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It had even produced its own millionaire, Anshe Chung, who made a very real fortune from buying and selling property that existed only on Second Life servers.Three years on, and the hype has been extinguished. The first thing I notice upon dropping out of the Second Life sky once more is how empty the place is.“At the height of Second Life’s hype wave,” wrote Wagner Au in last summer, “the world resembled a libertarian fever dream, with garish sci-fi cities and fantasy sex palaces strewn right alongside official corporate headquarters and high-toned shopping malls…It was crass, endlessly chaotic, and mostly ugly.” Second Life seemed like a bustling, morphing, and dynamic Wild West town on its way to stabilizing into a new kind of virtual metropolis.Yet for most of the world, the promise of Second Life never panned out.
I check out an amazing Gothic castle, which must have taken someone half a real life to painstakingly cobble together, but I’m the only one admiring the architecture.
Second Life has seen its status as the web wonderchild supplanted by Facebook and Twitter. On my first visit back in 2006, I couldn’t walk through the training level without clumsily bumping into the throng of fellow newbies.
The newspapers have forgotten about it, the Reuters correspondent has long since cleared his virtual desk, and you can walk confidently around tech trade shows without a ponytailed “Web 2.0 Consultant” offering to put your company on the Second Life map for the price of a company car. Have the hundreds of thousands of registered players logged off and found a real life? And what’s become of the extroverts, entrepreneurs and evangelists I encountered on my first visit? Now, there’s enough room to swing the contents of Noah’s ark, let alone a cat.
I dash off to a shopping mall, listed as one of the most popular sites in the game, and yet it’s only me perusing the countless fashion stores.
Admittedly, it’s noon on Saturday in Britain – making it an indecent hour for Second Life’s US-oriented audience – but finding people was never this hard back in 2006.
Developed in 2003 by Linden Lab, Second Life is a comprehensive, open-ended digital version of reality, tinged with the promise of making the impossible possible—from flying, to morphing into strange beasts, to owning your own utopian nation.