Reuters/Second Life » Second Life Reuters reporting from the world of Second Life Mon, 02 Mar 2009 19:00:16 +0000 The Reuters Second Life bureau is now closed Mon, 02 Mar 2009 18:59:29 +0000 Adam Reuters Reuters has closed its Second Life bureau after more than two years of in-depth coverage on the virtual world’s business and economy. Our technology team will continue to cover Second Life on

Please explore this archive of our ground-breaking Second Life coverage.

Coca-Cola Re-Ups In Second Life With Nestea Marketing Deal Tue, 30 Sep 2008 21:26:27 +0000 Eric Reuters SECOND LIFE, Sept 30 (Reuters) - Will the marketing of real world brands in Second Life find a second life?

Maybe. Nestea, a Coca-Cola brand, announced today it’s sponsoring Second Life’s “Junkyard Blues” venue.

Neither Nestea nor Junkyard Blues’ owners were available for immediate comment. But a visit to Junkyard Blues shows a “Sponsored by Nestea” banner over the main stage. Don’t try clicking on the banner though — it’s non-interactive.

The sponsorship, while modest, represents an affirmation of Second Life as a continued destination for real-world companies to market their goods. A recent survey by BusinessWeek ranked Coca-Cola as the most valuable brand in the world.

Nor does the choice by Coca-Cola of a Second Life blues venue seem coincidental. Last month, Second Life bluesman Von Johin signed a record deal in what’s believed to be the first virtual musician to break into the real-life mainstream.

Coca-Cola was among the companies that made a strong entrance into Second Life during the first wave of corporate marketing with a “virtual thirst” campaign. However in recent months, the company has stepped back its Second Life profile, taking the website offline.

Blog: Registered for Facebook under your avatar name? That’s a ban. Thu, 25 Sep 2008 22:11:01 +0000 Eric Reuters Many Second Life users cherish their avatar identity so highly they sign up for other online networks, like LinkedIn or Twitter, under their avatar name. But Second Life enthusiasts who register for Facebook under their avatar name should watch out: the Syndey Morning Herald is reporting Facebook is terminating accounts it suspects don’t represent real-life names.

The SMH follows the story of Sydneysider Elmo Keep, who got banned from the site with no warning when Facebook officials suspected her name (which is real) was fake. Only by supplying copies of government-issued identity documents to Facebook was she able to get her account restored.

Valleywag has video of Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg laying down the law. “You can’t be on Facebook without being yourself,” Sandberg says. “We kick you off.”

How many Facebook users are registered under their Second Life name, and could be banned at any moment under the policy? It’s impossible to tell, but even a casual search reveals that there could be more than a handful.

Blog: Poll: Second Life residents prefer Obama to McCain by over 2 to 1 Tue, 23 Sep 2008 20:49:50 +0000 Eric Reuters The latest poll average at RealClearPolitics has Barack Obama up 2.5 points over John McCain in the tight race for the White House, at 48.1 percent to 45.6 percent. But if the election was being held today in Second Life, Obama would win in a landslide.

Researcher Andrew Mallon of the Social Research Foundation, known in avatar form as Andy Evans, polled over 1,000 Second Life residents about their usage of Linden’s virtual world. But while he had an audience, Mallon threw in another question:

In the upcoming election, who do you plan to vote for (USA Citizens), or prefer (International residents)?

Among American citizens, Obama beats McCain handily in the unscientific poll.

Candidate Respondents Percent
Obama 224 45.6%
McCain 102 20.8%
Undecided 79 16.1%
I don’t plan to vote 29 5.9%
I prefer not to say 29 5.9%
Other 28 5.7%
491 100.0%

Among Second Life’s large population of non-American citizens, the preference for Obama is even stronger.

Candidate Respondents Percent
Obama 330 57.5%
McCain 41 7.1%
Undecided 41 7.1%
I don’t plan to vote 109 19.0%
I prefer not to say 37 6.4%
Other 16 2.8%
574 100.0%

Mallon’s poll remains open to the public until September 30, at which point he’ll publish his data about Second Life usage. Second Life residents can take the poll by clicking here.

