Second Life Losing Traction? Concurrent Users Slide

by Alphaville Herald on 30/12/09 at 5:50 pm

Massively details slipping online population – except for an in-world protest of LL policy

by Pixeleen Mistral, National Affairs desk


a year in decline: median concurrency graph courtesy of Tateru Nino

On December 25th, Tateru Nino of Massively decided to skip the Linden's Christmas present for this year and opted to hand the Lab a lump of coal with a barbed post detailing the falling number of players online in the Second Life virtual garden of cyber delights.

Ms. Nino explains that after reaching a high water mark of 88,199 in March of this year, the Second Life online population has been in decline – a change that may explain the Linden's belated concern with resident retention.

While speculating that  the slide in population could be caused by the a recent Lab policy change discouraging the use of bots and campers to artificially bot parcel traffic, Nino points out that "we haven't seen any noticeable decline in the presence of these bots on the grid". This mirrors my experience – and the implications are chilling. 

If significant numbers of bots actually have been removed, the Lab clearly has a serious problem recruiting enough humans to replace them – suggesting that the Lab overestimated its ability to attract and retain players and a need to slow down on bot removal. This scenario also suggests that the population inflation due to bots was significantly higher than the Lab believed.

On the other hand, if significant number of bots have not been banished from the grid, the drop in population comes from human players voting with their virtual feet, fleeing what seems to be an endless series of Lab missteps – arbitrary land pricing changes, arbitrary adult content policy changes, arbitrary content removal by rogue Linden staffers, and a Lab that seems more focused on serving the corporate virtual meeting market than the needs of the players who build the world.

After years of growth under Philip Linden's reign, we wonder if M Linden's crew can regain the traction they seem to have lost – and note that the tide seems to have turned shortly after M Linden finished replacing the previous regime's loyalists. 


"The peak of the graph was the day that the mass in-world protests about the adult-content policy announcement took place. – Tateru Nino"

More of Tateru's graphs can be found here and here.

36 Responses to “Second Life Losing Traction? Concurrent Users Slide”

  1. Ari Blackthorne

    Dec 30th, 2009

    I’ve always maintained there are a helluvalot more bots across the grid than even LL knows. I genuinely believe one in three dots on that map is either a bot or a drooling camper (averaged, lot literally of course)

  2. BamBam

    Dec 30th, 2009

    I said it before… you can’t treat people the way Lindens do and expect them to stay with you. They took money making potential for residents out of the game and tried to put it in their pocket. It backfired… now they are on the slow road of demise.
    Grabs popcorn…

  3. urizenus sklar

    Dec 30th, 2009

    could be a function of the recession too.

  4. Senban Babii

    Dec 30th, 2009

    See, it’s weird. I tend to spend a good portion of my time in-world helping new residents. Not in any official capacity, just being helpful. I created notecards with advice and landmarks, collected freebies to help get them set up, that kind of thing. So I tend to notice when there’s a general rise or fall in new people coming through and I have to say that recently I’ve seen a huge surge in the numbers of new residents wandering round asking for help. Now I’m prepared to agree that this may be partly down to a post-Chrimble surge and could settle down again. But I speak to a few other people who tend to make themselves helpful and they’re saying they’ve seen this surge too. It’ll be worth watching to see what happens once we all return to work after the holidays.

    The other weird thing on that same note though is something I’ve noticed. I tend to profile surf a lot and I’m seeing a lot more older accounts around the grid these days. Are we seeing older residents returning to the grid to a degree? Again, maybe something worth keeping an eye on. We can’t put much in the way of hard numbers up of course but you can still get a sense of the trends to some degree.

    I’d definitely agree with Ari Blackthorne though – now that I’ve started looking into it based on things that LittleLostLinden has been saying, I’m starting to get a much better appreciation for how much camping is going on and in what numbers.

  5. LittleLostLinden

    Dec 30th, 2009


    At any given point in time, I can provide the bot\camper locations.

    Even after being disclosed, the locations continue to employ them because if they were all removed at once, it would cause a dramatic decrease in concurrent numbers that the Lindens do not want to be known, which also means, for years, we have been lied to about the number of concurrent users.

    This is something that must stop but can not stop until bot\camping becomes a true TOS violation.

