The numbers are trending back down for the number of private regions in Second Life. I cannot speculate about the temporary rebound we were seeing for a few weeks, but soon SL's region count will be lower than its ebb in February 2014.
Let's assume, for a moment, that the venture with OnLive's SL Go client, the coming of the Savior called Occulus Rift (praised be His Holy Name), other improvements by Linden Lab, and other efforts by the newly hired CEO do not stem the ebbing tide. What then?
I agree with a remark made at New World Notes by CronoCloud Creeggan:
Nothing wrong with being a niche. We live in a finite world, the myth that growth is infinite and can continue forever and that triple digit yearly growth is required for 'success' has got to go. There's nothing wrong with finding a niche market and making steady money off of it, year in and out.Other than the limited-population OpenSim Grids or walled gardens like InWorldz and Avination, who DOES what Second Life does? Activeworlds? PC Only. IMVU? Just a chat room with avatars. Cloud Party? Gone. High Fidelity? Still mostly a gleam in Philip Rosedale's eye. Unity 3D? Beyond the scope of most faculty and hobbyist developers.
Garry's Mod? Exactly how much technical knowledge does one need to run that thing?
Let me know what else does what SL does: a sandbox for user-generated content that purports to be a metaverse. I'm waiting.
That's the brilliance of finding a niche. If only Linden Lab would exploit that. Others do.
In renovating a house currently, I found myself completely unwilling to undertake needed work in the crawl space. I have done such work before personally, raking out ruts, putting in a vapor barrier, sealing around wires and pipes, installing subfloor insulation. Most HVAC and plumbing companies--mainstream all--would not touch my latest crawl space for a price I can afford.
Enter a local firm called CrawlSpace Ace, whose owner told me that they found a profitable niche, dirty work to be sure, and cornered the market. They do not want for business. Read this thread for contractors to see why, but read it during the daylight hours. You won't sleep well otherwise.
So what would Linden Lab have to do to think like a crawl-space contractor? The improvements listed early in this post would help. Then they must retain the loyalists. Eventually, they have to lower tier.
All that has been said. Yet if a crawl-space contractor can make a go of it, an IT firm in The Bay Area certainly can. We are still waiting.