Beating Linden to the punch on multi-grid search Thu, 11 Sep 2008 21:10:46 +0000 Eric Reuters SECOND LIFE, Sept 11 (Reuters) - OpenSim remains in pre-release and the interoperability standards to allow avatars to travel between virtual worlds are still being drafted. But that’s not stopping entrepreneurs from creating a fledgling industry around what’s to come.

Enter Metaverse Ink, which its creators say is the first search engine to find objects on both the Second Life Grid and in OpenSim worlds.

The product presents both a vindication and challenge for Linden Lab. OpenSim-using startups demonstrate the enduring faith of many in Linden founder Philip Rosedale’s vision for virtual worlds. But Metaverse Ink is also a competitive threat. In a July interview with Reuters Linden VP Joe Miller named “search services” as a potential revenue stream for his company in the coming age of interoperability.

Traditionally within Second Life, as residents grow more adept at building content they form in-world businesses and sell their creations to other users. Linden Lab frequently touts the number of users with a positive currency inflow — over 61,000 according to the latest statistics — in its marketing.

But with OpenSim in the works, some of Second Life’s most talented programmers are beginning to form businesses that compete directly against Linden Lab.

“Linden Lab’s search is bad, it’s like AltaVista in the old days,” said Metaverse Ink co-founder William Cook (Second Life: Felix Wakmann), a computer science professor at the University of Texas at Austin.

Cook and co-founder Cristina Videira Lopes (Second Life: Diva Canto), a computer science professor at the University of California at Irvine, have designed a series of automated programs, called “bots,” to search through both Second Life and OpenSim. The results of their searches are indexed and made searchable to users, in much the same way Google does for the World Wide Web.

To date the MI database catalogs over two million virtual objects, spread over 100,000 regions.

Problems with Linden’s built-in search functionality have been ongoing, and this isn’t the first time a third party has tried to create an independent virtual worlds search engine. A similar attempt to index Second Life by the Electric Sheep Company last year was abandoned after a protest campaign by Second Life users over privacy concerns.

MI says their product respects user wishes. “We’re only publishing things marked ‘for search,’” Lopes said. “These bots can ’see’ everything, but not everything should be seen.”

Cook said his new company isn’t yet looking for venture capital, and is currently focusing on attracting users beyond MI’s current average of about 900 a day. A third MI partner from Techcoastworks, a California-based incubator, is helping to commercialize the product.

But Cook, a serial entrepreneur, has worked with VC firms in the past, having raised US$60 million for a previous start-up from sources including Benchmark Capital, which also funded Linden Lab.

Lopes said MI is the first company to be indexing OpenSim worlds for search. But how does she feel that Linden Lab has said search is an area it wants to explore in the future?

Lopes paused. “Well, we’re doing it already,” she said.

Users gather for a smaller, less corporate SLCC Sun, 07 Sep 2008 18:39:17 +0000 Eric Reuters SECOND LIFE, Sept 7 (Reuters) - As they have every year for four years, the Second Life faithful tore themselves away from their computers for a weekend of real-life travel to celebrate Linden Lab’s virtual world at SLCC, the Second Life Community Convention.

But this year far fewer of them came out.

SLCC was in Tampa this year, and some said hurricane fears were keeping people at home. Others blamed a sluggish real-world economy and rising airfare prices. Event organizers said only 400 people attended SLCC this year, half of last year’s attendance in Chicago.

Notably absent from the conference were any real-world businesses from outside the virtual worlds industry, or the consulting firms that only last year built Second Life presences for real-world brands. “We invited the Electric Sheep Company and Rivers Run Red, but both apparently decided they didn’t want to attend,” said SLCC organizer Peter Lokke (Second Life: Crucial Armitage).

