Yeah, the media's honeymoon with Second Life is clearly over. Time mag has listed it among five worst sites to avoid: "We're sure that somebody out there is enjoying Second Life, but why? You interact in the space through an avatar, but creating and personalizing this animated representation of yourself is tedious. Movements feel clunky and there can be a terrible lag."
Compare this with:
Time, November 18, 2002: "... a startlingly lifelike 3-D virtual world now evolving on the Internet."
Time, June 30, 2003: "Second Life is a 3-D online world where you can do whatever you want, build whatever you want and be whoever you want."
In April 2007, the magazine featured Philip Rosedale in its Builders & Titans section and in the Time 100 list.
This shift is pervasive. Forbes on July 2: "It turns out that avatars seem more interested in having sex and hatching pranks than spending time warming up to real-world brands." Last December: "It is easier to describe Second Life’s growth: Very fast." LA Times last week: "Four years after Second Life debuted, some marketers are second-guessing the money and time they've put into it."
You can tell things don't look bright when even Business Week, which had famously put a Second Life resident on its cover, is writing a year later, "After all, the Web-based parallel universe is a messy marketplace where you're as likely to see a bare-chested, rabbit-headed avatar trolling for adult-themed entertainment or vandalizing a digital store as a corporate suit leading a training session."
By the way, LA Times writes that American Apparel has closed its Second Life outlet that had opened almost exactly a year ago.
Credit: LA Times, July 11, 2007. American Apparel store boarded up.
American Apparel store before its official launch, June 2006. More details at this archived post.
Is it over for Second Life then? Probably not, since the core user base is much more stable than at, say, MySpace. These people might switch to a world that has a richer and a better implemented feature set, but there aren't clear alternatives yet. As for the advertisers still eying Second Life for their campaigns, the somber media mood is a mixed blessing. It will be much harder to convince clients to invest in the world now that the hype is over, but on the other hand there's plenty of accumulated collective experience to learn from, and the field will probably get less crowded very soon, too.
Update [July 18 ' 07] Ha, funny. I just ran into a banner on Techcrunch for Second Life's PR agency, Lewis PR.