What is Second Life? A Brief History of the Metaverse


With all the news surrounding Facebook’s metaverse, interest has grown around past attempts to create virtual worlds. Although some of them have set a precedent, none of them have been called metaverse before.

The main reason was that they were either intended to be a game or they failed to sustain a sequel.

But the one that stood out was Second Life, a virtual world launched in 2003. Interest in the project grew again with discussions around the metaverse, since Second Life is its own virtual world built solely for social interaction. .

Here’s what you need to know about the platform and how it’s evolved over the years…

What is Second Life?

Second life residents

Second Life is a vast 3D-generated virtual world and platform filled with user-generated content where people can interact with each other in real time. It is also home to a thriving global economy. The platform was officially released to the public by Linden Lab on June 23, 2003, but its development dates back to at least the late 1990s.

Residents of Second Life, as the users are called, have no designated goal and there are no traditional game mechanics or rules in place. Second Life strives to focus on social interaction, user-generated content, and user freedom. As such, the virtual world is much more closely tied to social media than to the gaming industry.


However, Second Life has often been considered a video game because it predates many major social platforms. What really sets it apart is not just the freedom of its residents to roam the world and interact with each other, but also its thriving, fully-fledged global economy and user-generated content.

Just like in a CRPG or an MMO, the residents of Second Life represent themselves through avatars. These are highly customizable, and you can choose to be almost anything, from a blue smurf to a towering six-foot ogre.

However, the most revolutionary aspect of Second Life is that residents can do almost anything that people do in real life, such as watching movies, listening to music, playing games, going to parties, shopping or sell stuff and create new content for the world. , be it objects or even buildings. In fact, most of the content, landmarks, and even animations in the world are created by residents.

Also, the economic activity you can engage in is not limited to buying and selling items. You can also buy or sell real estate. Regular residents of Second Life generally acquire land and houses to reside there.

Second Life was born from an idea of ​​the founder and former CEO of Linden Lab, Phillip Rosedale. According to the game’s wiki, he had a vision of “a vast, continuous green landscape, spread across multiple servers.” It enjoyed great popularity in the 2000s and is considered a revolutionary attempt to create a virtual world.

In many ways, Second Life is the base we think of when considering what the Metaverse is.

A brief history of Second Life

second life site

Linden Lab, the company behind the creation of Second Life, was founded in 1999 by Phillip Rosedale. He was the company’s first CEO and is known to Second Life residents as Phillip Linden. Linden Lab began as a hardware company involved in the development of haptic technology.


The company needed a software application to test this haptic technology hardware. It was around this time in 2001 that LindenWorld was created to fulfill this task – and as such it was not open to the public. But he would go on to act as an early alpha for what would become Second Life.

Users could socialize, participate in goal-oriented games, and interact with the virtual world around them. The sim, however, was still very gun-focused and played similar to a first-person shooter.

second life

Second life resident

The company’s approach would soon shift from developing this test platform to developing its virtual world, which would be renamed Second Life in 2002 when it entered beta. The open public beta began in 2002, and as its population and land grew, it was officially launched in June 2003.

At this point in the virtual world, the world map, or grid, consisted of 16 regions. There was still no money and the inhabitants could not even teleport. But the virtual world had largely shifted from its origins to its focus on user-generated content and social interaction.

The Linden Dollar was not introduced until late 2003. By 2006, the global economy had grown significantly, with resident Anshe Chung becoming the first person to become a millionaire through her Second Life businesses.

second life teenager

Teenagers hanging out

Second Life’s approach to world-building and the often adult nature of its content meant that the virtual world was only open to residents aged 18 or older. So in February 2005, Linden Lab began testing a new Teen Second Life service, which would officially launch in January 2006.

Teen Second Life operated separately from the main Second Life grid and was limited to teens ages 13–17, teachers, and educational organizations. However, in 2009 there were only about 300 concurrent teenage residents. So in 2011 Teen Second Life was shut down and merged with the main grid.

second life today

Girl wearing glasses and neon lights

In 2006, Second Life reached one million inhabitants. In 2015, Second Life had an estimated GDP of $500 million, higher than some countries. In this year alone, residents withdrew money from the virtual world up to 60 million dollars.

You can still create a Second Life account and become a Second Life resident today.

In 2021, a Linden Lab spokesperson told Time that the platform had 750,000 monthly active users.

cyberpunk aesthetic

Although there have been several attempts to create a virtual world, none have been as successful or revolutionary in their approach as Second Life.

A renewed interest in the platform could lead to an increase in users, as well as a role in the future of the metaverse.

Illustration of Second life characters.

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