Do you remember Second Life? Set up by developer Linden Lab in 2003, it was the faithful replication of our modern world where whoring, drinking, and fighting were acceptable. It was the place where big brands moved in as neighbors and hawked you their wares online. For many, it was the future — our lives were going to be lived online, as avatars represented us in nightclubs, bedrooms, and banks made of pixels and code.

In the mid-2000s, every self-respecting media outlet sent reporters to the Second Life world to cover the parallel-universe beat. The BBC, (now Bloomberg) Businessweek, and NBC Nightly News all devoted time and coverage to the phenomenon. Amazon, American Apparel, and Disney set up shop in Second Life, aiming to capitalize on the momentum it was building — and to play to the in-world consumer base, which at one point in 2006 boasted a GDP of $64 million.

Of course, stratospheric growth doesn’t continue forever, and when the universe’s expansion slowed and the novelty of people living parallel lives wore off, the media moved on. So did businesses — but not users. Linden Lab doesn’t share historical user figures, but it says the population of Second Life has been relatively stable for a number of years.

You might not have heard a peep about it since the halcyon days of 2006, but that doesn’t mean Second Life has gone away. Far from it: this past June it celebrated its 10th birthday, and it is still a strong community. A million active users still log on and inhabit the world every month, and 13,000 newbies drop into the community every day to see what Second Life is about. I was one of them, and I found out that just because Second Life is no longer under the glare of the media’s spotlight, it doesn’t mean the culture inside the petri dish isn’t still growing.