I’ve been contemplating reasons for the flattening of the online user stats in Second Life lately. You’ll recall that as recently as early 2009, there seemed to be a surge in growth. Every week new records for simultaneous users were being set. I believe it topped out at around 88,000 or so on an exceptionally busy Sunday afternoon.
But then no new records were set. Even after many months.
Why might this be? There’s a few reasons, most notably being Linden Lab’s new policy on bots. No longer do we have hundreds (maybe thousands) of bots cuddling in claustrophobic farms. That clearly put a boffo dent into the population stats.
But is there another reason?
I realized a social phenomenon might be in effect here. In my travels I’ve observed that many people tend to have a two-year attention span on projects. Whether it be a hobby, volunteer work or other activities, when people have no ties holding them back, their interest tends to fade after 18-30 months or so. I’ve seen this in real life many times.
I might be mistaken, but I think I’m seeing the same thing happen with my virtual pals in Second Life. Some, like Eshi Otawara, declare a vacation and disappear temporarily, or perhaps forever in some cases. Others like Bettina Tizzy change their approach. But I suspect there are many more who simply fade away quietly as their two-year period of attention draws to a close.
This isn’t particularly remarkable, as people change what they do every day of the year. But then I remembered what happened two years ago.
Two years ago it was a different virtual world. Second Life was constantly on the news and magazine covers, mysterious virtual entrepreneurs were evidently making millions and anyone could do anything. People from all corners learned of the amazing promises of virtual reality and they signed up in droves. During that period, Second Life grew at its fastest rate.
And that was just about two years ago.
Now, just as one would expect we see some residents of 2+ years vintage fading away. The huge blob of 2006/7 signups have been expiring over the past months. Combined with gains from ongoing signup rates and losses from the bot massacres, we just might expect to see flat growth for a little while.
Meanwhile, I’m wondering why I’m still going strong after almost three years?