second-lifeWhat happened to Second Life?  The 3-D virtual world from Linden Lab is still very much around but I don’t spend much time there, do you? Second Life has peaked.  And there is something to be learned from this transition.

Facebook is hot right now and Second Life is not, and some of that comes down to the difference between fantasy and reality.  Second Life is a fantasy environment  — an EverQuest without the quest — and that’s the problem.  It has the heavy processing requirements of a game without the rich textural depth of a Tolkein or even of real life.

Facebook, being tied to the real lives of the people involved in it, never runs out of anything, whether it is server power (minimal requirements there. at least in comparison to Second Life) or stuff to talk about.  Second Life is barren in comparison.  By attempting to imitate life, it pales beside the real thing.

Take dancing, for example.  In Second Life dancing performs the social function that in real life is performed by eating.  You can’t eat in Second Life, yet most of the time when people hang out together in real life eating is what they do.  So in Second Life, if they aren’t fighting or making-out, the avatars dance. But it just isn’t very satisfying.

Facebook doesn’t have a dancing/eating problem because it doesn’t purport to be anything like a 3-D virtual world — just a wacked-out representation of our individual lives for the benefit of our friends.

Another problem with Second Life is real estate.  As many companies have done, you can buy 3-D virtual social prominence, whether you deserve it or not.  What Second Life is actually selling isn’t real estate or even server capacity — what they are selling is us, or at least access to us by people who want something.  I don’t like that. Facebook is not immune to this, either, as we see in stories this week about how to buy Facebook friends. But for the most part the way to get lots of friends in Facebook is by being interesting.  Now there’s a concept.

The best purpose I’ve seen for Second Life is for showing videos to your friends.  Everyone meets at a particular spot, watches an mp4 video (thanks to the iPhone nearly every YouTube video is now available in the H.264 mp4 format), commenting back and forth like Mystery Science Theater 3000. But now DeskTube offers a very similar capability with real faces, not avatars, and in Facebook, too.

There’s less and less drawing me to Second Life, though as long as its around I’ll never leave completely.

Where else would I do my 13 hours of aerobics and 90 miles of running per week?