Linden Labs Thinks It's The Sex That's Keeping Businesses Out Of Second Life

from the window-dressing dept

The trend of company after company announcing they were setting up shop in Second Life proved to be little more than a fad. Perhaps it was good for an initial publicity stunt, but many of the companies that entered the virtual world found it to be fairly worthless, from a marketing standpoint. The company behind Second Life, Linden Labs, doesn’t seem to think this is why companies are staying away, rather it’s because of all the sex-related activity that goes on there. So it’s planning to move all of that to an “Adult Continent”, so companies and brands will feel more comfortable stepping in to Second Life. While perhaps you have to admire their optimism, it doesn’t seem likely that restricting sex-related activities to a virtual red-light district will suddenly make Second Life worthwhile for businesses. Furthermore, with the sex stuff believed to make up the vast majority of the Second Life economy, moving to restrict it in hopes of chasing companies’ marketing dollars may not be a great strategy.

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Comments on “Linden Labs Thinks It's The Sex That's Keeping Businesses Out Of Second Life”

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Tameka Kee (user link) says:

Sex Sells

I agree — not sure that restricting one of the primary drivers of the SL economy is a good move. But, in Linden’s defense, I think it might also be a move to keep state and federal regulators from scrutinizing SL RE: child porn, etc. in the same way that they’ve already done with MySpace, Facebook and Craigslist, etc.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Sex Sells

It does sell but why do people think that by trying to segregate content that it means they’re restricting it? I personally have no interest in it, the potential that SL had really is gone by sex dominating it.

The real world could never survive where sex was the only focus of the economy and I’m sure that Linden Labs is thinking the same thing.

I could see how the market is with porn and the sex industry but from what I saw of the SL stuff, I have no idea how anyone could get into that. I’d think the thousands upon thousands of websites could afford a better and more realistic experience but then again I don’t exactly believe in paying for any of it so I guess I don’t have the same mindset.

Lisa Westveld (profile) says:

To be honest, many SL gamers are there hoping for some profit. One of the biggest trades in SL is the trade of land, mostly selling pieces to newbies. There’s some trade in virtual goods which provides some profits for some. But most are there just for the dirty chats with others. Basically, it’s like those expensive phone-sex lines, but then with bad virtual images…
There’s some room for advertisements but basically, you’d have to pay SL gamers to get them to view those commercials. (By making them camp on your land.) Because you pay them, players become interested but otherwise they just go somewhere else to have dirty talks…

Lucretious (profile) says:

to be honest, it DOES have a bearing on the “game” and its popularity. SL used to be a very cool place to be with a lot of great content being done but most of it got overshadowed by the endless sexual content. At first it was more erotica based stuff which was ok but as time went on it just became gratuitous garbage. Its at the point where thats basically all its known for.

Whether or not its keeping businesses away is debatable but I do think its a smart move to bring the place back to what it was originally intended for……a creative community.

JT says:

Re: Re:

People don’t seem to get what you’re saying. The drum continues to beat “sex sells”. I think everyone has an area of town that the general public doesn’t have a lot to do with during the day but is lit up at night.

I have this odd feeling that the creators didn’t set out to create this incredible world to become the side of town no one but people looking for cheap thrills go. Sex may sell and be an easy sell but SL has a lot more potential and more potential to make money by not being the “shady” side of town.

Masa says:

LIndenlab failed


I have been a citizens of SL since begin of 2006, running a very successful site. But things have not been developing the past 12-18 months.

This step (seperate xxx content) has been overdue for 2-3 years. The fact that they do it now (2009) proves that Lindenlap will never make it. They are not capable of developing it further.

I left SL 2 months ago. Sad but true: This world is dead, killed by it’s creators.

Weird Harold (user link) says:

SL’s issues are numerous.

“Residents can reach these places only by teleporting into the void. And even the popular islands are never crowded, because each processor on Linden Lab’s servers can handle a maximum of only 70 avatars at a time; more than that and the service slows to a crawl, some avatars disappear, or the island simply vanishes. “It’s really the software’s fault,” says Andrew Meadows, Linden Lab’s senior developer. “Way back when, we used to say, ‘This is not going to scale.'””

Basically, they had a great idea and terrible software, and got the ad world in too early and burned them all out.

But hey, they can delude themselves into thinking it is something they can’t control rather than something they should have fixed years ago.

Santos says:

Think again?

