Second Life

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Second Life


Extensive entry in Wikipedia at

This entry was compiled with the assistance of Chinarut Ruangchotvit.


" Second Life, a privately owned, virtual world created in 2003 by San Francisco-based Linden Lab. People enter Second Life (SL) using "avatars," digital representations of themselves that may or may not bear any resemblance to their real appearance. (Some avatars have antennae or wings). Although the graphics look like those of a sophisticated computer game, a spokesperson for Linden Labs noted that SL is not "a video game, we call ourselves a platform.... It's a creative tool to build and do whatever you want." Although access is free, people must pay to buy land in SL and there are certain hardware requirements and software downloads necessary to enter the virtual world." (


Commentary on the participatory aspects of Second Life

Second Life seems particularly popular with actvists. Why is that? Comments by Chinarut Ruangchotvit:

"1) what is it?

Second Life is a next-generation collaborative canvas for sharing ideas and concepts. It is also can be seen as a platform for interactive virtual collaboration.

2) why is it popular with activist people

when you visit an "installation" - it can capture your heart and give you a wilingness to interact, learn, and meet the people who created the space. it provides context and focus. 3 examples

(A) Memorial Island

residents have replicated "real world" places focused on fundraising - one example being "Memorial Island" (double check name) which replicates the purchase of red and white crosses for the benfit of the Red Cross Foundation. Linden dollars can be exchanged into US dollars thus providing real value.

(B) Camp Darfur

(C) Democracy Island

Democracy Island is a $50k project funded by the New York Law School. It seeks to promote collaboration amongst democrats

More information at:

3) does it have, in your understanding, any p2p aspects

communities inheritly form due to regions. you can think of the people wandering around a particular part of the world (much like people meet in the same neighborhood) have some kind of relationship with each other. The unique aspect being these people may inheritly be distributed (thus decentralized) around the world.

I personally would like to see more experiments in communication. Right now, communication is primarily chat-based. It does focus on the conversations within a radius of where you are standing and there is IM messaging for those who are not in the same vincinity. VoIP will add a different element to the game. Video games like Halo 2 already have implemented proximity based voicing - this simulates the real world as maintains your context.

4) recommendations for newbies

just play with it - no need to take things too seriously especially amongst all the business talk. sure, there will always be pressure as to how to make $ on the Internet - think about in what way Second Life will help you fufill on your vision for life. Will having a virtual canvas and having your community show up online in a virtual space make a difference? What is your vision for your Second Life?

The open source aspects of Second Life

Intro by Tissch Shute to an interview on the topic with Philip Rosedale, by Robert Bloomfield:

"While Philip Rosedale’s comments may not, at first glance, appear to be saying anything new, they are in fact a very cogent summary of the important and crucial role Linden Lab has played, and continues to play, in moving virtual worlds out of their walled gardens and bringing them closer to that beautiful thing - a system without an owner.

Only a system without an owner can unleash, for virtual world technology, the kind of creative, world changing power that we have seen on the 2D web from http and html. Anyone with even a vague idea of the history of the internet understands that it is only through openess, open source, open protocols, open standards, and open APIs, that we will get from here - the alpha days of virtual world technology, to their coming of age of age as a mainstream phenomena.

It is very much to the credit of Linden Lab that, as Rosedale says, they have never been afraid of openess: “I don’t think that the open grid will impact our revenues any more than open sourcing the client,” he says. While there have been criticisms of licensing choices and ways Linden Lab handles contributions back to their viewer from the community, I think that overall Linden Lab has made very important and visionary moves, first to open source, and now to open protocols.

Open sourcing the viewer at a relatively early point in Second Life’s development created an enormous opportunity for the rapid development of an open source re-engineering of the server side, OpenSim. OpenSim with the Second Life viewer is the most complete, open implementation of a persistent virtual world. Without the head start from the open source Second Life viewer, and the connection to the thriving developer community of Second Life, the light speed progress of OpenSim would have been considerably more difficult.

Now OpenSim is getting closer to breaking free from the Second Life viewer. And, standard messaging protocols between client and server are, perhaps, the next step.

Thus, in my view, Linden Lab’s current focus on open protocols, OpenGrid (for more see here), and interoperability is another key step towards the creation of open standards for virtual worlds. And Linden Lab are again leading the way in creating an environment that fosters innovation.

OpenGrid creates a testing ground where protocols can be worked out, and it enables the kind of heterogeneous ecosystem to develop that can nurture the creation of standards. I agree with Rosedale when he says content makers will have an important role in driving interoperability and standards. The creation of standards is certainly a social as well as technical process. And as Rosedale notes content creators will have compelling reasons to move their content around in an open metaverse." (

SL should be replaced by an Open MIIM

Simon Biggs:

"I think SL is an extremely interesting model which portends the development of further examples of massively immersive interaction media (let’s call it MIIM - I find the MMORPG concept, with its focus on games and role playing, limited – I do neither in SL). Somebody asked me the other day whether I thought SL is the future. I replied that I didn’t but that it was a prototype of what could become the future. If I think MIIM has a future then why don’t I think SL has one too?

