SL Hits Quarter-Million Members

I don’t usually post about Second Life membership numbers, but reaching the quarter-million mark (which I spotted on SL resident Tateru Nino‘s blog) seems significant to me. Tateru follows up with a post attempting to look a bit more closely at the numbers. Neither she nor I have great insights into the matter, but the point here is that the quarter-million mark I just blogged is actually relatively meaningless, since as far as I know it merely counts number of characters that have been created historically. (These could be defunct accounts, multiple characters on the same account, etc.) A better number can be found on SL’s economic statistics page, where it says that 124,028 residents have logged in during the last 60 days. But even this is obscure, since it counts characters, and not actual real-world people. And neither of these numbers give any indication of how many people are actually paying money to Linden Lab (basic SL accounts are free). A month or two ago, when I chatted with LL CEO Philip Linden on related subjects, the company had only 12,000 or so paying customers.

Whatever it means, it’s impressive to think that when I joined SL in December 2004 there were only about 10,000 members of any kind. As Jerry Paffendorf has blogged about, there’s a $0.25 bet on between Linden Lab’s Cory Ondrejka and the University of Illinois’ Dmitri Williams over whether SL will have more users than World of Warcraft has now by early 2008. (Note: The bet is actually over which will have more users in North America.) WoW currently has something like 7 million members.

I’d say the outcome of this bet will revolve around how well and how quickly SL can improve its technology, which at the moment is fairly clunky, and how open they’re willing to be with it. Already there are stirrings that other people may have similar platforms in the works, though given the development time for these kinds of things, they’ll be lucky to get anything useful out by then. And contenders like (which already claims more members than SL) are said to have big projects in the works that could attract users that might otherwise have entered SL. The outcome is anything but clear, but the race will be fascinating to track.


  1. secureplay

    The ratio of paying to non-paying customers/accounts/characters is definitely of interest. So, if you link the total population at one month ago, say 200,000 to the number of paying customers, 12,000, then you have a “conversion rate” of 6%… which is not bad. Then, look at an Average Revenue Per Customer Per Month… maybe $30 if it is like some of the Virtual Asset Purchase games, you have a monthly revenue of $360K… or break that out by server (around 2800), about $130 per server per month… about what a hosted server can be leased for.

    Man, it has been a lot of VC money to get the same sort of returns as an ISP, however. Also, given that ISPs run “lean”, this would say there isn’t going to be a lot of money for LL to work on the application.

    So, at what price would you pay to run a SL app server per month over and above the cost of the server itself? $10? $20 ?50? … as a value-added application, SL is not highly compelling to a potential ASP.

    The value is in the value-added applications – from which Linden doesn’t see a lot of revenue.

  2. Austin

    First, I’m not a cheerleader for Second Life, although I applaud what they’ve achieved it is distant from to the heralded ubiquitous Multiverse. Like so many others, I’m hoping ProjectCroquet,, and [fingers crossed] scores of others will be delivering things that will make us all do the Homer Simpson drool sound.

    But I digress. I keep hearing/reading this 6-7 million number thrown around loosely about WOW. In North America, according to, WOW has between 1.4-2 million subscribers in North America (Very impressive indeed but much different than 6-7 million). The remainder according to is a million in Europe and the remainder in China.

    The bigger issue, IMHO however, is the comparison in the first place. I’m not one of the snobs that look down on MMORPGs as compared to Massively Multiperson Environments. In fact I’m an avid player/proponent of them, however, I don’t think the same people that play MMORPGs are automatically a force that will transition readily to MMEs. Therefore, the comparison or use of them as a sexy number is misplaced.

    I believe a more appropriate comparison would be to compare MMEs with sites like myspace, gotomeeting, linkedin, etc. They have equally “sexy” numbers and again in my opinion a user base that will more rapidly migrate to the Multiverse .

    Best, Austin

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  4. epredator potato

    I think an important fact arund what Linden Labs are doing with Second Life is its positioning as potential the standard metaverse container. This is analogous to what happened with email, HTTP servers, J2EE containers etc. A user base develops, in this case SL residents, who feel they are part owners of the direction. Linden has stated they want to make the client AND the server more open.
    So then you can run your own intranet metaverse based on a good user base who already buy into the way it operates then you stand the chance of becoming the de facto standard.
    That does not mean Linden labs will definitely win this race, but they stand a good chance if they get there before the newer toolkits start to take control.
    They are in this for the long term as far as I can see. They have, with the massive surge of users in teh last few months, reached a tipping point.
    This area is changing rapidly, as it did with the web. In 1998 the record for hits per minute on a website (when we counted those sorts of things) was 144,000. I remember I was there at In a few years after that we were in the millions of hits per minute. This is both demand, and the ability of the technology to cope.
    Linden, 280k users, sims supporting 100 users at a time. 7k concurrent users at peak. All seem small, but look like they are entering the phase where they start to double.
    Exciting times for all involved