  6. Banana Mode

    Dec 31st, 2009

    I was talking about this very subject the other day, with a buddy. And we’re both in agreement, Linden Labs fucked up, the day Philip stepped down, and M Linden walked in.

    You don’t hear much about M Linden. He’s not as in touch with the residents as say Philip and his crew were. This guy on the other hand, is all about economy. And not your economy, his.

    I noticed a lot of changes over the year since M Linden came into office. Lack of Innovation being the big one for the actual client and world.
    Nothing has changed graphically since Havok4 and Windlight features were put in.

    That’s why those working on open source clients are trying to improve on what LL has decided to ignore.

    I’m glad the numbers are declining. I hope it declines even more! I hardly log into SL anymore.
    Why should I? It’s boring. Not to mention how easy it is now to get someone you hated perma banned. And with all the Copybotting going on and how easy that is to get ahold of, what’s the point in building? I’m surprised creators can even make money anymore.

    Ladies & Gentlemen pretending to be ladies: The Second Life you once knew and loved, is dead. It died on March 14th, 2008 at the hands of its’ creator…. for a LoveMachine.

  7. Lord Pork

    Dec 31st, 2009

    “…and the implications are chilling.”

    Lol…’chilling’? A slight exaggeration; so what if Second Life goes under?

    “…I have to say that recently I’ve seen a huge surge in the numbers of new residents wandering round asking for help.” I doubt the problem has ever been enticing new people to have a go of SL, the problem is retaining them, because SL is actually pretty shit.

  8. Ranma Tardis

    Dec 31st, 2009

    Being a “mentor” is a wast of my time. Did that with LL until they dropped me without a word of thanks or even a certificate of appreciation. Let the nOOb wander around bumping into things wearing a wooden box on it’s head. It is not my concern. Yes LL could get rid of bots but their numbers would be even lower. About the recession its takes only a good comp with a high speed access to get on SL. Then they can become campers ;) Perhaps SL is on a fatal downward spiral and if it fails will be someone elses problem. I am not obliged to provide a living to content providers.

  9. beginning_of_the_end

    Dec 31st, 2009

    dem charts feel good man

  10. Ajax

    Dec 31st, 2009

    LL’s current policy is not to produce more and more value but to charge more and more for same value — a short-term strategy at best that is historically doomed in the long-term. Once in-world commissions are charged for all transactions, there will be a large exodus of long-time residents and new residents will find fewer and more expensive goods in-world which will lead to smaller conversions — all leading ultimately to SL closing up shop. Hopefully RealMedia, parent of LL, will see the problem and replace M Linden with someone capable.

  11. Scott

    Dec 31st, 2009

    Pure capitalist economic will dictate the survival of any system. If LL insists upon artificial inputs and regulations to control an outcome over the will of the participants, the latter will seek out a new forum in which to play.

  12. Sigmund Leominster

    Dec 31st, 2009

    Exciting as the number may be regarding the decline of concurrent users, I’d be more interested in seeing the number of paying customers. If the numbers dropped to 5000, but those were the only 5000 people who actually pay to use SL then there’s no change as far as the money goes. In fact, if the number of free users declines, that’s good for business.

    The purpose of SL from the VCs’ perspective is to maximize the return on their investments. 1,000,000 non-paying users is called “closure” or “not-for-profit-charity,” whereas as 50,000 paying customers is much, much better.

    The “concurrent users” statistic is a nice rule of thumb but if I were an investor or a potential buyer, I’d be wanting to see the P&L, not the CU ;)

  13. Wayfinder

    Dec 31st, 2009

    I see the focus here and on another blog being on the “adult sims” issue, but I really don’t see that as the primary motivator for the mass exodus, nor do I see Linden Lab’s propaganda claim of “bot reduction” as being responsible for the decline.

    In that same period of time, from October 2008 until July 2009 (and thereafter), there was the major, overwhelming issue of OPEN SPACE / HOMESTEAD sims. It is established fact that Linden Lab lost over 5,500 sims and had a massive exodus to the OpenSim project due to that blatantly profiteering and customer-abusive move.

