, he says, running at 16,000 a day, and the strides that have been made with usability mean (he implied) that more of those are being retained. That’s great news – if they are being retained and are not just the one time log-in and vanish. I think it’s wholly possible that he’s right – the previous stats were so dire that an improvement is definitely possible and – hopefully – achieveable.
Listening to Rod talk, there is a sense that he ‘gets it’ in a way that hasn’t always been the case with Linden Lab. Certainly in later years (I’m talking since 2007/2008 here – earlier might have been different), Philip seemed unaware of what the residents wanted – perhaps because there was a cacophony of voices, perhaps because his vision was different from that of the average nesting resident with a home and a circle of friends, who liked to visit and socialise and explore and maybe – in a quiet way – to create. I always felt that M was brought in with a different agenda – one that was Board driven and not resident driven but that, over time, he became more aware of the resident agenda (he said himself that he was given a forceful awareness by an avatar setting himself on fire over the Homestead issue). Certainly he explored Second Life and began to participate – it was perhaps telling that it was when he had held an inworld art exhibition and was engaged in proposing to set up 70 Linden backed sims for art that he so suddenly disappeared.
But there has always been a sense that Rod has come in with more of a resident’s eye view. He came in here and created. He’s tried out the tools that others have made. He’s built a boat and sailed it. He’s got a house (and hopefully some furniture too – if not, I can recommend some stores). And he says that Linden Lab is enjoying its best times ever financially, that Second Life is stronger than ever before. And all this is great, it really is.
So why am I so concerned?
I’m concerned about the number of high quality sims and businesses that are quietly (occasionally noisily) leaving.
One could argue that it was ever thus. Many, many great sims and builds are gone: I would name Arcadia Nuevo, La Reve and Tribute Island among them. All powerful and unique places, all long gone. And they are not alone – we have sometimes joked among ourselves that many of the places we have highlighted in Prim Perfect or on Designing Worlds have been lost so rapidly that there might be a curse. But change is natural, places evolve, or close, as old people move on and new people come. All that is – well, not good, rather sad, actually – but understandable.
What I feel I am seeing now is an unusually large number of departures and the retiring of valuable content that is not being replaced.
New World Notes is running a series of “Deathwatch” articles highlighting this, which does seem to me to be touting it in a very dramatic way. Some places are closing noisily. Others come with dignified preparatory announcements, such as AM Radio’s sims, the Lost Gardens of Apollo, or the Alien Isles. Others would prefer to slip away quietly. And set against this we seem to have very little. The opening of the Duran Duran Universe? Well, I have always had a slightly guilty liking for “Wild Boys” but … I’m not quite sure as I would see it as any more than ‘these fragments I have shored against my ruin’.
The content that is being lost is not only physical prims inworld. Two significant magazines have closed recently too – not things that have opened briefly, come out for two or three issues and then closed as the people running them realise that this is actually rather hard work. No, these were both magazines with many subscribers and readers, a long history of publication (in Second Life terms) and both closed citing the fact that advertising was no longer sufficient to justify publication. One was the hugely influential Second Style magazine; the other was my own Primgraph magazine (which now survives as a blog).
And we are seeing communities crumbling. ‘They are sailing, sailing, sailing over the sea, they are going into the West and leaving us,’ said Sam Gamgee of the elves of Middle Earth. A large community of Second Life elves are voyaging too, but their destination is Inworldz. And a couple of days ago I heard that Antiquity, once one of the largest Victorian communities, is losing a number of its sims as the one of the owners fell behind on tier. And today I learned that the lovely Ville de Giverny sim, based on Monet’s village and with eloquent tributes to his paintings (and with a Monet Museum too) will be closing this weekend.
Land barons have fallen in the past and people have been left stranded. But generally the themed sims have been strong.
At the same time, I know of several long-established inworld businesses that are downsizing their land-holdings. It is as though a tipping point has been reached, where people who have made a serious and real commitment to Second Life are nevertheless withdrawing or pulling back – although the word they are using is ‘consolidating’. “I’m consolidating my land holdings,” they say as they close a couple of homesteads, or move the content spread over seven mixed sims to four. “I’m consolidating my outlets,” say the store owners as they close outliers and focus on their main islands and the marketplace. And the economy does seem to be doing well; the Homes and Gardens market seems happy, and they are bouyant about initiatives such as the new SL Designers REMIX which launches this weekend. The ever-packed Truth hair store is expanding on to a new sim (Truth District – which was so packed on its second day that I couldn’t physically visit it). All of which tends to support a more hopeful view.
And yet …
Something Mitch Wagner said, in response to a post on New World Notes, that has stuck in my mind:
The loudest complainers aren’t killing Second Life. They have too much invested in hating Linden Lab to leave. They spend hours and hours writing vitriolic screeds about LL conspiracy theories. What would they do with that time if they left SL?