Is Meta just Second Life 2.0?

The video above circulated in 2005 when Second Life was the new hotness. As a pioneer in virtual worlds, they attracted buzz from futurists that saw the platform as the next generation of the internet. Companies flocked to the platform, eager to engage with their audience. Reuters opened a bureau and someone made a documentary. Looking back at it now, it looks so cheesy, “Meet thousands of people!”

There are echos of this when we see the latest push to the new virtual platform by the company formerly known as Facebook, Meta. Second Life is still around, going strong with 600,000 monthly users, a third of them coming back each day. Through it all, Wagner James Au has been covering Second Life as spectator, participant, and critic.

I’ve been waiting for someone to check in with Wagner James Au to see what he thinks about Meta, the latest run at virtual reality, and if there are any lessons to be learned from the 15+ years that he’s been there.

Lessons From 19 Years in the Metaverse, a conversation between Wagner James Au and Charlie Warzel is well worth a read. In it, I found this tidbit which is wise counsel to all those out there thinking about how their company or brand can participate meaningfully in the Metaverse.

But first, here’s a quote from the first time around:

To play in Second Life, corporations must first come to a humbling realization: in the context of the fantastic, their brands as they exist in the real world are boring, banal, and unimaginative.

James Wagner Au in 2007

And now from the Warzell interview. Same as it ever was:

Back then, people saw those brand failures and concluded that the metaverse isn’t real or ready for primetime. I fear that might happen again. But the problem is not the users. It’s these companies not meeting these metaverse communities halfway. They’re bumbling their way into the community instead of finding ways to fit inside the community and make use of the platform to bring the magic to life.

James Wagner Au in 2022

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