Monday, January 5, 2009


Linden Lab recently celebrated that in 2008, Second Life's population became predominantly international in the sense that the majority of residents lie outside the United States. Claire Linden gives the impression that this is a new and exciting development and a major landmark.

But I believe this is rather old news. I have no data on this, but I thought that by the end of 2007 we had reached the 'US as a minority' status. But I can't be too harsh, I don't have any data to back the claim. Maybe earlier it had been 51% Americans, 49% Rest of the World.

It is interesting to note, however, that her numbers add up as such that 40% of residents are United States citizens, 40% are from Europe (as Claire states, "..with additional focus on marketing and community in Europe where 40% of Second Life Residents are located..."), which leaves a good 20% for the rest of the world. So in a sense, Second Life is still more or less Euro-centric. Or still in the First World. Consider that a good portion of that remaining twenty percent might be from Japan, and that just about rounds it out. You have Australia, China, African nations, and Antarctica massively underrepresented in this regard. Is it really international if the majority, eighty percent, of users come from Europe and America (since for all of our squabbles, the US and Europe more-or-less share a good deal more than either would care to admit)?

We could split some serious hair on this, and say that although Europe in sum total rivals the United States in user share, that all those users are spread across multiple nations. The EU isn't exactly a centralized force like the US just yet, although they're getting there. So consider this. 20% residents come from outside of the US and Europe, which when split among the rest (such as Australia, China, Japan, Canada, South America, etc. to just name a few) means each country has only a small share. Europe has a full 40% but only in consideration of a sum total of Germany, England, France, Poland, and so on. The United States, as the name suggested, is unified. In this light, the United States still makes up the majority of Second Life. So while the big numbers indicate internationalism, the actual weight behind it is rather small. It is like saying the US is not truly dominated by California and New York as Wyoming and Alaska are still represented in Congress.

Of course, that's just me playing with numbers and making gross assumptions. In the mean time, I'll be sure to get babelfish up and ready for the future.


Peter Stindberg said...

Linden realized this rather late actually. I made a blogpost about this in December 2007 - over a year ago - and pointed out English speakers are a minority.

Anna J Tsiolkovsky said...

What is funny is that they are basing it upon the number of users this time, or at least so they say. That's a fool's game, because alts can pour into Second Life like raindrops.

I suppose one explanation could be that for a time, American (and to a lesser extant, some Europeans) created one day wonder alt accounts, didn't like Second Life, and left. So, we have the US as finally the minority of the total number of accounts even as English has been a minority language since at least 2007, if not earlier. So only recently have the numbers squared off. In 2007, the US probably comprised of 50-55% of accounts due to such accounts, while English itself was only spoken by 40% of the grid.

Also, China seems pretty small in terms of SL population numbers. For a country with the most amount of people connected to the internet (about 230 million or so) they make up a surprisingly teeny tiny fraction of Second Life. It can't all be due to censorship, either, as vast numbers of them are on Instant messangers, World of Warcraft, and such. I don't live in China, though, and I don't keep up too much with their affairs, so I could be wrong.

Peter Stindberg said...

China not only has very strict internet access laws and rules (check Google for the "Great firewall of China"), they also actively promote the development and usage of their own virtual worlds.

What IS surprising is the little population of Koreans, since Korea is more or less the world's leader of fast internet. In RL I developed a website targeted at Korean users once, and one of the main objectives was loading speed as Koreans have access to very high bandwidths and tend to "click off" sites that load too slow. It might be that lag and slowness is a main hinderance of SL in Korea.

Anna J Tsiolkovsky said...

Ah, yeah, HiPiHi!