Second Life has just celebrated its sixth birthday, and in an interview with V3.co.uk, the company's chief product officer, Tom Hale, put to rest any concerns that interest in the online world is waning. He also laid out plans for how the site intends to continue to expand in the future.
Hale claimed that there were 656,867 active Second Life residents in May 2009, racking up over a million logins and over 43 million in-world hours. Users each logged an average of 42.65 hours a month, and generated just under $50m (£30m) worth of user-to-user transactions.
Although Second Life is not a game, it is the second most popular online world, according to Nielsen's April ratings, some way behind the hugely successful World of Warcraft, but well ahead of Lord of the Rings Online and Dark Messiah of Might and Magic.
Hale went on to detail some of the initiatives underway designed to expand the presence of Second Life, and to help aid interaction between in-world and online users via three "rings" of interaction. At the core is the full immersion within Second Life. Next is the light immersion offered through web-based interaction, while the outer ring consists of messaging and voice services both within and without the world.
"We want to make Second Life more accessible to anyone to communicate and share Second Life through the web," said Hale.
"Linden Lab recognises there's a place for lighter-weight engagement with Second Life, and further leveraging the web is a strategic choice for the company, hence the launch of the new dashboard and web site refresh."
As part of the move, the company has released a beta version of the new dashboard which provides a lightweight web interface to offer an insight into the world without having to log in. The dashboard provides access to several social networking-style tools, such as a map of Second Life, presence details of friends, upcoming events, recent activity and status updates.
This allows users to see whether anything of interest is going on in-world, or whether friends are online, before firing up the client. Similarly, it caters for a certain level of involvement in situations where the full application cannot be loaded.
"The idea is to make it even easier for residents to manage their Second Life experience, locate and jump straight to relevant places, and provide a familiar place from which to explore," added Hale.
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