second life 2Virtual worlds no longer shine as they once did, but Linden Lab, the owner of the Second Life 3-D online virtual world, says that its virtual economy has never been bigger.

The company said today that the total size of the Second Life economy grew 65 percent in 2009 to $567 million. By the company’s own estimate, that amounts to about 25 percent of the entire U.S. virtual goods market.

Residents of Second Life cashed out $55 million in real money last year, up 11 percent from 2008.  The top 25 residents of Second Life collectively earned $12 million. In U.S. dollars, the total value of all Linden dollars traded on the LindeX currency excahnge in 2009 reached $114 million, up 69 percent over 2008.

Meanwhile, monthly repeat visitors reached $769,000, an all-tie high and up 15 from December 2008. In other news, Second Life announced a new chief financial officer, Bob Komin. Sales of user-generated virtual items on Second Life’s Xstreeet SL reached 1.6 billion Linden dollars, or $6.1 million.

second lifeTotal resident-owned land in Second Life reached 1.85 billion square meters in December, up 27 percent. Users hours were 113 million in the fourth quarter of 2009, down 1 percent from the third quarter. Overall, residents used 3.1  billion voice minutes on Second Life in the fourth quarter of 2009, up 15 percent from a year earlier. At any given time, more than 60 percent of Second Life users are using voice chat.

Be sure to check out our latest announcements on GamesBeat@GDC, our video game conference taking place March 10 in San Francisco.