Second Life, created by San Francisco-based Linden Lab, is both easy and difficult to explain: Science fiction fans will recognize it as an attempt to create the visions of cyberspace described in novels by authors like William Gibson and Neal Stephenson. Another explanation: Its a video game, like World of Warcraft or Grand Theft Auto, that lets players wander around doing whatever theyd like. Except its not a game–theres no goal to accomplish and no one to beat.
It is easier to describe Second Lifes growth: Very fast. Second Life went live in June 2003. Last December, it had 92,000 users, and about 4,200 typically played at one time. Now the site has topped a million unique customers and on Sunday crossed the threshold of 18,000 users at a single time. Half are from outside the U.S.; almost 44% are women.