Sunday, 24 August 2008

Second Life business bombs down under

An interesting article but I would raise a few points:

1. The initial hype of these new technologies almost always disappoints for a while.
2. Big business like this are poor at innovation of this kind. For example I never watched Australian media until Second Life, now I view ABC content weekly, infact ABC now means Aussie public tv to me.  How wide spread is this.

But there is a "it gets kind of boring" problem in Second Life

In busier times ... The Australia Day celebrations on BigPond's Second Life island.

Few lives left for Second Life

Asher Moses
August 21, 2008 - 9:10AM
Page 1 of 2 | Single page

The companies that rushed to set up bases within the cult virtual world of Second Life appear to have wasted their time as many have shut down and others are "ghost towns", an Australian researcher has found.

Separately, figures released by the virtual world's creator Linden Lab in April show there are only 12,245 active Australian Second Life users, down from highs of 16,000 towards the end of last year.

During a period of immense hype over the past few years, Second Life - which allows people to interact through virtual "avatars" and build and trade in-world items - was billed as a way for companies to form deeper online connections with customers by connecting with them in a 3D virtual setting.

But Australians appear to have lost interest in Second Life and the users still there appear to be shying away from the big corporate brands.

Kim MacKenzie, a PhD student at the Queensland University of Technology, centred her honours year thesis around the business applications of Second Life.

She studied the Second Life bases of 20 international brands over three months last year, including Dell, Toyota, Coca-Cola, BMW, AOL and Vodafone.

"They were like ghost towns," said MacKenzie, adding that many of the users she saw on the company islands appeared to be staff members.

"In terms of customers and perhaps your everyday people, there was no evidence of anybody in there. I was often the only one wandering around these very impressive sites on my own."

MacKenzie said she went back to many of the 20 brand sites this year and half of them had shut down.

In Australia, the ABC, Telstra BigPond and all have Second Life bases.

The Project Factory, which helps firms develop a Second Life presence, said BigPond was by far the most popular brand in Second Life in terms of the amount of time spent there by users.

However, the reliability of those figures is questionable because The Project Factory was contracted by Telstra to help build its island.

David Holloway, who runs the webzine The Metaverse Journal, which examines virtual worlds from an Australian perspective, said Second Life's popularity had "dropped off big time from a year ago".

He said that was largely due to less media attention and the fact that Australians were fed up with significant lag, which arises because the Second Life servers are located in San Francisco.

Stability issues are also a significant setback. Linden Lab's own data shows "one in four times you use Second Life the whole application will crash", Holloway said.

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