Friday, March 09, 2007

Second Life's infrastructure issues and the end of Utopia

On my Computerworld blog this week, I wrote a lengthy post on Second Life's continuing struggle to expand, entitled "Second Life's population problems." The gist of the post is SL is not nearly as popular as is regularly suggested, and is built on a creaky infrastructure that cannot scale.

Interestingly, the reaction to this post was far more muted than the reaction I received to my last Computerworld salvo against Second Life, in which I criticized the PR-driven forced march into the virtual world, and the UI. This time, I actually received a supportive comment, and the negativity was limited to a few pleas to give Second Life a chance. I think many SLers are starting to realize Second Life is far from a Utopia. They don't have to read about the problems somewhere else; many people who visit the world can see some bizarre activity taking place, dissent, and bandwidth/processing-related rendering problems.

That's not to say Second Life is a lost cause. I am a firm believer in the potential of virtual worlds -- including Second Life, as well as newer endeavors such as Sony Home -- to improve certain types of communication needs, such as education, product demonstrations, and of course, gaming. Additionally, research conducted by the Pew Internet & American Life Project last year found that five million people were taking "virtual tours" online on a typical day -- this news bodes well for the future of virtual reality and 3D technologies to connect people.

Also, in related news, I have been invited to participate in a panel on Second Life later this month. It looks very interesting -- there seems to be a range of opinions represented in the group. I'll post more after the panel takes place.

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