Second Life Among Technology Fails?

Over at The Register, they have a post up about Ten Technology Fails.

Those sorts of articles are always good fun.  They get to poke at some obvious targets, like Microsoft BOB.

Forever a punchline…

Enough fun cannot be made of that.

There are some others I am very familiar with, such as push technologies like PointCast.  I had friends who went to work for them, and my own company worked on a hardware device that let you use push services via a pager service. (Remember getting headlines on your pager? Yeah, me neither.)

Named “News Catcher,” it was eventually dubbed “Dust Catcher” because 99% of the units produced ended up collecting dust in a warehouse somewhere.  They may very well still be there today.

News Catcher

That was just recent enough in internet years for Google to find a picture of it for me, though it is a .gif image.  Makes me want to write a post about Baudman next.

Anyway, good stuff that.

Then there are some entries that might be considered controversial.  Did PDAs, for example, fail to meet the vision set out for them, or has all of that just been slurped up into smart phones?

And then on page four of the article, Second Life makes a showing.

Certainly, Second Life has provided its fair share of… entertainment… to people outside of the game.  Scott Jennings has a deep set of posts on the subject, complete with lively comment threads, which attracted some attention.  They are worth reading if the subject interests you. (As are these, since why not have TWO categories for Second Life posts.)

Likewise, Second Life certainly never lived up to the Snow Crash-like metaverse vision of the future.  Companies like Reuters who bought virtual space and embedded offices in that world have mostly packed up and gone home by now.  The visions of a virtual future where people can meet, work, make a living, or even get rich have faded somewhat.

And there has certainly been no shortage of criticism of Second Life itself, spawning a page on Wikipedia devoted to just that.

But has it really been a failure?

The article itself says that items on the list  represent “Tech that might have revolutionised your life but you have now completely forgotten.”

I have spent very little time in Second Life.  It did not really interest me, being too much social sandbox to my view.  But I certainly remember it.

But did it fail?  Has it been effectively forgotten?

And did The MMO Report stop doing their “WTF!?! Second Life” segment before they faded as well?

16 thoughts on “Second Life Among Technology Fails?

  1. bhagpuss

    I’ve never played Second Life but I read about it regularly because Kaozz at ECTmmo posts about it quite often. From that alone I get the impression it’s toddling along quite nicely. It certainly doesn’t get in the mainstream news the way it used to, but that’s hardly a marker of failure.


  2. dsdj

    PDA’s are a perfect example of an excellent idea that simply gets out paced by the speed of technology. The tech advance into cell/wifi networks and the increased performance in cellular phone processing chips simply made every PDA obsolete the moment smart phones came out.

    You can’t really say they failed since the actual idea and in some cases the implementation are now solidly in place in smart phones — but that doesn’t say that the guy that invested his money in a PDA company making them was a success.

    The interesting thing is that you can clearly see in the ipad/iphone duo and the touch tablet/android duo that the cell / entertainment / productivity device boundaries are on the verge of extinction. There is essentially no barrier at this point to a merging all of the tech to a single device with the only distinctions being your preferred method of ergonomic use.

    I suspect that we will probably see another article in a couple of years pointing to failed technology that really isn’t — it will be ideas that simply can’t be realized profitably in the short time someone has before the world of tech simply absorbs them into the borg.

    This article simply seems to be a listed of unprofitable ventures — all of which utilized basic ideas that are currently very successful in ways not necessarily predictable at the time.


  3. HarbingerZero

    I don’t know anything about MS Bob other than what was on the Wiki page you just linked to, but to my laypersons eyes and that brief reading, I can’t help but conclude that:

    MS Windows 8 = MS Bob 2.0



  4. Aufero

    Not so sure about the Win8/MS-BOB comparison – MS-BOB was a product expressly aimed (and marketed) at the ignorant and incompetent. It’s even responsible for the creation of Comic Sans.

    I may not like what I’ve seen of Win8 so far, but it doesn’t quite sink to that level.


  5. NoAstronomer

    I was never surprised that Second Life didn’t really take off, because it was effectively trying to be something that already existed – the Internet. A virtual space where people meet, look at virtual stores and play games.

    And it wasn’t as good at those things as the various sites that now fill those roles.

    How come Segway didn’t make the list?


  6. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @HZ – You are not the first to make this comparison around me. The upside of Win 8 is that I understand you can still dig into the settings, dispose of the fluff, and make the UI look like Windows NT 4.0, circa 1997.

    @dsdj – I have a friend at Palm who tells wonderful stories about otherworldly stupidity around PDAs and phones. He left Palm for HP to escape that, and then HP bought Palm and put him back in his old group. I understand that the stupidity remains, only multiplied by layers of HP, which actually acts as some sort of stupidity lens if I understand the theory of general HP relativity (so much stupidity), but that the pay is decent. We all have to pay the mortgage every month.

    @NoAstro – Second Life was trying to be the internet? But then it would have to be all porn and vanity and half-assed money making ventures… um… never mind.

    Segway? I suppose they forgot about them. Besides, 11 years later they finally made it to their first year’s sales goals. #Winning


  7. Reuben Helms

    Strangely enough, Second Life is still going. My father-in-law frequents it.
    Now I know the thoughts going on behind those glazed eyes when someone would unwittingly ask me about WoW.


  8. Mekhios

    Does anyone remember Entropia Universe? I spent a little bit of time in it. Seemed like a more polished version of Second Life with a better graphics engine. I vaguely remember it had combat, mining, player housing but the big caveat was you had to spend lots of real world cash to actually achieve anything substantial.


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  10. NoAstronomer

    @Wilhelm Since I had this perception of TAGN being a family blog I wsn’t going to mention the porn, but … yeah.


  11. Wilhelm Arcturus Post author

    @NoAstro – Well, I am certainly not going to post porn here, but I think we have to be straight up honest about things. I know it when I’ve seen it, and I certainly saw some in SL.


  12. Mbp

    With the failure of Second Life to deliver on its initial promise and the ever increasing trivialisation of mmorpgs it feels like we are further away than ever from a full virtual alternative to the physical world.

    There is enough of a 1980s nerd in me to still hanker after a real virtual world. It was going to be the answer to everything. We could all live in in depressing grey urban landscapes but still enjoy limitless possibilities in virtual space.


  13. wraith808

    I actually have friends that make a living in Second Life even today. So it’s not quite the total flop that the article makes it out to be- it just didn’t reach its lofty goals. (The same with the segway- it was overhyped and thus could never have lived up to it)


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