avatar_grinLinden Lab announced today that the users of its Second Life virtual world have spent more than 1 billion hours — or, if you prefer, 115 years —  inside the world. 

The San Francisco-based company tossed out some very interesting numbers today that suggest interest in the virtual world is gathering steam. The company said that users hours grew in the second quarter to 126 million hours, up 33 percent from a year ago. Second Life’s “residents,” as the users are called, spent more than 100 minutes in the world on an average visit. This average session time is significantly more than the engagement in popular social networking sites.

The virtual economy is healthy too. About $1 billion in real money has been transacted between residents. The inworld economy — typified by things such as the sale of virtual clothing for characters to wear — grew 94 percent year-over-year in the second quarter. Nearly $50 million now changes hands each month. The annual run rate is now more than $500 million, making Second Life the largest virtual economy.

Residents create more than 250,000 new virtual goods every day – from clothing to vehicles to buildings to automatic language translators and more. There are now more than 270 terabytes of content in Second Life, a number that is growing 100 percent a year.

More than 18 billion minutes of voice chathave been used in Second Life since voice was introduced in 2007. Voice minutes grew 44 percent in the second quarter, year over year. More than6 billion minutes of voice have been delivered in 2009 alone, making Linden Lab a major voice-over-Internet-protocol provider.

About  1,250 text-based messages are sent every second in Second Life. More than 600 million words are typed on an average day. Roughly 60 percent of active Second Life Residents based outside of the U.S., representing more than 200 countries. The Second Life viewr is available in 10 languages.

You can buy your own virtual land in the game. That’s one of the primary revenue sources for Linden Lab. The total land area of Second Life is now equivalent to approximately two billion square meters– roughly the size of the state of Rhode Island. Land in Second Life has grown roughly 18 percent  from the first quarter of 2009 and approximately 75 percent since the first quarter of 2008. In other words, Twitter and Facebook may grab all of the headlines these days. But one of the most interesting social networks out there is Second Life.