“In terms of external business use of Second Life, what we see now isn’t marketing but businesses using Second Life for things like training and meetings,” said Linden Lab’s Glenn Fisher at a panel on SLCC’s sparsely-attended business track. Unlike last year’s conference in Chicago, most of the discussions revolved around issues of relevance only to in-world L$-based enterprises.

Fisher argued businesses were still using his company’s virtual world despite the lack of attendance at SLCC. “Businesses are keeping it quiet because they see being in Second Life as a competitive advantage.”

Second Life founder Philip Rosedale kicked off the event at a Saturday morning breakfast where he was received with warm but not ecstatic applause.

“Last year when I was here I had the ‘Missing Image’ T-shirt,” Rosedale said, alluding to his apology for bugs at SLCC 2007. “I think we made pretty good progress.”

The Second Life community has its own ideas. New Linden CEO Mark Kingdon followed Rosedale and asked the crowd: “We’re working hard to improve stability. Are you seeing that?” But Kingdon’s question was met with a stony silence from the crowd.

A handful of sessions about open source attracted large crowds with people sitting in the aisles and standing in the back of the room.

But the breakout star of SLCC was the burgeoning virtual world educational community. Second Life’s teachers ran three tracks simultaneously all weekend and held an extra full day of sessions on Friday before SLCC formally started. The educators had their own parties, programs, and event name (”SLEDcc”), acting as a conference-within-a-conference.

While the interest of real-world companies and the consulting firms catering to them has waned, most attendees weren’t bothered. Talks formal and informal ran all weekend, with attendees bragging to each other about scoring invites to the exclusive Linden Lab corporate party. And on Saturday night, Second Life dressed up for a night of kinky fun at Kevin Alderman’s (Second Life: Stroker Serpentine) annual “Leather & Lace Ball.”

But even Alderman’s masquerade ball reflected the more modest nature of SLCC this year. Fewer partygoers dressed up in costume than last year, and there was nary a furry in sight.

Nicolas Barrial (Second Life: Nick Rhodes) claims to have been among the first 1000 users of Second Life and the first French national with an avatar. He traveled 14 hours from Paris to Tampa for the event.

Barrial reveled in the chance to link with friends old and new. “First and foremost, SLCC is like a family gathering,” he said.

Blog: What will the next year bring for Second Life? Sun, 07 Sep 2008 18:33:23 +0000 Eric Reuters A year ago at the Second Life Community Convention in Chicago, Reuters asked: What will the next year bring in Second Life?

Some of those predictions didn’t come true. Jeska Linden’s hope for open-sourced servers didn’t happen (although OpenSim is doing something very similar), and Izzy Linden’s prediction of 20 million avatars didn’t materialize (total registrations just topped 15 million). Other forecasts, like whether Second Life residents enjoy better sex or a more stable environment than they did a year ago, remain a matter of personal opinion.

But with an eye towards the future, once again Reuters asked SLCC: What will the next year bring in Second Life?

Philip Rosedale, founder of Second Life.

“More use of Second Life to support education and business collaboration.”

Dick Dillon (”Coughran Mayo”), Addiction Recovery Professional

“OpenSim is a reality which is coming. The Second Life Grid isn’t the only place avatars will hang out.”

Chadrick Baker, virtual worlds consultant, former Linden Lab employee

“It depends on what Linden does! I see Linden having some serious competition.”

“Phoenix Linden” (declined to give real-life name), Linden Lab employee

“We’ll go six months without a central server crash.”

Jordan Bellino (”Tizzers Foxchase”), self-identified griefer, banned from Second Life

“The metaverse is a very good mirror of the old Web 1.0 world. Linden is like AOL or Prodigy, eventually no one company will have central control.”

Mike Lorrey (”Intlibber Brautigan”), Second Life land owner/entrepreneur

“Linden has to adjust to no longer being like AOL. They can be the central bank and patent office of the metaverse, or they can go by the wayside.”