OK, Devil’s Advocate time: What if this were anything BUT adult material that was being discussed?

Consider the major breakthroughs in technology in the last 20 years; VCRs, popular internet, DVD video and internet chat rooms; There is a viable argument is these have all been driven by a desire to access adult-oriented material. I’m actually going to posit the explosion of chat-based services grew from 1 (AOL) to …what…5 or 6? Major companies because the Product Was Needed. Does Yahoo care how Yahoo Messenger is used, so long as users are exposed to advertisements?

Media formats (VHS, DVD, Quicktime, Flash), also appear to be adult-oriented material driven…and by paying customers, who are voting with wallets and pay-per-month with auto-renew websites.

If Linden Labs thinks they can improve their bottom line by adapting to, rather than banning, adult content…maybe they’re on to something?

Catherine Linden says:

a few corrections

Having read this post , we would like to clarify a few things.

As our announcement ( ) explains, our Adults Only initiative is designed to give Second Life Residents greater control over their inworld experiences, so that those who would prefer not to casually encounter Adult content in Second Life can more easily avoid it while those interested in accessing it can continue to do so. We expect that this additional level of control will be attractive to enterprises and educators using Second Life, it is not specifically intended to attract marketers.

In regards to your comment that Second Life is not worthwhile for businesses because several marketers did see the see the results they had hoped for in using the platform, I thought I would point out a few recent news articles you might have missed.

There have been a number of successful marketing campaigns in Second Life well executed by solution providers with a good understanding of the community inworld; for example, you might speak to Joni West of This Second Marketing, featured in an Oct. 2008 piece on this topic in Fast Company: .

Second, businesses are using Second Life for more than just marketing. Hundreds of global organizations such as IBM and Northrop Grumman, use the Second Life Grid platform to bring teams together in a shared virtual workspace to collaborate, meet, learn, and prototype new offerings. As CNBC has reported, IBM recently saved hundreds of thousands of dollars in travel and meeting costs by holding events in Second Life:

Finally, with regards to how this initiative may affect the inworld economy, it is worth noting (as last week’s AFP article did ) that the inworld economy, Second Life, and Linden Lab remain strong and growing.

In the future, we would be more than happy to answer any questions you might have about Second Life, including its value for businesses and our motivations for policy decisions; you can reach us via the contact information provided here:


Caliburn Susanto (user link) says:

(Sighs and snickers at the pathetic meme)

Really this constant chant of “SL is just full of sex maniacs” is so lame and old and pathetic. It’s a meme that’s gotten boring. It is the mumble of a puritanical mindset that has nothing to say beyond clucking their tongues and wagging their fingers at people less uptight than they are.

I have been a resident of SL on a daily basis since 2006 and it is still interesting to explore. It is filled with beautiful 3D graphic art and architecture that you can actually move around in, examine, photograph, and share with others. Many innovative and highly creative people build fascinating and beautiful environments, art, and architecture that is constantly entertaining. And the socializing and educational possibilities are enhanced by the sheer fun of sharing the experiences with friends old and new from all over the Earth. I’d much rather chat with friends sitting in my gazebo next to a raging volcano, overlooking a beautiful landscape on one side and the ocean on another, than sit typing messages into a boring 2-D chatroom.

I travel the equivalent of hundreds of miles a month going all over Second Life. Guess what? I never see avatars fornicating in the streets, flashing passersby, or waving digital penises in the air. I just see other people, normally or exotically dressed, shopping, exploring, and going about their personal business same as me.

My experience has been that people who find SL boring or pointless are simply non-creative types who need to be spoon-fed entertainment. There is nothing for them to do in SL because they are passive with nothing to express. They belong in front of a television set staring like a zombie at the flickering screen, not in SL which is only interesting to those who get excited when they are given an infinite 3-D pallette to paint with.

Second Life isn’t failing, it’s a hugely profitable enterprise, and the only thing seedy about it is in the minds of judgemental non-residents.

As for businesses coming and going, that is because the old models don’t work. They fail because they bore. They come to SL with their time-tested experiences of pumping their message and their brand into the brains of the passive masses via TV. But people who are regularly in SL aren’t, as I’ve already pointed out, in that group (I stopped watching television two years ago; Second Life is far more interesting and engaging). They are curious, active, highly mobile people who need to be given a good reason to stay and care. If you bore them for even a minute they just zoom away, and never come back. It’s like having commercials on a television that has been created to turn the commercials permanently off (never to repeat) the minute they stop being interesting.

