Second Life Crises


F. Scott Fitzgerald famously wrote “there are no second acts in American lives.”  But there might also be no second acts for second lives.

Most of us are taught not to dwell on failure.  Thankfully, others do so for us.  Although books are written about success, there are fascinating articles on failures – including my personal favorite the Segway. In the Segway implosion one could at least point to some non-technology factors (manufacturing, parking, safety, and sheer dorkiness) that limited user adoption.  However, for a pure technology play – sitting in front of your computer with no distractions in your way sort of company —  the leader in unrealized hype might well be Second Life.  As this article points out:

In 2006, the future was Second Life. Business Week put Second Life on the cover. American Apparel, Dell, and Reebok, among many others, rushed to build virtual storefronts. Reuters even created a full-time Second Life bureau chief. People rushed to sign up and create their own avatars. Blue hair and Linden dollars were the future.  Looking back, the future didn’t last long. By the end of 2007, Second Life was already losing its fizz.

It turns out that we did not want a virtual second life – we wanted our actual life online.  In the first half of 2011, Second Life had about 1 million users each month.  Facebook had 500 million users.  In this essay, the authors rely on what they refer to as the Christensen (after the HBS professor) test – evaluate a company by asking “for what job are you hiring them”?  — as a simple way to evaluate technology hype.

This piece is an essay from a collection in a new book: The Myth of the Garage and Other Surprises. And one of these surprises is that – at least at the time of writing – digital kindle copies were free on Amazon.

InnovationAlexander Ooms