Helen Mosher (”Helenn Indigo”), New Media editor of Signal at AFCEA

“Second Life is emerging as a collaboration tool for government.”

Patrick Edwards-Daugherty, CEO of Pleiades Consulting

“We see virtual worlds going in the same direction the World Wide Web did. A company like Reuters will be able to host its own virtual world without relying on Second Life.”

Peter Lokke (”Crucial Armitage”), SLCC Chief Organizer

“There’s a lot more competition in-world. People aren’t going to be making as much money in Second Life as they used to.”

Chris Collins (”Fleep Tuque”), SL Education Track Organizer

“The development of the metaverse moves as slow as molasses. I don’t expect much change at all.”

Jason Giglio (”Gigs Taggart”), Open Metaverse Foundation

“OMF will make a bleeding-edge viewer Linden can’t currently do because they have to cater to the lowest common denominator.”

Kevin Alderman (”Stroker Serpentine”), Second Life sex magnate, host of SLCC “Leather & Lace Ball”

“Teledildonics is coming. We’ll have a new device that operates off of sound-activated vibrations.”

Tim Allen (”FlipperPA Peregrine”), SLCC Founder, Peregrine Salon

“Linden Lab has always been good at adjusting their business model every six months. They’ll do that at least twice over the next year.”

Blog: Rosedale: Blame it on the Mac Sat, 06 Sep 2008 21:23:22 +0000 Eric Reuters When a question was asked on Saturday about poor Second Life performance on the Apple Macintosh, Philip Rosedale leapt up from the SLCC audience and took the microphone.

“We’re serious about support for the Mac,” Rosedale said. “But we’ve had our problems with Apple.”

Linden employee “Phoenix Linden” joined in, saying Apple doesn’t release information about their proprietary video card drivers in a timely fashion, making it hard for Linden to keep the Mac version of the viewer running smoothly.

Rosedale said Linden had done a good job with the Mac viewer despite the difficulty working with Apple. “We have access to crash rates,” Rosedale said. “Crash rates on the Mac are the same as on the PC. Frame rates too.”

Blog: Virtual currency not on the OpenSim agenda Sat, 06 Sep 2008 21:22:05 +0000 Eric Reuters Linden Lab and OpenSim developers shared the stage at an SLCC panel called “Open Software For Open Worlds,” and said there was nothing in the works to support spending Linden dollars anywhere but on the Second Life Grid.

During Q&A, Mike Lorrey (Second Life: Intlibber Brautigan) told the panelists he thought Second Life’s “killer app” was money — Linden’s own virtual currency and residents’ ability to start a Second Life business and turn a profit.

Could the Linden Dollar ever come to OpenSim worlds? Linden’s director of open source development Rob Lanphier said he had no idea how to make that work.

“We’re not going to pretend we know how to export that in a way that protects Second Life’s economy,” Lanphier said. “I can’t project a timeline.”

Leading OpenSim developer Adam Frisby disagreed with Lorrey on the importance of virtual currency to the Second Life experience.

“Money doesn’t belong in the core [OpenSim] product build,” Frisby said. “Better to ask again in six or nine months.”

Blog: Philip Rosedale’s Relaxing Summer Sat, 06 Sep 2008 15:52:37 +0000 Eric Reuters So what has Second Life founder Philip Rosedale been up to since handing over control of Linden Lab to new CEO Mark Kingdon four months ago?

Hanging out, mostly. “I’ve had a really relaxing summer,” a broadly smiling Rosedale told Reuters.

Rosedale had just come out of the morning breakfast at the Second Life Community Convention in Tampa, where he praised Kingdon’s leadership of the company he started. But Rosedale was quick to add he wasn’t done with Second Life or Linden Lab. These days, he’s concentrating on two projects: Working on improving Second Life’s user interface, and efforts to spread Second Life technology to developing nations.

But Second Life fans shouldn’t expect interface problems to be solved soon. “Look at Lively or Vivaty, they’re dealing with the same thing. This is a hard problem,” Rosedale said. “If there was a trivial solution, we would have done it already.”