    So I would have to believe the Homestead fiasco was of far greater impact on the population than the adult sim issue. Or perhaps more accurately, both aspect impacted the grid simultaneously. But while it was possible and even easy for “adult” merchants and lands to shift their businesses to a new continent– such was not possible for OpenSpace sim owners. They were forced to shut down and lose their investment, which earned Linden Lab countless thousands of hard-core enemies.

    We’ve told them many times: a company that abuses its customers, loses its customers. Linden Lab is one of the most customer-abusive companies I have experienced in a 25 year professional corporate consulting career. This downward concurrency trend is simply consequences for actions. Now they’re repeating the same abusive policies in the XstreetSL, which will likely lose them even more customers as untold numbers of merchants decide to give up on Second Life altogether.

    It seems like Linden Lab is bent on a course of self-destruction. Whether that is intentional or not is anyone’s guess.

  14. Wayfinder

    Dec 31st, 2009

    Additional note: the reason I don’t see the bot claim being viable is because if anything, I have noticed even more “legal models” being present on sims, since Linden Lab officially announced that an avatar with a title of “model” was acceptable. If anything, my guess is that the presence of “bots” has actually increased, not decreased. Knowing LL’s history of not being able to properly track statistical data, I would wonder how they are supposed to know whether a user is a “bot” or not, and how they can make widespread claims that their concurrency figures are due to a drop in bot activity. That might happen during one month, but a consistently dropping concurrency figure is a TREND that means one thing only: EXITING CUSTOMERS.

    Smell the air Linden Lab. The storm is coming.

  15. Wayfinder

    Dec 31st, 2009

    (Excuse the triple entry) Sigmund, to answer your question: over that same period of time, the “paying” customer base (Premium users) decreased by 15%. I don’t have the original figures, but remember seeing that chart as well from LL’s own website. They could hide the total number of sims and much other valid information, but they couldn’t hide their Premium user figures. 15% loss as of, what, June of this year. I haven’t checked on how much more since then, but I’m sure the figures are still available.

  16. Tateru Nino

    Dec 31st, 2009

    @Wayfinder: I’ve got that data charted as well among the main stats charts, at least all of it that there is. Linden Lab ceased publication of premium account numbers in 2008, however. Pretty much all the other information is still being published, though.

  17. A furry

    Dec 31st, 2009

    Well if Second Life ever ended then i would probably be an hero,because i make a living as a escort on it,and if it went i’d lose so much,there wouldn’t be anything to live for anymore.

  18. LittleLostLinden

    Dec 31st, 2009

    Wayfinder brings up something I have been noticing quite often as well.

    An upswing in the number of ‘Model’ avatars.

    I can’t go anywhere without seeing them. Between model avatars, bots, and campers, you really have to wonder how many actual people are ingame at any given time.

    Take the Latex Station for example.

    I counted 28 model avatars in this 1 sim and there are many many others like it. It’s just a numbers game with LL. They know if they posted the real concurrent daily numbers everyone would be shocked and disapointed, so they keep the true numbers hidden.

    28 model avatars (Latex Station):

  19. LittleLostLinden

    Dec 31st, 2009

    Hey Tateru.

    As everyone knows, I am obsessed with wanting to know the true concurrent logon numbers, meaning the numbers that do not include model avatars, bots, or campers.

    Do you think there is a good way to find out what this number may be?

    I’m thinking of setting up a sight where a bounty reward of lindens is offered to persons who are able to have bot\campers removed from some of the infested sites.

    I noticed eblogger has a free blog I could use I suppose.

    I don’t know what it is but I just hate looking at data that I know is innacurate, and every single time I log into SL, that is what I see. A false number that I wish to correct.

  20. LOL!!!

    Jan 1st, 2010

    “Well if Second Life ever ended then i would probably be an hero,because i make a living as a escort on it,and if it went i’d lose so much,there wouldn’t be anything to live for anymore.”

    I think that’s really the most pathetic thing that I have ever heard! You make a living as an escort???? Really?! Coming from a guy who has to let everyone know that he’s a furry….why is this not surprising? PLZ DON’T DAI LINDEN LAB IMMA KILL MAHSEYLF!!

