A second Second Life – new competition in virtual worlds


Hey, how come I read about this on Scobleizer first? Randal Leeb-du-Toit and I are due to catch up for lunch when he’s back from Silicon Valley, so he can tell me about Outback Online, a new 3D virtual world his company Yoick is creating. Robert Scoble has just had lunch with Randal and executive producer John Wolpert (who when he was with IBM was mentioned to me with great reverence by his colleagues). Robert has now told the world about the new product, and he seems to think it’s possible that the new service could indeed offer real competition for Second Life, based on graphics quality, scalability, and age-based segmentation. I very much look forward to seeing the alpha. Certainly for the meantime there’s been some very good buzz generated, suggesting that people are open to an alternative to Second Life.

There are definitely some rather hefty network effects at play in this kind of virtual world, not least because the worlds are created from scratch, and thus require substantial personal investment from many people before they start to become interesting. However there have been many complaints about Second Life, not least on performance, as well as on some of it policies. Second Life has established itself as the de facto leader in user-created free-form virtual worlds. Yet it is more than possible that in 5-10 years from now others will have taken the lead. TD Goodcliffe believes that the space is open for the taking. Duncan Riley has doubts about the name (“the outback sucks”). Justin Thorp wonders whether virtual worlds are ready for mainstream acceptance. I certainly believe that virtual worlds will play a major role in our future, both socially and in business, though that may take quite a while to pass. I’m not prepared to punt on whether Second Life will be transcended by others, as this partly depends on how good a job Second Life does at defending what is absolutely a very solid incumbency. It’s definitely going to take significant capital to take it on. However I’m all in favor of competition, so I certainly hope that Outback Online has what it takes to put the field into play.