There vs. Second Life Revisited

There vs Second Life

Those of us into social virtual worlds have been debating this for 5 years: Which is better, There or Second Life?

For the longest time, the answer was, “It depends what you want to do.” Building was always better in Second Life, communication and “toys” (pets, cars, guns, hoverboards, etc) were better in There.

In the past year, the rules have changed. Second Life has voice now, just like There. Ingenious developers and more versatile port-a-zones, has improved building in There to the point that it is comparable to Second Life.

There still has a better sales system, but Second Life’s new search capabilities allow you to search for specific objects for sale and find where they are being sold.

The new Windlight graphics system and Havoc 4 physics system in Second Life has pretty muched wiped out any advantages There had in those departments.

Toys still work better in There, but There still has no scripting capabilities, or custom animations. There still needs to approve all submissions, resulting in higher costs and a few days of waiting for it to come in world. It is these differences that still separate the two, and which have led to the #1 difference: Demographics!

Today, There and Second Life are following two different paths. The average age of There players is getting younger and younger, while Second Life attracts a decidedly more mature demographic. Average age of There residents is 22, average in Second Life is 32. There’s minimum age is 12, Second Life is an 18 and over world. There’s corporate sponsors include teen oriented clients CosmoGirl and MTV. Second Life has much more diverse clients.

And so five years later, we have a new answer to the question. Which is better, There or Second Life?

The answer is, “It depends on how old you are.”

The demographic breakdown of all virtual worlds has been researched by the fine folks at K-Zero. It basically breaks down this way: Kids and tweens love the 2D virtual worlds like Neopetz, Club Penguin, Gaia Online, Habbo Hotel, and Whyville. Adults who are not playing MMORPG’s like World of Warcraft, have pretty muched all flocked to Second Life as their virtual world of choice.

There and its sister world Virtual MTV, are quickly becoming the virtual world of choice for the teenage set. It is quickly becoming the world of choice for those online players who have outgrown the 2D worlds, but want to hang out with people their own age.

Five years from now?…

But here’s an interesting thought, what will the answer be five years from now? I have reason to believe that both programs are going to seem dated by then. Some game enthusiasts say they look dated now. Graphics and physics technology is improving every year. Newer virtual worlds have an easier time adapting to new technologies.

My own guess is that neither There or Second Life are versatile enough to adapt quickly to new technologies, but between the two, Second Life has adapted better. In fact, I believe Second Life and Linden Labs has already gotten a foothold in the future 3D internet.

I believe the future 3D web will be built with a version of the Second Life client and a version of the OpenSim server. The people at RealXTend have the right idea:

  • Combine SL’s Prim system with a standard 3D mesh system (used in There as well as major 3D programs) from OBJ files.
  • More versatile Mesh/Skeleton/animation avatar system like the one used in Poser.
  • Standardized Python scripting or other standardized language.
  • Leave all 3D rendering to the client/computer side.

The result is a 3D system far more versatile/flexible/upgradable than Second Life currently is. It also opens the door to 3rd party server hosting providers.

Could Makena (operators of There) start their own competing service based on this technology? Sure, why not? Long term, There cannot compete with its current, already dated technology. Starting a new service with improved technology, and phasing There players and clients to the new service may be the way to go.

That is the future: A 3D Internet with standard client and server software.

But in the mean time, there is lots of room for diverse virtual worlds to find their audiences.


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