Two decades ago — an eternity in “Internet Time” — a small group of people from a tiny, unknown start-up somewhere in San Francisco opened the doors to the public, showing off their latest software platform, after having spent several months in closed beta.
That platform was nothing more and nothing less than what author Neil Stephenson called “the Metaverse”, two decades before.
Whatever the media has been claiming back in 2022 (in 2023, of course, it’s all about AI), nobody else came even close to “build the Metaverse” — except for Linden Lab. And it’s not just a “prototype Metaverse”, or a proof of concept. It’s all that, sure — and one that is constantly evolving — but it has stood the test of time and passed it with flying colours.
At twenty years of age, Second Life® is more than merely a ‘mature’ platform. It rises to the ranks of those rare technological endeavours (in this fast-paced era of constantly accelerating development) that have a certain aura of ‘eternity’ — they’ve ‘always’ been around, they’re part of our common heritage as a species. It’s not just the telephone, TV, and the internal combustion engine. It’s also the desktop computer, the mobile phone, the word processor, the spreadsheet, CAD/CAM software, the Internet, and, if you will, online social media (which isn’t a ‘recent’ invention — you can date it pretty well to the BBSes of the 1980s).
And now we can claim that immersive 3D virtual worlds, with persistent user-generated content (that can be bought and sold), visual contiguity, and where users are represented by their avatars — in short, the Metaverse — joins the ranks of those ‘eternal’ technologies who’ve been ‘always’ around and always will be.
And its name is Second Life.
So, congratulations, Second Life! 🙂 And congratulations for the hundreds of brave, stubborn Linden employees who have stuck around to keep this technology alive, not the least its inventor, Philip Rosedale. Last but not least, congratulations, you millions of pioneers of the Metaverse, who’ve been using it every day (or almost!) for the past two decades, and showing that the Metaverse can, indeed, thrive and prosper — when it’s done the right way, of course.
An image is worth a thousand words, so the saying goes; and I claim that a video is worth a million. Since the Second Life 20th Birthday has its own official documentary, directed & produced by Draxtor Despres, it’s well worth watching:
During the filming of this documentary, Drax was telling everybody that it would be ‘only a short’ (6-10 minutes) to give some highlights on Second Life, and that would be all. At the end, he had more than two hours of raw footage (including historic videos from earlier versions of SL!), which he had to ‘condense’ somehow in a little less than an hour. It stands alone as probably the best documentary made so far on Second Life — with the added bonus that it’s all done in Second Life. One might argue if this ‘documentary’ is ‘merely a machinima’ or if we just have gone beyond those limiting labels and descriptions. For those, like me, who are not in the movie industry, one might claim that this a fully-fledged documentary that earns its right to be presented at movie festivals and awards. Drax, I hope to see you presenting this soon at Sundance, Venice or Cannes 🙂
Linden Lab has also been busy. For the anniversary celebrations, they decided to publish a ‘guide’. But it’s a bit more than that: it’s a 150-page-long magazine which also happens to include a guide to the exhibitions and celebrations. You can see it on its official location at Issuu, but, because of link rot, I’ve also included the original PDF below. Enjoy 🙂
And come with us to celebrate this unique moment in time 🙂
All the materials above (including the official Second Life® 20th Birthday logo) are copyrighted by their respective owners. They’re used here merely as a courtesy, and no relationship nor endorsement is to be implied between the owners and the author of this article.