What is a Second Life?
Second Life is a three-dimensional virtual-reality world developed by Linden Research, Inc. (a.k.a. Linden Lab), a San Francisco company, and born on the Internet in 2003.
Portraits of Some Second Life Residents Photography by Stone Semyorka at the Stoneflower Photography Studio in Second Life
Where did it come from?
- Second Life is a computer-simulated environment which users inhabit. They interact with the environment via their on-screen representatives known as avatars. An avatar is a person in Second Life. People in second Life are referred to as residents.
- A free downloadable Second Life Viewer enables residents to interact with each other through their avatars, providing an extraordinarily advanced level of social networking combined with general aspects of a metaverse.
What is a virtual world? »
- In Second Life, social relationships are represented by three-dimensional graphical characterizations of multiple users appearing together.
- The Second Life simulation has real world rules such as physics, gravity, topography, locomotion, real-time actions, and communication. Lots of communication!
How to get started in Second Life? »
Second Life Quick Start Guide »
- Second Life was inspired mainly by the cyberpunk literary movement, notably Neal Stephenson's 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash.
- Stephenson invented the words metaverse and avatar.
- As described by Stephenson, a metaverse is a fictional three-dimensional virtual world created inside internetworked computers where humans, represented on-screen by avatars, interact with each other in a non-physically existing space that is a metaphor of the real world. The word metaverse melds the words "meta" and "universe."
- Linden Lab's goal is to create a world like the metaverse described by Stephenson – a general-purpose user-defined virtual place in which people interact, learn, teach, explore, serve, work, shop, play, conduct business, and communicate in a variety of ways about myriad things.
The Linden Lab virtual world us referred to casually as the grid.
Second Life is the best known virtual world at this time with some 30 million residents.
What's it like?
- That means about 30 million accounts have been registered to date and membership is growing by thousands per month.
- Of the total at this time, some 500,000 persons are considered active residents.
- About one-quarter of the membership accounts are alternative avatars. Residents use alts to be either a different person or two or more people in Second Life at the same time.
Second Life is a social environment where people learn, explore, work, shop and play.
An individual user experiences telepresence – a sense of presence or being present somewhere with other people and objects.
Second Life residents interact on-screen via their 3D graphical avatar representatives.
- Communication includes keyboard text, voice and other sounds, and visible and audible gestures.
- Locomotion includes walking, riding, flying and teleporting. Avatars travel between buildings, towns and regions for education, business and leisure activities.
- The topography includes land, oceans, mountains, valleys and other forms limited only by the imagination.
- The weather and climates include hot deserts, humid forests, ocean floors, mountain tops, sun, rain, snow, and other conditions.
How sociable is it?
- Life and its social relationships are represented by multiple avatars appearing and acting together. They act under direct control of the real-life persons behind the keyboards.
Residents meet other residents, socialize, explore together, shop together, build things together, play together, participate in individual and group activities, undertake manufacturing and commercial wholesale and retail activities, create and trade their virtual property and services.
Do I need money to be a resident?
- It's very much like existing in real life (RL), but with the added ability to fly, teleport, and create and do whatever you can imagine.
- It's best to remember that real people from RL are behind the keyboards when you interact with avatars in Second Life. They can and often do bring their own personal social, psychological and economic baggage into Second Life.
Membership in SL is free while there is available an advanced paid level called premium.
Is it a game?
- Most users are operating with free accounts. Registration is free. The avatar is free. Time logged on is free, other than general internet connection and usage fees. Most seemingly-necessary goods – such as changes of clothing, jewelry, skins, hair, cars, etc. – can be obtained in-world for free.
- The premium account costs $6-$9 a month and gives a resident the right to buy and hold land. A premium-account resident receives a free house on a small plot of land and a $L300 per week stipend and gains access to more comprehensive user support.
- Inside Second Life, the virtual currency is the linden dollar – referred to as lindens or L$.
Linden dollars are exchangeable for US dollars (US$) in a marketplace consisting of residents, Linden Lab and RL companies. Linden dollars can be purchased in-world or in RL and transferred into SL. They can be sold for US dollars.
The current exchange rate is around US$4 = L$1000.
- Shopping for any kind of goods and services you can imagine is one of the most-frequently-stated best features of Second Life. Even a person with a free membership still may need money to buy desired virtual stuff in-world.
Second Life is not a game. It does not have rules, points, scores, winners, losers, levels, an end-strategy, or most of the other characteristics of games.
- It is a semi-structured virtual environment where characters undertake activities for the purpose of personal empowerment and enjoyment.
- Second Life is an extraordinarily advanced level of social networking located in a general-purpose metaverse.
Learn more about virtual worlds and Second Life:
- What is a virtual world? »
- What is Second Life? »
- How to get started in Second Life? »
- Great Places in Second Life »
- Stone Semyorka's Second Life photo collections »
- A small photo gallery of Second Life »
- Second Life on YouTube »
- Using Second Life for Education »
- The UNCP Campus in Using Second Life »
- Education on the Second Life Grid »
- Center for the Study of Virtual Worlds »
- Second Life for Business »
- How To Build in Second Life »
- Creating and developing Second Life »
- Who are the residents of Second Life? »
- Second Life: PG vs. Mature »
- Second Edition Blog »
- Second Life home page »
- News Media in Second Life »
- News of Second Life and Virtual Worlds »
- Scholarly References about Second Life and Virtual Worlds »