The metaverse has been getting a ton of attention in the last few months, with worlds like Roblox, The Sandbox, and Decentraland making headlines. One metaverse platform that's not been seeing as much action is Second Life, the granddaddy of them all. That may not be the case for much longer, now that the original developer of the platform, Philip Rosedale, has announced his return to Second Life as a strategic advisor, with, it would seem, the intent to protect the platform's future growth from social media-based influences.
Rosedale pioneered the concept of the metaverse with Second Life in 2003, so it's only fitting that when it finally starts to go mainstream, he is there to help guide its development. Second Life, meanwhile, has been trucking on for 19 years now and in the last year, saw an annual GDP of $650 million as a result of 345 million sales transactions that include virtual real estate, goods, and services.
Why is Rosedale returning to the metaverse now?
Rosedale has been noticeably absent from the metaverse conversation this year, despite his vital contribution of the very template that other metaverse platforms are built upon. Although Second Life is small by metaverse platform standards, with about 1 million steady users since 2008, according to a recent press release, he's returned to take on the social media giants looking to move into his world.
Rosedale stated in the press release:
No one has come close to building a virtual world like Second Life...Big Tech giving away VR headsets and building a metaverse on their ad-driven, behavior-modification platforms isn't going to create a magical, single digital utopia for everyone. Second Life has managed to create both a positive, enriching experience for its residents -- with room for millions more to join -- and built a thriving subscription-based business at the same time. Virtual worlds don't need to be dystopias.
For Rosedale, it's about more than money: He's fighting to keep the spirit of the metaverse safe from the same kind of algorithm-guided curation that has created so much trouble on social media. The next step, according to reporting by the Wall Street Journal, is updating and improving the social and economic components of the game, which might include expanding the digital marketplace, increasing creative depth of avatars, and other changes that would give Second Life a wider appeal and a second life, if you will.
Metaverse investors should give Second Life a second look
If you're remotely interested in virtual real estate in the metaverse, Second Life's next iteration should be big news for you. At very least, you should be paying close attention to what's happening there. Because the platform has such a long, demonstrable history, it's been a model I've been watching carefully for hints as to where the rest of the metaverse is headed.
It's not just a game; it's had a functioning economy for almost two decades.
At the same time, Rosedale's concern that the social media guys are going to corrupt the metaverse into a 3D version of social media that contains all the same kind of algorithm-driven curation that's worked so well so far is valid. While that may well work to sell ad space and create value for the company, many argue that it comes at a huge cost to the users and their very real lives.
Rosedale moving back to his metaverse (he did essentially create it, after all) is an interesting development and one that could well be a defining moment in metaverse history. If he chooses to open up additional development within Second Life to help expand the virtual economy there, it could be a very short-lived, and very valuable, opportunity for metaverse investors.
I certainly would never bet against the man -- and he's back and all in on Second Life.