- OpenSource grids aren't expanding the virtual world market; they are currently surviving by capturing a sliver of those abandoning Second Life. Relatively few of the thousands of private islands disappearing from Second Life are reappearing on other worlds.
- Although thousands of Second Lifers have established a presence on other worlds, there has been no mass movement. ManySL expatriates still spend the majority of their time, energy and money back on Mother World, rather than focusing on community building in their new homelands.
- Most SLers have thousands of virtual goods locked up in Second Life that can't be legally or easily exported. Few Second Life creators have exported their work to marketplaces on other grids, so even if we had the money to spend, we couldn't replace our current SL assets.
- Although a few new virtual world platforms have launched, they have yet to gain much traction within the current virtual world community; none has made a splash outside that domain.
It seems to me that the virtual world market has been declining in step with Second Life for the past five years. New players have come and gone, not one gaining significant traction. Even Linden Lab has stopped viewing virtual worlds as their most compelling future. That's why they're shifting investment into new projects instead of reinvesting in Second Life.
I've been to a number of virtual world conferences over the past six years. It's obvious that our collective vision of the virtual world future has been shrinking. We once expected virtual worlds to change the way most people work, live and play; to change the world! Today, the industry is mostly looking to offer some practical solution to a niche market such as training, education or meetings. Despite the efforts of a number of credible offerings, I can't think of a single industry or domain where the use of virtual worlds is considered a best practice, or even a credible alternative.
Although I've painted a fairly dark picture about the future of virtual worlds, I'm actually optimistic about the future of the Virtual World. I'll describe my vision of the virtual future in the next post of this series.