In recent news, Linden Lab has announced that they will no longer provide their customary annual or quarterly economic reports. Blogger Tateru Nino reports that Peter Gray, a spokesperson for Linden Lab, has stated that, “We don’t plan to publish a Q4 2011 economic summary. We are discontinuing regular reporting of aggregate economy-level data, because landowners and merchants have told us that the information is of limited value to them. Moving forward, we will instead focus on improved reporting tools that help individuals better manage their businesses in SL.”
Since their inception, the quarterly reports have been gradually limited, with certain statistics and measures eliminated over time. However, even after a number of revisions that have reduced the available economic data, not releasing economic reports at all still removed a fair amount of information from circulation. Recent reports, for instance, included general information such as daily completed registrations, average monthly users, user hours, and world size. On the economic side, they also offered details around average monthly economic participants, average exchange rate, Linden supply, Lindex volume, and web merchandise sale volume. These reports were analysed on well-known and well-read blogs such as Dwell On It, Gwyn’s Home, New World Notes, and The Alphaville Herald. They were also recoded in databases like the Economic Metrics Repository to ensure easy accessibility and analysis. In short, they were widely read and used by everyone from Second Life business owners through to interested residents.
The complete eradication of these reports has some Second Life insiders worried. New World Notes has termed the revelation a “bad sign” and speculated that Second Life’s health may not be as robust as Linden Lab would like residents to believe. Similarly, Tateru Nino notes that Linden Lab has removed figures for metrics that appeared to be in decline. Given that Linden Lab has been largely silent apart from announcing the end of their reports, the reasons for this change and what it could indicate regarding the future of Second Life are still very much up in the air. While a recent interview with Linden Lab CEO Rod Humble suggests a more positive picture – one that is focused on improving the world and expanding Linden Lab’s offerings into new areas – many residents are skeptical, especially given the loss of economic measures with which to conduct their own analysis of the state of the virtual world.