Eric Krangel has a post on the future of Second Life. He used to run the virtual Reuters bureau in SL, which has just closed.
Krangel argues that SL has a loyal core of followers:
“Theres an incredible depth, passion, and camaraderie to the Second Life community that more popular online experiences like MySpace or World of Warcraft cant match. And while I didnt find it compelling, there really is something awesome about buying be able to “buy” a grid of blank 3D space, mold it like clay into an elven forest, a futuristic space station, or a bdsm dungeon, and then invite your friends to hang out.”
On the other hand:
1. it needs to be easier to use: he talks of a 5-6 hour learning process
2. it needs to be more reliable, especially if it is used in any sense as a business app.
3. its reputation puts people off. (“The very things that most appeal to Second Lifes hardcore enthusiasts are either boring or creepy for most people: Spending hundreds of hours of effort to make insignificant amounts of money selling virtual clothes, experimenting with changing your gender or species, getting into random conversations with strangers from around the world, or having pseudo-nonymous sex (and lets not kid ourselves, sex is a huge draw into Second Life). “) This is not helped by a recent case in the UK, where two people who had met and married through SL divorced after the wife caught the husband having digital sex with another woman, again on SL. What made the story so funny was the contrast between their avatars and the pictures of the actual couple The BBC has an article based on this story, all about how to have sex on SL.
The Linden Labs idea that they build a 3D platform and leave others to populate it is a good one. Ive posted about Brigadoon, the SL community for Aspergers, which still seems to be going, though its website and associated blogs do not seem to have been updated recently.
Krangel thinks that SL has enough loyal supporters to survive financial storms. But the real question is whether it is a blind alley or the way of the future.