  21. Wayfinder

    Jan 1st, 2010

    @Tateru: Linden Lab may have ceased one area of publication of Premium accounts, but that information still existed somewhere. I don’t remember what site I found it on– was one of the primary LL news sites. I’ve never been one of those people that found it necessary to keep backup logs of charts and info; I just remember the data itself. And that data showed from November 2008 to mid-2009 a Premium user decrease of 15%. Of course Linden Lab doesn’t want us to know that. And they always have some kind of spin on why this or that is happening. They took sim stats offline because they supposedly didn’t “properly reflect conversion of OpenSpace sims to full sims”. There’s always some excuse.

    When a company ceases publishing of demographics and usage statistics, the likely reason is because that data shows a major FAIL.

    If I come across that data again I’ll site a reference. But there’s far too much Second Life info on the net for me to spend hours looking for such. Anyone here who doubts the claim or who is just curious I’m sure can search “Second Life” and “Premium membership” on Google and find it just as easily as I. : )

  22. Wayfinder

    Jan 1st, 2010

    I seem to remember (but not sure) that it was Massively where I saw the stats. The following webpage already shows Premium user accounts declining in number prior to 2008. Unfortunately it doesn’t show following October 2008, but it does show a significantly declining trend.

    The information I saw however, if memory serves, was raw Premium user data, real numbers. I’ll spend another 15 minutes or so searching, but trying to find past information on SL is like looking for a needle in a hundred haystacks. SL’s own search engine isn’t the spiffiest on the planet. ; )

  23. Zuni Shoteka

    Jan 1st, 2010

    As a Newbie Land owner today I was trying to sell my land to my group. I made a human error forgetting about Electronic BOTs. A Bot DungShi Quan bought my land for $1l. I am leaving my premium membership. BOTS should be banned from Real Estate.

  24. Sigmund Leominster

    Jan 1st, 2010

    @Wayfinder: Thanks for the update on the premium accounts. In truth, I’m afraid real life takes up too much time for me to spend lots of hours tracking down LL data, and even then it takes more time to analyze it, so I appreciate any input.

    “When a company ceases publishing of demographics and usage statistics, the likely reason is because that data shows a major FAIL.” There’s certainly truth in the notion that companies are rarely slow to publish good news but absence of “bad” isn’t necessarily an indication of collapse. It’s a rare private company that releases detailed information about operation finances because that’s EXACTLY the sort of data competitors would like to see ;) And although I said I’d love to see the number of premium accounts, I’d also like to see all the other sources of income along with expenditure.

    Still, in the absence of detailed stats, the CU figure is at least something to see and comment upon. And unless we see data to the contrary, we are all entitled to speculate on the causes of the downturn.

  25. Senban Babii

    Jan 1st, 2010


    “I counted 28 model avatars in this 1 sim and there are many many others like it.”

    I’ve been going round looking at this too and the number of *ahem* avatars that have the tag “x Mannequin” or “x Model” and similar is disturbingly high. I’m increasingly agreeing with your viewpoints on this issue.

  26. JustMe

    Jan 1st, 2010

    Take a good look at those charts .. concurrent users dropped during the time in RL when people were losing jobs, scrambling to feed thier families and make house payments. Discretionary income is always the first to go …. as soon as RL economy picks up, the numbers in SL will too. Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill !

  27. Wayfinder

    Jan 1st, 2010

    Sigmund: “There’s certainly truth in the notion that companies are rarely slow to publish good news but absence of “bad” isn’t necessarily an indication of collapse. It’s a rare private company that releases detailed information about operation finances because that’s EXACTLY the sort of data competitors would like to see ;)

    True. However, Linen Lab had no problem with publishing such statistics until those took a downward trend. What results then, is sheer propaganda and hype. With a product like Second Life, membership figures are the standard of trade. When they chose to remove sim stats and user stats from the listings, I considered that to be one huge announcement that those stats were experiencing major drops that they didn’t want anyone to see.

    @JustMe: You may very well be right, but we’ll see over the next year how SL does. While it may be that the recession had to do with Premium membership, there were too many things going on at the time to say “that was it and it’ll get better”. There was the Homestead fiasco, the Adult sim situation, the gambling decision and now the XstreetSL stunt. I’ve read several reports from industry analysts that aren’t very impressed with LL as an operation, one in particular that cited it as a very poor business investment. So I’m not alone in my analysis of SL. But that doesn’t mean you’re wrong in your statement regarding the impact of the recession is wrong. You may very well be right. We’ll see how SL does over the next year… and if they’re even still around Jan 1, 2011.

