During a time when many other virtual worlds are closing (e.g. Vivaty, There.com), Linden Lab's Second Life enjoyed a record month last March as user-to-user transactions reached $57 million -- and transactions for the quarter hit $160 million, a 30 percent year-over-year jump.
Second Life's emphasis on virtual goods has kept its virtual economy growing, as evidenced in 2009 when user-to-user transactions increased 65 percent over 2008's total to $567 million, despite the falling popularity of virtual worlds and the real-world recession. Increased user-to-user transactions benefit Linden Lab, as the company takes a cut from the sale of virtual land, premium subscriptions, and the world's virtual currency Linden dollars.
San Francisco-based Linden Lab says the population of the nearly seven-year-old virtual world is growing, too; Second Life hit its monthly unique user peak in March at 826,000 users, up 13 percent compared to the same period in the previous year, according to an interview
with the company's CEO Mark Kingdon conducted by VentureBeat.
Kingdon partly attributes Second Life's success to the virtual world's ability to cater to creative users who have fun customizing avatars, digital goods, and even homes, then selling them. Members produce some 250,000 virtual objects a day and upload them for sale in the world.
Second Life has also been able to attract new users through search engine advertisements, affiliate marketing deals, and continued updates (e.g. user interface improvements, a new viewer designed to make it easier for players to navigate the 3D world). Several months ago, Linden Lab also ran a promotion in which it offered virtual homes to new users.
The company notes that half of its customers are active on Facebook, which it says is a sign that Second Life is complementary to other social media. It's currently trying to develop ways to connect the virtual world to the social web so that content in Second Life can appear in more places.
Said Kingdon, "Our strategy is to bring more of Second Life out to the Web. The distinctions between Second Life and the Web will blur more and more."