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Second Links is a project I launched to make it easy to find the most active and informative blogs and Web sites about Second Life. I review the Second Links news page carefully every so often to see if any of the feeds are out of date. I’ve been keeping an eye on the Reuters Second Life news site, since it hadn’t been updated for weeks, and as of today I deleted it from Second Links, because apparently it’s dead. As far as I can tell, Reuters has given up on Second Life.

Tateru Nino reported a few weeks ago that Eric Reuters (Eric Krangel) would no longer be reporting on Second Life for Reuters, but I hadn’t realized they were giving up! Yet from the lack of any updates to the Reuters Second Life news feed since then, and with Pixeleen Mistral reporting that Reuters Island has become a ghost build, it seems as though we’ve fallen off the Reuters radar, at least for now.

Reuters covered Second Life for two years, treating our world as a place where things actually happen and are worth reporting on. Reuters is the one news source that reported regularly on Second Life with some idea of what Second Life really is, but that was not primarily a virtual worlds organization. I always thought Reuters let us claim a little more legitimacy. I guess we’ll have to do without that now!

Maybe this means we’re settling into obscurity. I mean, for a while there, a year ago or so, it seemed as though First Life was beginning to see Second Life as pertinent to First Life affairs. Since then a lot of attempts to make use of that have quietly failed (I’m thinking especially of the companies who came in, made huge builds, found nothing was happening, and left), and in a lot of ways, nothing new has happened with Second Life, at least nothing newly important to First Life: it’s not any easier to get used to, it hasn’t offered any new tools from a First Life point of view.

But if First Life is bored with us, I think it’s preparing for a surprise down the road. Second Life is like electronic readers: an amazing, futuristic idea that’s a little too much trouble for most people to care about just now. Sure, there are hundreds of thousands of Second Life residents, maybe even millions, depending on how you want to measure, just like there are a lot of people who’ve bought a Kindle, but most people don’t know or care much about virtual worlds or about electronic readers. Second Life requires better-than-usual computer hardware, is a bit hard to get used to, and requires people to try to learn a different way to relate with others and the world. Electronic readers are too expensive, don’t have all the reading material people want, and aren’t any easier to carry around than books. Both of these technologies are too much work or too expensive or too much of a change of habit for their special qualities to shine through – yet! But as Second Life gets easier to jump into – and either it will or some other virtual world, sooner or later, will appear that does what Second Life does and is easy to get used to, too! – and offers more lifelike interaction and more stability, the barriers to enjoying it will shrink, and its advantages – like being able to hang out with friends or meet with associates from all different locations – will begin to shine, just as when electronic readers get smaller and have more reading material and are cheaper, people will start using them, because they *do* have advantages.

Maybe this example will make better sense: when automobiles were first introduced, they were expensive, noisy, frightening and (here’s a similarity to Second Life, at least sometimes!) unreliable. People who drove them were freaky eccentrics. “Normal” people would yell “Get a horse!” when someone drove by in a car. But cars got more reliable, more affordable, and much, much, much more common. So with virtual worlds, even though I have to admit, it’s handier for me to be able to drive to New York City in less than a day than it is for me to be able to have virtual meetings.

So the only question in my mind is, how long will this process of becoming more useful than offputting take for virtual worlds? A year or two? A decade? A few decades? Some day virtual worlds will be an essential part of the electronic environment, but it may be a long wait.

^^^\ Kate /^^^