Firstly, it is not an open system founded on open protocols. It is a proprietary system that is owned by a private unlisted corporation. This is not a criticism of Linden – for a private company they have been very good with things like IP, interoperability and access. However, it is very unlikely that this form of constitution will lead to the development of the sort of open system that will be required if it is to satisfy the many. Corporate interest will be the bottom line. The web is a good example here. Nobody owns the system, although bits of it are privately (or publicly) owned. As has been observed many times, the success of the web has been driven by its openness.

Secondly, SL functions as a close replica of the social organisation we in the West take for granted as a social reality, consumer capitalism. Many people on this planet (and apparently on the list) aren’t really that keen on this model and would prefer to explore others. Furthermore, there are many cultures around the world where Capitalism is not the dominant cultural mode (although few cultures escape its influence). A good proportion of the world’s population do not live within a Capitalist culture. Why would they want to join an MIIM that is predicated on a cultural model they have little involvement with?

Thirdly, SL struggles to work across other cultural differences, especially linguistic. SL is primarily an English speaking world and, more specifically, an American world. Other important cultural differences (ethical, religious, etc) also present problems in SL. Even the issue of age is important, with two historically separate SL’s existing (one for adults and the other for kids – the Teen Grid). However, the idea is that these two will become one (if that hasn’t happened already – I’ve not been in SL or a few weeks). Having a small child I can say that there is a lot in SL I wouldn’t want them to visit unsupervised. Of course there is a lot in RL I don’t want them to enter unsupervised – but I can control that to a degree, entering such places (a red-light district, a hard-core club, a Rio favela, take your pick) with them, allowing an insight into how people live and behave with minimum risk. In SL this is far harder, especially as there are predators about. However, I agree in principle that there shouldn’t be different MIIM’s where there are gatekeepers controlling who and who cannot enter. That is censorship. Like many people, I am not sure how to deal with this problem.

At some point an open MIIM protocol will begin to emerge that is both accessible and easy to learn and use (like http and html). VRML (which so far has failed to establish itself) is an example of what it might look like. When that happens we may begin to see the emergence of what will be the future. In the process, due to its openness, we might also see many of the issues that bedevil SL and inhibit its capacity to be a really successful MIIM resolved. I argue this because it is when knowledge and its means of production are freely circulating that problems get solved." (IDC July 2009)

Energy use of Second Life not trivial

"He quotes Philip Rosedale, the head of Linden Lab, the company behind the virtual world: "We're running at full power all the time, so we consume an enormous amount of electrical power in co-location facilities [where they house their 4,000 server computers] ... We're running out of power for the square feet of rack space that we've got machines in. We can't for example use [blade] servers right now because they would simply require more electricity than you could get for the floor space they occupy." ... If there are on average between 10,000 and 15,000 avatars "living" in Second Life at any point, that means the world has a population of about 12,500. Supporting those 12,500 avatars requires 4,000 servers as well as the 12,500 PCs the avatars' physical alter egos are using. Conservatively, a PC consumes 120 watts and a server consumes 200 watts. Throw in another 50 watts per server for data-center air conditioning. So, on a daily basis, overall Second Life power consumption equals:

(4,000 x 250 x 24) + (12,500 x 120 x 24) = 60,000,000 watt-hours or 60,000 kilowatt-hours

Per capita, that's:

60,000 / 12,500 = 4.8 kWh

Which, annualized, gives us 1,752 kWh. So an avatar consumes 1,752 kWh per year. By comparison, the average human, on a worldwide basis, consumes 2,436 kWh per year. So there you have it: an avatar consumes a bit less energy than a real person, though they're in the same ballpark." (


See: Second Life Free Content Web Search Controversy

More Information

  1. "My Virtual Life", cover article in Business Week about the business aspects of virtual worlds, with Second Life prominently featured [1]
  2. Second life criticisms and concerns, here and here
  3. Second Life delicious tags for permanent monitoring, here and here

See also: Open Sim, an open source alternative


  1. Introduction to Second Life

More At

Second Life links chosen by Trebor Scholz:

Get A First Life

Teaching experiments in SL

A Western shot in SL

"More than 70 universities have built island campuses in Second Life"

Lynn Hershman screens new film in SL

Avatars Against the War

Re-branding Africa in SL

Images of Activism in SL

S.L. for Educators / Teaching and Learning

Recording and Archiving the Build of International Schools Island in S.L.

SLURL of International Schools Island in S.L.