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Joe Miller of Linden Lab Speaks at the Catalyst Conference

I’m at the Burton Group’s Catalyst Conference today, getting ready to deliver a 25-minute Amazon Web Services presentation.

Earlier today, Joe Miller of Linden Lab provided this very enterprisey audience with an introduction and overview of Second Life.

Joe covered the basics of Second Life, focusing on its utility as a platform for communication, community, and collaboration. He also provided some informative statistics on the state of the Second Life world, some of which I’ve heard or seen before, and others of which are new. Here’s what he told us:

  • They now operate 12,000 servers.
  • There are 12,500 profitable businesses.
  • Transactions are now running at a rate of $50,000,000 per month.
  • 800,000 items are sold every month (Joe said that this was the equivalent of 17 Wal-Marts).
  • 8,000,000 new assets are created per day (100 per second).
  • The asset server now holds 55 Terabytes of data.
  • There are about 500 events every day.
  • User hours are now at 350,000 per day and growing at 20% per month.
  • Aggregate bandwidth usage is 12 Gigabits per second.
  • 40% of the users are in North America, and another 40% are in Europe.
  • 5000 IBM employees are in-world.

One interesting thing is that Joe referred to the Second Life client as a browser rather than as a client. Second Life was the topic of discussion at my lunch table and it turns out that this relatively small change in nomenclature helped a lot of people to understand the architecture of Second Life. I also handed out some of my “Jeffronius Batra” business cards.

Joe also provided a few tantalyzing details about the promised “grid of grids” — the ability for entities other than Linden Lab to host a sim (the active code behind a particular parcel of land in Second Life). He noted that this architecture has been under development for quite a long time (this must be part of the Día de la Liberación project.

Update: Yoz Linden informed me via Twitter that grid of grids isn’t the same at the Liberación project.

From what he said, it sounds like Linden will continue to host the presence, search, and currency/payment services (or at least the default, global instances). As part of this effort they are apparently paying attention to emerging standards for cross-world portabilty of avatars.

He said that more details would be forthcoming (including white papers) in the next 90 days. I can hardly wait.

Of course, it would be very cool to host some sims on Amazon EC2, opening the door to such exciting possibilities as an on-demand world. This would open the door to large conferences, events, and so forth — all of which can attract many people but for a relatively short amount of time. I’m planning to meet with Joe at the end of the summer to see how I can make sure that this happens.

One of the first audience questions had to do with the steep learning curve and the less than stellar quality of the Second Life browser user interface. Joe agreed and called it “atrocious.” He did mention that the open source community is stepping in and making some progress in this area. In fact, there’s a very timely post on the Second Life blog on this very subject today. There’s also a private build (the so-called “Nicholaz Edition”) of the browser and an accompanying blog.