Ever since BusinessWeek ran a breathless cover story titled “My Virtual Life” more than a year ago, reporters have been heralding Second Life as the here-and-now incarnation of the fictional Metaverse that Neal Stephenson conjured up 15 years ago in Snow Crash. Wired created a 12-page “Travel Guide” last fall. Unfortunately, the reality doesnt justify the excitement.
Second Life partisans claim meteoric growth, with the number of “residents,” or avatars created, surpassing 7 million in June. Theres no question that more and more people are trying Second Life, but that figure turns out to be wildly misleading. For starters, many people make more than one avatar. According to Linden Lab, the company behind Second Life, the number of avatars created by distinct individuals was closer to 4 million. Of those, only about 1 million had logged on in the previous 30 days the standard measure of Internet traffic, and barely a third of that total had bothered to drop by in the previous week. Most of those who did were from Europe or Asia, leaving a little more than 100,000 Americans per week to be targeted by US marketers.
Last week, Ginko Financial — an unregulated bank that promised investors astronomical returns (in excess of 40 percent) and was run by a faceless owner whose identity is still a mystery — announced it would no longer exist as a financial entity.
The declared insolvency meant the bank would be unable to repay approximately 200,000,000 Lindens (U.S. $750,000) to Second Life residents who had invested their money with the bank over the course of its three and a half years of existence.