Linden launches instant messaging client Sat, 06 Sep 2008 15:51:53 +0000 Eric Reuters SECOND LIFE, Sept 3 (Reuters) - Second Life users who frequently access the Internet from consumer-grade computers and laptops are about to find keeping touch with other avatars a lot easier.

Yesterday Linden Lab announced the launch of “SLim,” pronounced “slim,” an instant-messaging client that allows users to communicate with users inside Linden’s virtual world without running Second Life.

“When you’re running a system that doesn’t have a 3D card, SLim allows you to take your friends list with you,” said Linden VP Joe Miller. “Visually it looks a lot like other IM apps.”

Second Life only runs well on high-end gaming machines. On many computers, particularly laptops, the Second Life viewer software runs so slowly even typing can be difficult. Miller said SLim was designed to tackle that problem.

The software will tie to an avatar’s friends list of contacts, and users inside Second Life will be able to see who’s on SLim but not in 3D virtual space.

In addition to sending text messages in and out of Second Life (or to other SLim users) like AOL’s AIM or Google’s Gtalk, the SLim client will support voice-over-IP calls in a manner similar to eBay’s Skype.

One notable feature of SLim will be support for VoIP voicemail. Users who register for the service will be able to set up a voicemail greeting and accept VoIP messages of up to five minutes in length while offline, Miller said. Linden’s servers will email the voice message to its recipient as an MP3 file.

Miller said the service is expected to debut in a “First Look” version of the Second Life client software next week. Participation in SLim and voicemail will be on an opt-in basis, and users can set the destination email address for voicemail to a different address than the payment contact for their account.

The service will be available on all platforms which support Second Life, including Windows, Macintosh, and Linux environments.

IBM adds virtual worlds support to Lotus Sametime Wed, 03 Sep 2008 16:00:25 +0000 Eric Reuters SECOND LIFE, Sept 3 (Reuters) - IBM, a company long at the forefront of exploring the business applications of virtual worlds, announced on Wednesday it has added support for 3D chat to its Lotus Sametime instant messaging software.

Users of “Sametime 3D” who are collaborating on a business document will be able to meet in a variety of virtual worlds, with IBM’s software handling the logins transparently, said Neil Katz, a company spokesman who worked on the project. Platforms supported by IBM include OpenSim, SecondLife, Forterra, and ActiveWorlds.

Katz said IBM will initially be working with select customers to test the new software’s capabilities, before rolling it out to the mainstream.

IBM foresees uses for corporate 3D chat such as walking customers through the replacement of a computer part by rezzing a 3D model. The Sametime 3D integration also smooths the process of importing data from an application such as Powerpoint into a virtual world.

IBM already hosts private regions within Second Life, and is working to draft interoperability protocols that connect disparate virtual worlds.

While reliability issues have plagued virtual worlds such as Second Life, corporate applications may be made to run in a more stable manner, particularly using OpenSim.

“We’re creating a room with 20 or 30 users, we’re not building a persistent virtual world with thousands or hundreds of thousands of concurrent users,” he said.

Second Life’s user economy shows strong growth Wed, 27 Aug 2008 16:55:03 +0000 Eric Reuters SECOND LIFE, August 26 (Reuters) - The real-world economy may be slipping into recession, but the global slowdown isn’t impacting Second Life. According to recently released company statistics, Linden Lab’s in-world economy is larger than ever.

Over 61,000 avatars earned more Linden dollars (Second Life’s in-world currency) in July than they spent. That’s a 5.7 percent month-to-month gain in the number of profitable in-world businesses and the most on record.

User hours grew for the fourth consecutive month to 34.7 million in July, also a new record. However, the user hours number may be unreliable given the proliferation of computer-run avatars, or “bots,” throughout the Grid.

