Second Life’s Tenth Birthday

By contrast, Second Life is also 10 years old. Thanks to the Second Life grid, and according to Linden Lab, US$ 3.2 billion have been transacted through the Second Life grid (around US$0.5-0.6 billion annually, and, of course, this has only been the case for the past few years — interestingly enough, after the media lost interest in SL — and, of course, the Linden Dollar is used by an order of magnitude of more people than media-hyped Bitcoin — and far, far more stable), earning Linden Lab about US$75 millions every year. It’s not at the same level as Google AdSense, of course. However, compared to the company behind WordPress, Automattic, Linden Lab beats them easily: Automattic, with about the same number of employees of Linden Lab, just reported US$45 millions in revenues for 2012. LL consistently makes 50% more than that. 

So how well developed is each platform? Obviously, Google doesn’t say how much code they have developed for Google AdSense. WordPress, allegedly having some 30.000 developers, have produced in a decade a bit over 200.000 lines of code — although, to be truthful, just 15 (!) are regularly contributing to the core code actively. In the mean time, the Second Life Viewer, which is also open source since 2007, and has but a few dozens of developers (Ohloh has counted 65) which contribute code outside Linden Lab’s own team, has grown to over a million lines of code. And, of course, we have no idea how big the Second Life simulator & central server code is, since it’s proprietary; but we can compare it to OpenSimulator, which is viewer-compatible, allegedly provides around 90% of SL’s functionality, and has 400.000 lines of code submitted by 125 developers — LL’s own code should be around the same size and complexity.

Obviously those numbers don’t say much. But they should make us think. Linden Lab is not a software giant, but it easily beats popular companies who ride high on the media’s radar of interest — and they certainly develop a lot of code. Linden Lab also doesn’t make a huge fortune, but for a company that was completely discarded by the media, they certainly aren’t worth to be despised: Zynga, the popular Facebook games developer, earns twice as much from its games than the whole of the content creators in Second Life. But Zynga has a market of a billion potential users. Second Life content creators have merely 36 million users to sell their products… and, of those, we only know that around a million are actually active. The rest, as Pussycat Catnap has suggested, are merely spambots registering for the SL forums, and thus no wonder they never actually log in to the virtual world. Because they certainly aren’t ‘bots; academic researchers, eager to hunt the old meme that “everybody is a ‘bot in Second Life”, has long established that there are no more than 4-7% of ‘bots in SL, based on established advanced ‘bot detection algorithms — showing not only that there are far less ‘bots in SL than on other social networks, but that their numbers are even lower than Linden Lab has claimed (around 10%).

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