Second Life: Megatrend-In-Waiting Or Just A Dumb Fad? - InformationWeek

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Second Life: Megatrend-In-Waiting Or Just A Dumb Fad?

During the Second Life boom not too long ago, enthusiasts predicted it would take over the Internet. Is that still a likely outcome, or is Second Life becoming as irrelevant as pet rocks and leisure suits?

This article is a follow up to Second Life Tries For A Second Act.

As someone active in Second Life, I wonder where it's going. Second Life co-founder Philip Rosedale predicted that Second Life would become universal, a mainstream activity embraced by everyone in the world (or everyone with a computer and an Internet connection, at least).

The avatar of Second Life enthusiast Jennifer Grace Dawson.
(click for image gallery)

A more skeptical view is taken by Clay Shirky, an adjunct professor at NYU who studies social media, writing at the height of the Second Life hype cycle in January 2007. He said Second Life is, and always will be, a niche product, used by a tiny group of passionate users, but never by a big group of people.

Shirky notes that we've seen the Second Life hype cycle once before. Back in the early '90s, before the emergence of the Web, a type of text-based virtual world called MUDs and MOOs became popular. Enthusiasts predicted MUDs and MOOs would become mainstream and would change society.

But those predictions didn't come true -- they look laughable today.

And predictions that Second Life will become mainstream will look laughable pretty soon, Shirky wrote.

Shirky's view was wildly unpopular in Second Life, and it was contrarian at the time he wrote it, at the peak of the Second Life hype cycle.

But it's looking now like he was dead right.

Or was he?

I discussed Shirky's conclusion a few weeks ago with my friend and Second Life enthusiast Jennifer Grace Dawson (we had the discussion in Second Life, of course).

Dawson is a virtual worlds veteran -- she started in LambdaMOO -- one of those MOOs Shirky discusses, founded in 1990 -- and still occasionally visits that world. She blogs about her Second Life experiences, and takes screenshots of Second Life scenes, which she posts to Flickr.

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