Monday, March 19, 2007

Second Life on the hype cycle

What if you had to place Second Life on a Gartner Hype Cycle? In which Hype Cycle would you place it? Hype Cycle for Virtual Worlds? Hype Cycle for 3D Web UIs? And at which position in that particular hype cycle would you place it? Technology trigger? Peak of inflated expectations?

I would definately say at the peak of inflated expectations, as not a single printed or online chronicle has not written about it yet. If even Dutch grocery stores are opening a complete mall in Second Life, there is no room anymore for denial: Second Life IS a hype.
However, there are already some first signs that the hype may be beyond its peak. Although the State of the Virtual World on the official Second Life blog still show quite some impressive growth figures, there are also some things that indicate that SL hype is nearly beyond its peak:
  • All media have already written or reported about it, a second wave of attention from the media appears unlikely (people will pretty soon show signs of Second Life fatigue)
  • Only a fraction of users actually stay. Many people try, only few keep coming to Second Life
  • Some companies have already announced to close their virtual offices in Second Life after the first forms of child porn were found in Second Life.
  • And, as my colleague Ray Valdes mentioned: "Do you want to have a virtual press conference in a world where your public event can be disrupted by flying animated body parts?"
  • Some people claim that Second Life is mainly driven (or should I say: populated) by people looking to gamble or for some erotic pleasure (hey, that does not sound surprising for an Internet platform)
My 2 cents on Second Life and Hype Cycles is that:
  • Second Life should be placed in a Hype Cycle for Web 2.0, as I consider it a social networking platform / community
  • Secondly, I think it should be placed just beyond the peak of inflated expectations.
  • Finally, "Years to mainstream adoption" will be the red circle with the cross in it ("obsolete before plateau"), because I think another contender will take the crown from Second Life and will create a highly successful "virtual world"*
* If I had to place "virtual 3D communities" on the Hype Cycle (instead of its most popular current incarnation, Second Life), I would say it takes another 2 to 5 years before mainstream adoption.
Yes, I do believe that virtual 3D communities have a quite bright future, I just don't think that Second Life will be THE future virtual world of choice. Second Life will suffer from the the 'dialectics of progress', in fact you could even say that it will become a victim of its own success.

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