Alternatives to Second Life

From Sl Wiki

Second Life is certainly the best-known of the so-called "Metaverses", however it is not the only one. Single-person 3D gaming environments have evolved into "Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games" (MMORGPs). And the use of these games has itself evolved from simple shoot-em-ups between Avatars and various game-generated beasties into sophisticated social environments, with their own internal economies.

Also in the last few years, parallel with the deveopment of Second Life, has come a number of other 3D social environments.

3D Social Environments

  • areae: At the moment this virtual world is still under development, but has already generated a lot of buzz among the technorati. According to their website, "Areae, Inc. was founded in July of 2006. We’re venture-backed now, and run by our President, Raph Koster and John Donham, veterans of the whole “massively multiplayer” scene. We’re working on some new tech that will literally change how virtual worlds are made. We’ve got a cool world or two incubating on the back burner... check back in a few months to see how far we’ve come."
  • Active Worlds seems to bear strong similarities to Second Life. It was founded in 1999 and shares most of the same concepts as SL. It does, however, have some differences worthy of remark. For example, it is possible to lease one or more private servers, separate from the Active Worlds grid, with full administrator rights.
  • Entropia Universe, from the Swedish company, Mindark is another 3D social environment, with Avatars, its own currency and the opportunity to buy, sell and build items. It has a Sci-Fi theme, unlike Second Life, which has no theme. It has grown out of Project Entropia, which in 2005 had a turnover of $160M. It has not proved possible to assess the population of Entropia, but in 2005 it was stated as over 500,000. It is an environment that is more likely to appeal to role players, but it has also made the press for the large amounts of real world money spent in auctions to buy virtual land. In the most recent, in December 2006, the newly-created Emerald Lakes Shopping Mall was sold for $74,601 USD. It is even possible to have an Entropia cashcard that allows withdrawals from over 1 million ATMs worldwide! It does not appear to have any noticeable business involvement.
  • There, from Makena Technologies of California, is a virtual world aimed at kids aged 13 and upwards, and applies a range of filter and controls to ensure that content and chat does not breach the US "PG-13" requirements.
  • Second Life Teen Grid is a separate implementation of the SL engine aimed at the teenage market. Details are somewhat sketchy on the website.

If you are looking for more information, try the Virtual Worlds Review. It includes list by category ("Kids", "Techies", "Artists", "MAC users" etc), yet curiously has not got a "business users" category. Nevertheless, this is probably the best one-stop-shop for all your virtual world needs.


As well as the dedicated virtual social environments listed above, the MMORPGs are also now being used as social tools. Those in lead in this include:

  • Everquest is probably the longest-running MMORPG, having launched in 1999. It is part of Sony Online Entertainment. As with any immersive 3D environment it has generated a social aspect, bringing people from deverse locations together. It has also generated its fair share of sociological analysis.
  • World of Warcraft, usually shortened to "WoW", is a fantasy role playing game that has been online since 2004, and now (Jan 07) has a user base greater than 8 million, with over 5 million having played in the last 30 days. The social aspects have taken some time to be realised, but as with any other virtual environment it allows people who are dispersed around the World to meet up and chat in a single virtual location, while achieving some of the benefits of the immersive virtual experience. It also support in-game photo snapshots, and even Machinima.
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