Yes, the platform started off on the wrong foot and hasn’t scaled fast enough to keep up with the popularity, so yeah, there are lag issues and database issues. As a hobbyist they don’t concern me much, but I can see where they would worry corporate executives and shareholders. However, the major fault that I can see for the virtual meeting market has been security. Companies want corporate privacy. They can have it now with LL’s Enterprise accounts and other means, and new methods are being developed all the time. Currently educators and librarians world-wide are FLOODING into Second Life. When I first joined 15,000 simultaneous log-ins was the normal daily high. Now the daily population is 80,000. This last Sunday it went up to over 86,000. I was in-world all day that day moving about, building, rezzing objects, and never had a single problem or irritation with the platform. What part of “growth” in those numbers is not clear?

Second Life is not dying, and your high horses are all lame. 🙂

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

Why Second Life Cannot Succeed As A Business Environment.

The problem is that, to the extent that Second Life lives up to its potential, it is about being creatively phony, at the cost of a good deal of work. That’s fine as a form of theater, but it is counterproductive for business. You don’t want to do business with people who have “let’s pretend” names. Businesses don’t want to be phony. They want to convince the customer that “their word is their bond,” that their warranty has some chance of being honored, and that they will be there when the product breaks down. You go into an office, you don’t find people doing “CosPlay.” Very well, on the internet, a webcam is cheap, and it works, so who needs Second Life.

Here is a link to my considered take on Second Life. I have tried to create a historical analogy to the adoption of the personal computer, and to address the potentials and limitations of Second Life’s underlying model. Second Life works when phoniness is desirable, and fails when it isn’t.

The case of John Edwards in Second Life is exceptionally funny, mostly in the manner in which it revealed him to be a completely trivial man, an overgrown child, a pretty boy.

Elrik Merlin says:

Missing the point again

It’s amazing to see this continuing, poorly-research litany alleging that “Second Life is no good for business”. If you think that, then you’ve probably never spent any time there or done anything useful. It may be easy to write stories based on hearsay rather than research, but it’s not helpful.

Looking at the alerts that hit my in-tray every day about Second Life and virtual worlds, I’ve noticed the trend towards positive stories over the last few months as more accurate information is getting published instead of sensationalist pap. I’m reading about novel teaching methods, exciting interface experiments, new applications for health, education, care, non-profits, and to combat climate change. And the people who realise that marketing in SL requires something different from the tired old real-life paradigm are doing good business.

Meanwhile, every time I go in-world there are 70, 80,000 or more people on – over twice the average when I first went in two years ago. This is not going away, and nor is it purely a consumer activity.

Virtual worlds are where the Web was in the early-mid 1990s, just at the end of the hype and the “it’s all sex anyway” stories and just before the technology began the process of becoming fully integrated into our lives. Virtual worlds are a bit more complex and will thus take a bit more time, but the parallels are obvious.

There are evident significant business applications for the technology. Virtual conferencing and exhibitions are obvious examples; training is another. All enable you to have the networking and interaction that you get at a physical meeeting without the carbon emissions from flying there and without the expense. Webcams and expensive video conferencing systems may be fine for one-to-one or one-to-a-handful presentations but they are no good for much else. Even handling questions is a pain, let alone the whole business of meeting people which is such an important part of a conference in the physical world.

Professional virtual conference organisers have got the induction process for visitors down to 30 minutes from scratch and 60 mins for presenters/exhibitors. It’s easy to make an environment private if you’re worried about “griefing” – which doesn’t happen that much any more anyway. You can even build your own world if you want to go that far, using identical technology.

Yes, there are problems with Second Life: the Lindens shoot themselves in the feet with monotonous regularity, the Open Space fiasco being a recent example, but it is very very early days for this technology. In a few years we’ll be looking back on the current iterations the way we looked at Lynx or early Mosaic browsers and, just as we did before, we’ll have forgotten the poorly-researched sensationalist reports from lazy writers designed to notch up readership and ad revenue rather than let us know what’s really going on.

What’s limiting business exploitation of virtual worlds in general and SL in particular? Ill-researched press reports with an axe to grind perpetuating anti-hype and misinformation, mainly, if you ask me. Thankfully, we are becoming better at seeing through stories like this.

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