Yankee Group: 'Second Life' doesn't live up to hype

A report from the analyst firm says the popular virtual world isn't really all that popular and that its growth stagnation indicates that its relevance is waning.

When it comes to the virtual world Second Life, we're definitely in the middle of one of the predictable hype backlash cycles that often surround hot new technologies.

Since the fall of 2006, when Second Life hit 1 million registered users, it has since grown to nearly 10 million. Of course, that number doesn't reflect how many actual users there are.

But regardless of the numbers of users, the hype part of the cycle really picked up steam when the media noticed that a lot of big-name companies were opening up shop in Second Life. And now, the backlash has a lot to do with the question of whether those companies are finding any kind of value in the virtual world.

Many are asking the question of whether the hype was warranted, and vice versa, whether the backlash is fair.

Now, reports Virtual World News, the well-known analyst firm Yankee Group Research has weighed in. It issued a report on Monday announcing that "Hype of Second Life Far Outweighs Its Ability to Impact Mainstream Interactivity."

The Yankee press release doesn't waste time getting to the point: "Yankee Group today revealed that the hype surrounding Second Life doesn't match its actual marketplace impact."

The firm's analysis is based on the idea that user time spent in-world has slowed considerably from its peak last year. Compared with popular social-networking sites like Facebook and MySpace.com, Yankee says, Second Life simply cannot keep up.

For anyone who knows Second Life, of course, its myriad problems--difficult user interface, constant platform meltdowns, regular problems with lag and more--are a fact of life. Those who stick around do so in spite of those issues.

But one thing that stands out with the Yankee report is that the firm has declared that one of the major bottlenecks for Second Life is that it is too "PC-centric," particularly in an "increasingly mobile world."

The theory here is that Second Life, and presumably other virtual worlds and social-networking sites, won't grow to true relevancy unless they can get off the PC and onto mobile devices.

Whether that's true is debatable. But it is an interesting point, especially with the advent of devices like the iPhone, which could one day allow users to take their Second Life with them wherever they go.

For now, however, what's clear is that there are a lot of people looking for reasons to discount Second Life, and that's going to be true until its publisher, Linden Lab, fixes some of the biggest problems.

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