Open letter to the BBC

bbc logoYou might have read by now BBC’s shockingly poor article on Second Life (yes, it’s another one of those “SL is dead” articles). It might shock you even more to know that M Linden had given them an interview which was mostly neglected and ignored; Linden Lab graciously published the whole interview since M Linden’s own comment might never make the BBC site.

My own comment might also never make it, either, so I’ll publish it here:

When I got the link to this article, I thought, “oh, boring, another end-of-Second Life-article from late 2007”, which was reinforced by the outdated pictures, showing things from 2005-7 or so (you can see the “age” of the pictures due to a lack of features present in the current generation of the 3D renderer).

Then I saw that the date is actually from November 2009! And it includes a partial, out-of-context transcript of an interview with LL’s CEO! I was utterly shocked — is this truly BBC or a phished site??

Somehow, it looks like the reporter, Lauren Hansen, had written this article in 2005-7, when the media just loved to pronounce Second Life dead, but was unable to sell it to the BBC back then. She then proceeded to fish it out of her drafts, added a few lines from the interview with M Linden, and just sold it as “news”. Wow. This is NOT the kind of articles with quality and thorough research that we’re used to read/see at BBC!

What happened? Half the article deals with events occurring in 2006/7. None of the 1,400 organisations currently in SL is mentioned, except for IBM, who have been co-developing a lot of technology together with Linden Lab — as well as Intel, Sun, and many others (including Microsoft!). Since the “hype days” of 2007, Second Life grew over three times in size and user base. It’s virtual goods economy, worth half a billion US$ today, used to be 4% of the overall market for digital content in the world — if you include ads as “digital content” 🙂 (if not, probably the figure would be much higher) — more than iPhone Apps (which the media still consider a huge success). Since the introduction of voice communications in Second Life, the platform became one of the top VoIP providers world-wide (Skype is still #1), and their minutes-per-month continue to grow. Facebook, always seen as a huge success, in financial terms, made half in sales as Second Life did last year — which is not too bad — and posted a net loss of “only” US$50 millions. It was flagged as a huge success. Linden Lab has been profitable for several years, and their profits are over US$50 millions annually, growing every year in a very comfortable way. Sooooo…. nothing of that has been referred (not even M Linden’s official statistics) in this article.

Second Life is empty?! At almost every hour of the day, 24 hours a day, it has almost as many simultaneous users as… eBay! Now let’s imagine that eBay, with its hundreds of millions of articles, would show, on each page, how many people are visiting that specific page. The vast majority of those pages would show “zero visitors” during most of the time of the day (that’s a good reason why nobody shows visitors-per-page 🙂 ). The same applies to Second Life, which is *huge* in size, but users remain on a limited number of regions. If all users were evenly spaced among all regions, each would have, on average, 2 users/region (in reality, users are clumped together on the more popular places). If the same would happen on eBay… there would be perhaps one visitor per every 1,000 pages/items!! Now *that’s* empty! Nevertheless, it has about the same number of user-to-user transactions as Second Life, with a huge difference: the amount being transacted is way above SL’s average, and, as a result, eBay’s marketplace economy, in absolute US$ numbers, is quite above SL’s. But that’s just because products listed in SL are several orders of magnitude cheaper…

eBay is also way beyond the Hype Curve on Gartner’s chart, but nobody in the media would be insane to consider that it has “died down” (just because it doesn’t attract the media’s attention any longer).

So, why does the media hate SL so much? I just know one reason: surprisingly, stories about “the end of SL” still sell. Success stories are always boring.

The best answer debunking BBC’s article that I’ve read so far has come from Hamlet Au on the New World Notes. He matches statistics and facts with the BBC journalist’s “inventions” and fantasies.

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