Second Life 2009: The year in review

It's been quite a year for Second Life, through 2009. This or that media outlet still pronounces it to be dead, though it is quite a bit less common than last year or the year before. After five years of obituaries with no sign that they're any more credible now than they were before, a number of routine nay-sayers have turned their attention elsewhere, writing obituaries for Facebook and Twitter.

From a business perspective, Second Life seems to have had a good year. No major growth, but no major declines either. There's a minor decline in concurrent users over time, though it's hardly become a significant data point. Still, we're very much looking forward to the metrics and time-frames that Linden Lab will use in coming weeks to announce 'strong fourth quarter growth.'

The Lab started the year by explaining that various metrics that had suddenly ceased publication without notice were 'misleading.' Within several weeks, publication of the figures resumed, and we were told instead that it had been a bug.

Katt Linden, the Lab's Communications Manager disappeared in mid-conversation with us over an upcoming press-release. We learned later that she was no longer with the company. The press-release involved the Lab's acquisition of Web-based virtual goods markets, OnRez and Xstreet SL. OnRez (the more appealing of the two) was subsequently terminated.

January was the month that the reliable inventory service was supposed to have been rolled out, to help improve user-experience and minimize both inventory loss and the appearance of inventory loss. A year later, and that has not yet eventuated.

Likewise, Webkit was to be introduced to replace Gecko as the rendering engine for the built-in Web-browser, and there's no sign of a release there either, as yet.

For about the millionth time since the opening of the Teen Grid, speculation ran rife that the Teen Grid and the Adult Grid were about to be merged. As usual, nothing has come of it. The Lab continues to insist that it has no plans to do so. As 2009 draws to a close, those speculations continue unabated.

The IRS reported to Congress that no new laws or regulations needed to be added to the US Tax Code, as virtual goods, services and currencies were already taxable under existing US Law.


February brought news that senior vice-president Robin Harper was departing, apparently as a part of the overall restructuring of the Lab's management, which involved a number of high-profile hirings.

Linden Lab also abandoned the new blog model and returned to its original blog model, and an IETF working-group formed on virtual environment interoperability standards, jointly chaired by IBM and Linden Lab.

Linden Lab dumped about 800,000 inactive accounts which had been created but never used.


Come March, Reuters closed their Second Life island, but continued to set up a new island for a while. The Lab announced a series of initiatives to improve performance, which went into place through the year but so far don't seem to have resulted in improved performance.

Lab CFO John Zdanowski also departed the Lab that month, and wound up over at Avatar Reality Inc (the people behind Blue Mars) shortly thereafter.


In April, we spoke with Linden Lab co-founder Philip Rosedale. Despite his upbeat presentation, it now appears that he may have have already functionally parted ways with Linden Lab at that time.

The Herbert Estate cracked down on Dune role-players, and TASER filed a lawsuit against Linden Lab, both for intellectual property violations.

The Daily Mail trumpeted the involvement of Second Life in a tragic, Italian murder case, but apparently made no such similar loud noises when it turned out that Second Life played no part in the incident, and that they had implicated Second Life in error. Nevertheless, new user registrations did increase briefly as a result of the news.

Linden Lab announced what would later come to be known as Second Life Enterprise, and started taking action against bots used for traffic-gaming, and camping installations.


In May, TASER dropped their lawsuit, Linden Lab started a data-center near Washington DC, and upset or amused many with its content-rating test area, but still got the new Adult continent open.


Come June, the Lab firmed up its content ratings (which essentially wound up being apparently identical to what they had proposed before inviting community-input), released the last of the 1.x series viewers (barring a few emergency security fixes).

Second Life had its sixth anniversary, on June 23 as usual, which was marred somewhat by the usual technical difficulties.


In July, the Lab cautioned users to avoid one of its new viewer features. This still hasn't been reported as safe to use, five months on. The Lab also announced that it felt it had licked the group-chat problems. Again, five months on, there seems to be no improvement apparent to the end-user.

SL Relay For Life earned oodles of cash for cancer research again this year. More than ever.

High-profile content developer, Rezzable, took a hike for their very own virtual pastures.


In August, Linden Lab published what we'll very generously call a roadmap (in that it fails to provide the basics for a technology or policy roadmap) for content-management and intellectual property.

Then the Lab tightened its grip on the Xstreet rules, and changed the way parcel-traffic was calculated to the way most everyone already thought it was calculated.

Amusement or chagrin was had by many when a new avatar surname worked its way through to production, being prison- and underworld slang for a child-molester. Linden Lab says it doesn't know how the surnames are chosen or approved.


September brought more excitement, with NATO seeking Second Life tenders, and two high-profile users filing for a class-action suit against the Lab.

Orange closed their island, and Linden Lab opened a marketing office in Amsterdam. We're hoping to hear more about that in the coming days.


In October, after a very long time promoting a Second Life educational wiki, Linden Lab slapped it with a cease-and-desist, forcing it to close down its domain name, and then promoting the defunct domain name to customers for a couple more months. More than one education community distanced themselves from Second Life and Linden Lab before the end of the year.

Yoko Ono unveiled the Imagine Peace tower in Second Life.

Linden Lab provided a facility to mark an account as a scripted agent (a bot, basically), though the status of that flag isn't used or accessible, so it has no effect on your account so far, nor can anyone tell if you've done it or not.

The Burning Life festival was used to distribute an enormous amount of misappropriated content from many creators.


In November, Second Life Enterprise, hinted at back in April, was launched into beta.

Linden Lab CEO Mark Kingdon gave us an extensive interview.

Telstra announced that they were leaving Second Life.

Linden Lab tightened up on Xstreet some more.


This month, December, the work on script-limiting gained significant momentum, and undelivered "Instant Messages" from throughout 2009 suddenly started appearing, not all of which were delivered to the person to whom they were originally sent.

Linden Lab opened its new Nascera continent with its house and land incentive scheme in beta.

...

And despite all of that, it was a relatively quiet year for Second Life.

We're looking forward to what 2010 will bring us.


Are you a part of the most widely-known collaborative virtual environment or keeping a close eye on it? Massively's Second Life coverage keeps you in the loop.
This article was originally published on Massively.