Sometimes, to really appreciate what we have in Second Life, you have to step back and examine the other options out there. And then, you know why Second Life is, for now at least, at the top of its game.
About five or six months ago, maybe more, I took a month off of Second Life to explore There. There bills itself as a stable, more intuitive, and griefer free alternative to Second Life.
I will tell you that the first shock is almost everyone looks the same. Sure, there's different color hair and skin, but for the most part everyone has the same shape and look. I thought it was rather strange until I tried adjusting my appearance. Because you can't.
You have to first find one of seven or so spas around There. All are terminally crowded, with lines. It's a pain in the ass. On at least three occasions the person in the spa went AFK and held up the lines for hours. For to each spa, only one can occupy the stall at a time. So the five spas in an area will only accommodate five residents and no more.
Once in the spa, I found why everyone looked more or less the same. All the appearance sliders are limited. There's a slider for head shape, a few for face shape, perhaps ten or so for chins/cheeks/nose/eyes, and four for body shape. It's really hard to get anything unique out of the limited options open to you. Hair isn't included as an adjustable, either. You have to buy a new hairstyle, either from the There staff or from another resident, so I ended up with the default bobbed hair style. Since I started with zero Therebucks (hereafter referred to as T$), I couldn't buy anything. As far as I could tell, there were no freebies, and if there were any they are few and far between. Many newbies ran around in the default clothes, and the whole world was one homogeneous sea of people.
Building is hard, and either freebie accounts like myself aren't allowed to build or you can only do so in specific areas and I couldn't find them. Speaking of getting around, while it's easier to run and teleport around, I could never seem to fly. I could never pull off whatever keyboard combo I had to input to be able to fly.
The There world seems fairly small. There were two or three big main islands, and about a dozen smaller ones. While each is very large in themselves, and completely seamless to walk through (a refreshing breeze to SL's crashing at each and every sim boundary), I didn't really see any unique builds, everything was default and homogeneous again.
Everything in There seems sanitized. It is SL Disney World, where any trash on the ground is picked up in 2.3 seconds. You can't strip completely to the nude, your avatar has built-in underwear that you cannot remove. You can report harassment and griefing directly to There staff and it's taken care of right away, but on the flip side it removes the delay in SL that is vital if someone is just goofing around. Most objects were bland and there are few guns. Sure, it cuts down massively on the griefers and reduces lag to a minimum, but it cuts out a lot of the freedom that one has in SL.
One lovely thing about There is that the conversion rate is extremely favourable, with one dollar buying almost thousands of Therebucks. Unfortunately, vendors adjust their prices accordingly. Also, I am not sure if Therebucks can be pulled out of game like one can do with L$. It is still one of the more positive aspects of There.
In short, I would recommend There for the person that just wants to stand around and chat, and doesn't mind pouring in forty or fifty bucks into the game to buy T$. The game may be generic and a bit bland, but griefing is at a minimum and lag is laughable compared to the amounts of it in SL. For the resident who doesn't mind trading freedom for stability.
I still play There occasionally, but not as much as Second Life. There just doesn't hold any attraction for me. SL may be laggy, unstable, and full of assholes, but I can do whatever I want, and that's all I want.