A screenshot from HiPiHi
The stiffest potential competition for Second Life seems to be coming from Asia these days. First it was HiPiHi, the Chinese virtual world “created, inhabited and owned by its residents” (I’m glad it’s inhabited by its own residents; things could get tricky otherwise). There was a nice interview with HiPiHi’s founders in April, as well as an account of the author’s first days there. The creators say it isn’t a clone of SL, but check out the screenshot above; that’s very Second Lifelike.
The latest entrant, though, is a world named Splume that hails from Japan. Splume sounds somewhat less sophisticated than either SL or HiPiHi, according to this Japan Times article, but is more narrowly targeted at the Japanese market, and so could have an edge over SL there (where the Japanese localization recently went into beta), or perhaps be competing for different users altogether. It’s not necessarily a zero-sum game in any case; it’s still very early in the adoption curve of virtual worlds, and there should be room for new entrants to experiment and help push the space forward by fostering competition for some time now.