  28. Tateru Nino

    Jan 1st, 2010

    @Wayfinder: Yes, that’s my own article on Massively. There wasn’t, to the best of my knowledge, any data made available on premium accounts after that point.

    @LittleLostLinden: I’m not confident that even Linden Lab can identify a bot vs a non-bot with any high-degree of confidence. If I had to *guess*, I’d say there were about 5,000 or so bot accounts active at any time — but that’s just a guess, and not necessarily any better than fondling goat entrails. The Lab’s probably got some idea, but the margin of error on the figure would very high.

  29. Nisei

    Jan 2nd, 2010

    “…a Lab that seems more focused on serving the corporate virtual meeting market than the needs of the players who build the world.” i think that is the biggest problem

  30. Obvious Schism

    Jan 4th, 2010

    @ LittleLostLinden has a wealth of information related to bot and camper hunting, though sadly it hasn’t been updated for some time now.

    Nonetheless, it shows that there are others who are also interested in finding the true concurrencey rate.

  31. Neo Citizen

    Jan 4th, 2010

    You know, I see these claims of a million-mumbledy users logging on over a sixty day period – and I see all the dots, but it just seems to me that for the most part, at least one of the people I know knows at least one of the other people I know. What I should be seeing is that at least some of the people I know don’t know ANY of the other people I know.

    In other words, my social environment doesn’t feel like a heady metropolis, teaming with people. It feels like a small town. I know this is a completely subjective assessment, and mostly valueless, but it’s the impression I have. But I can’t help the feeling that a huge number of the people in Second Life try it for a week or two, or perhaps a month or three, and then just get frustrated and leave. I remember about the middle of last year, we had concurrency of around 77,000 people online at once. Now it’s down in the low 50,000′s and apparently falling.

    And what’s Linden Lab doing?
    * Bait and switch pricing tactics on open sims (now called “homestead” sims)
    * Privatizing their own user support base (the SL Mentors are now gone, they may have been disfunctional but at least they were there)
    * Genericizing the roles of the Lindens who actually log into the game, so you no longer have a good sense of which Linden does what anymore, so you never know who the appropriate person to ask for help is, with the effect that people just stop asking
    * Utterly failing to even keep track of how many Copybot-enabled clients are out there, let alone doing anything substantive about them (there are at least two ways to really screw these Copybot clients over that will work without endangering normal users, and they haven’t done anything in well over a year to address the problem)
    * Screwing with XStreet listings fees to the point where there’s been a mass exodus of vendors. Pro tip for Linden Labs – don’t try to force a price change on people when you don’t already have 100% lock-in. All it will do is make people leave.

    The new management at Linden Lab has just enough smarts to keep the thing gliding, sort of, but not enough to actually stop it from hitting the ground eventually. What a senseless waste.

  32. Perv

    Jan 5th, 2010

    Yep friend lists are down, visitors are down, even my newbie sim is down in visitors.

    Perhaps they’re all avatars at work now but I don’t think so.

    LL is pushing the platform as a business one, not entertainment. My adult sims see far less visitors since the rules came in and it’s not because people don’t enjoy the niched experience I provide, I know if i switch to mature my visitors would jump right up. It’s two things, firstly people not knowing I exist because theyre unverified and secondly many not knowing how to verify. Europeans seem to have trouble verifying.

    The new 2010 post didn’t interest me much, it roadmapped a much more corporate Secondlife slowly turning into a real-life situation, taking away the value and what made people wish to join the the first place. SL is no Facebook.

    Was sad to see that a small link towards improving performance was the last thing on his roadmap too…

    If they advertise on places like youtube as they do now, showing pictures of sims full of people, no grey slow loading textures and the visitors after climbing through the massive learning curve find out SL is nothing like advertised, they certainly wont stay.

    Drag Philip back into the circle!!

  33. Wayfinder

    Jan 6th, 2010

    Good points, Neo and Perv. Actually Neo, I think “gut instinct” is more of an accurate gauge than a lot of the “stats” I see coming out of LL. It’s like the guy that drives his car into the shop and says, “It just doesn’t FEEL right”. He knows better than the mechanic how that car should feel; he drives it every day. So the mechanic checks it and sure enough, a wheel is out of alignment. The driver didn’t know what was wrong, but he knew SOMETHING was wrong.

