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When is an online fad over?

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The Internet thrives on fads that burn hot, then burn out. We've all moved past dancing hamsters, pirates battling ninjas, lonelygirl15, and rickrolling. This year, many assumed we'd seen the end of Second Life. But the lights are still glowing.

In September, Reuters quietly shuttered its virtual bureau in the online world. (No one seemed to realize until a few days ago.) The wire-news service had embedded reporters to cover Second Life since 2006. Now, Reuters joins the growing consensus that staffing an online office isn't worth the effort. They marked yet another evacuation from pixelland. American Apparel and Mercedes-Benz have closed up virtual shop. Sun Microsystems and Starwood have severely pulled back.

Each defecting company seems to take a piece of Second Life's legitimacy with it.

So, is Second Life dying? "No," says Eric Krangel, one of Reuters's Second Life reporters. He argues that Second Life is far from gone – it just looks smaller because most people have sped past it, rolling toward the next fad. But there's still a strong base of fans. More than a million "citizens" signed into Second Life in the past month, according to Linden Lab, the company that runs the online world.


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