Economic activity grew briskly. Over US$9.5 million was traded on the LindeX, a 5.5 percent gain from June and a new record. User-to-user transactions in July stood at L$8.4 billion (about US$31.3 million), a 7.3 percent gain from June and the most currency transactions since the gambling ban in July of last year.

The sole dark spot for Second Life was the continuing decline in premium accounts. Linden shed an additional 1,410 premiums in July — over 45 a day and the seventh consecutive month premiums declined.

The principal benefit of a premium account is land-ownership privileges on Second Life’s mainland, where avatars have neighbors and enjoy a sense of community. Linden Lab has been unable to grow the mainland for three months due to weak demand, but private islands have grown to occupy 1.7 billion square meters, an 8.7 percent gain from June.

In recent months Linden Lab has announced a series of beautification and zoning initiatives in an attempt to restore user interest in the mainland.

Vivaty To Expand Beyond Facebook and AIM Thu, 21 Aug 2008 21:39:38 +0000 Eric Reuters SECOND LIFE, August 21 (Reuters) - Browser-based virtual world Vivaty, currently accessible through Facebook and AOL Instant Messenger will be embeddable by users on blogs and pages throughout the Web within the next two months, CEO Keith McCurdy said this week.

McCurdy also said Vivaty is internally testing the technology on the Firefox web browser, and expects to announce official support for Mozilla’s browser “in the next few weeks.” Presently Vivaty only runs within the Microsoft Internet Explorer browser on Windows.

There’s no timetable at present to extend support for Vivaty to the Macintosh, he said.

While every virtual world is scrambling for users and attention, the competition closest to Vivaty may be Lively by Google. Like Vivaty, Lively is a browser-based virtual world embedded in IE. Vivaty and Lively launched on the same day.

McCurdy said Google’s presence only validates Vivaty’s idea. “Before we launched, people asked: Why be in the browser?” he said. “After Google launched — or echo-launched — we get almost none of those questions.”

“Their product looks very different. They have a cartoon look, we have more of a Sims look,” he said.

Vivaty’s goal is to allow avatars to create a virtual space that ties into the rest of their web presence. Already users can hang a virtual picture frame on their wall, and have it display images from a Flickr account. Tighter integration between Vivaty and Facebook (already a partner) and Twitter are all in the works.

“People will have a lot more ability to pull stuff in from the rest of the Internet,” he said. “Brands love that.”

Coke Zero and Target are early Vivaty branding partners. “Second Life has brands coming into Second Life, but then they’re locked in,” McCurdy said. “We turned that inside out.”

Embedding a Vivaty scene on a corporate web site is more attractive to advertisers, he said.

Further expansion of Vivaty Create, a user-generated content tool, is planned. McCurdy doesn’t expect problems with pornography or griefing. “We’ll have people who will check content, and you’ll have the community check content,” he said.

But while McCurdy wants to further open up his virtual world to outside developers and add more avatar customization, he doesn’t see that as Vivaty’s draw.

“We’re not trying to be a 3D modeling program,” he said. “We’re erring on the side of simple, easy-to-use, and mass-market.”

Blog: Second Life bluesman signs record deal Thu, 14 Aug 2008 21:50:24 +0000 Eric Reuters The newest destination for talent scouts looking to sign fresh acts is Second Life.

Boutique label Reality Entertainment has signed popular Second Life musician Von Johin to a record deal. Wagner James Au runs a lengthy interview with Johin, who performs weekly shows in the virtual world.

For the most part, however, he no longer has any interest playing live in person. “This is more fun,” he says, referring to his virtual stage. “No gas costs, no travel, worldwide audience, exciting new people, no smoke, no drunks on the road, no hassles.”

But what does “sign a record deal” really mean in 2008? The Metaverse Journal takes a contrarian approach to the news: “Any individual can now publish their music worldwide on iTunes using services like TuneCore for the princely sum of US $9.99 per year.”

Regardless, any deal can only be seen as encouraging news for Second Life’s burgeoning music scene.