    That’s how it’s like on SL. A lot of people don’t know what’s wrong, but they know something is wrong. Consider: 30,000+ sims (supposedly… no actual stats, eh LL?) and less than 60,000 concurrent members most of the time now. 2 people per sim? That’s healthy? That’s active?

    Our merchants reported the worst 4th quarter sales in the last 5 years. Part of that is due of course to the RL economy. But a larger part is due to the fact that LL has allowed the grid to become saturated with “merchants” that don’t build or script– people selling freebies and fraudulently-presented items because they know they can get away with it. Then the real merchants can’t make enough to pay for their investment in time, uploads and rent.

    Like both of you, I strongly question Linden Lab “stats”. I once tracked their “last 60 days” stats for a period of several months. Those stats were highly questionable (actually, ludicrous) with figures falling 200,000 one day and rising 180,000 the next. No company experiences 20% growth and loss over a one day period. They tell us there are supposedly some 30,000+ sims, but refuse to post the hard-figure statistics to prove it. They claim company growth over and over, but we’re able to clearly see– as you both pointed out– a definite declining trend in concurrent users. Again, a company that refuses to publish its subscription numbers very likely has a seriously declining subscription. Otherwise, they’d have those numbers all over the place as bragging rights.

    So I fully agree; I don’t trust a company that hides behind an obscure shroud and hides their data. I don’t trust a company that (as you so aptly put) has to use bait-and-switch marketing techniques to make a buck (if they were really good, they’d be making money hand over fist and wouldn’t have to resort to such stunts). I don’t trust a company that competes against their own customers wherever there’s a buck to be made (case in point: selling their own L$ on the LindeX instead of trashing them as was the original intent and promise).

    Of course, whether or not I trust LL or not doesn’t really matter to them. But the point is HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of customers don’t trust Linden Lab. Thousands left over the Homestead issue and merchants are jumping off the XSL bandwagon right and left. I see years-long simplistic bugs (I mean, they can’t even deliver a group notice correctly) with nothing being done to fix them and all I can say is, “What are those guys smoking?”

  34. Saint Subversive

    Jan 23rd, 2010

    Pure hogwash. SL still has an average of 60000-70000 users online at most times of the day. Quite the opposite of dying off, it’s better than ever for those of us who appreciate virtual art (and that’s exactly what I consider it to be). The people that I know there are as enthusiastic and creative as ever and coming up with grand new ideas all the time. If the recent “hype” is over that caused Coca Cola and others to come there in droves searching for new territory to Spam with their Advertising, then that’s good, as that hype was dumb to begin with. If your primary motivation is making money with the least amount of effort possible, then youll probably be disappointed, unless you can couple that urge with creativity. Dont sell your Linden stock just yet, folks, as SL will be around for a very long time and will continue to improve with age. Count on it. (“Alexander Howl”)

  35. Shai Khalifa

    Feb 9th, 2010

    @Saint Subversive. I exited SL over a year ago (only go there now for very specific reasons and don’t stay long). For about the 6 months before that, the average concurrency was about 60,000 users. So I’m now referring back to a period 18 months ago. If you’re saying that these are good figures now – this means they haven’t altered in at least 18 months. I don’t see that as growth and vibrancy at all – I see it as stagnancy. And if you add on top of that the perceived increase in the number of non-human controlled agents others have experienced – I’d say it’s not even stagnancy, but rather is decline.

    I also concur with other posters where in my 4+ years of SL involvement, I’ve not seen any improvement of the user experience since LL fixed the non-compliance of the viewer with Mac machines about 2 years ago (an issue that took LL 8 months to remedy). Other than introducing the much vaunted Mono script engine in August 2008, there doesn’t appear to have been any user-intended development done.

    Just some observations from a self-confessed SL sceptic and one of those who left because of the actions LL took in changing the region pricings and openspace sim rules – apparently the first round of the M Linden corporatisation-at-the-expense-of-gameplay strategy.

  36. [...] of my own day-to-day existence, then none of this would be very bothersome (lol). I understand that concurrence will be an issue for any virtual community…but especially for Linden Labs, who recently introduced a [...]

Leave a Reply