Second Life’s greatest asset, and how it was squandered

Posted on June 13th, 2010 — permalink

Before I start, I should note that I haven’t worked for Linden Lab for more than a year now, so I’m not giving away any inside information, nor do I have any inside information. Yes, my opinions are formed partially by what I learned while I was inside Linden, but I’m writing this based on my observation as an interested outsider.

I think often the way to kill a business is to over-monetize it. I remember the 1990’s, and Web search engines. The pattern was repeated over and over again. There’d be one that was the best. They’d realize they were the best, and they’d either get sold or they’d try to monetize their business. The page would go from being relatively clean, to being a cluttered mess of ads… and the search results, being increasingly paid, would become less and less useful. So we’d all move on to another engine. That ended with Google, who had the vision not to try too soon to over-monetize their search, and who recognized when they did monetize it that they had to do it in a way that didn’t completely undermine what brought people there in the first place. If you’re doing something new and cool, you’re better off focusing on how to make it cooler than you are focusing on how to squeeze a buck out of it.

How does this apply to Linden? Many think that Linden’s best asset is their technology. It’s not. Don’t get me wrong, the technology is good; but it can be replicated. Server side, OpenSim is already well on its way to replicating (and in some ways exceeding) the server side technology of Second Life. Client side, the Second Life client is still way ahead of anything out there that’s not based on the GPL Second Life client source, but that won’t last forever; after all, there are lots of MMO clients out there, so it can be done! No, Linden’s greatest asset is its audience.

I know Philip got this. Talking to the company while I was still there (a year before I left? I don’t remember) about OpenSim and competition in general, he said that OpenSim and interoperability would only be positive for Second Life. After all, Second Life had the greatest number of residents. Even if that didn’t stay, a growing interest in and a growing usefulness of virtual worlds would only help Second Life. Alas, the company as a whole didn’t realize this. What they should have been focusing on was promoting virtual worlds. Instead, they… well, to be honest, I’m not really sure what they were focusing on, but they didn’t direct substantial effort towards promoting virtual worlds in general. And that was the mistake that, I believe, led to the massive June 9 layoffs, or what I call “Lindenmageddon”.

In 2008, a team of engineers from Second Life working together with a team from OpenSim premiered a bold and exciting experiment. From the beta grid (Aditi), users were able to take their Second Life accounts and teleport to regions running the OpenSim server. The functionality was extremely basic, but it was a concept demonstration. This was the first step to interoperability. I was only peripherally involved in this myself. As a member of the server release team (perhaps server release manager by then?), I helped the engineers working on this get some regions set up, and would warn Whump whenever we were going to do things to aditi that might interupt his operations. (I also annoyed Whump a few times when doing things on the beta grid without giving him enough warning….) But, when the experiments were happening, I joined in with other Lindens and residents to see what all the fuss was. I felt like I was walking on the moon. I remember commenting to others that we were exploring grand new worlds, taking the first (and very limited) step in what was going to be a gigantic new thing. People outside the lab were talking about the possibility of true interoperability in the main grid (the production Second Life environment) during 2009. It was all very exciting. Second Life was bursting out of its shell, and was finally providing the seed for the true global metaverse that it had always promised that it could turn into.

Alas, after that, the interoperability work coming out of Linden Lab slowed to a trickle. It didn’t stop, but outside nobody else saw anything new. Many of the engineers working on it were redirected to work on the (now defunct) “Second Life Enterprise” product. (I always personally thought that was a dead-end, but I was careful who I said that too. I was annoyed that some release people we needed for other things had time taken away working on it, and I was sad that the manager whom I loved, Josh Linden, got pulled over to it. But I was also sad to see the company working on the 3D version of Novell Networks instead of the 3D version of the Internet.) Yes, Linden still did things; Enus, at least, was working on the PyOGP stack, and Zero and Infinity were involved in standards meeting and developing the WVRAP protocol. (Incidentally, Infinity left Linden Lab a month ago, and Zero was part of the June 9 Lindenmageddon layoffs.) But there was no big effort. Out of this lack of more public progress from Linden was born Hypergrid, Crista Lopes’ working interoperability protocol between separate OpenSim grids. Hypergrid still has some things it’s lacking, but it got much farther than any implementation out of Linden.

And now concurrency (number of people online at one time) in Second Life has been sagging, and the lack of growth has caused financial distress for the lab. (I don’t have inside figures, but Tateru Nino figured out at least this much from looking at the public figures.) Yes, it’s a recession. But Linden made the mistake of having people in control who were business types, who think in terms of consumers and monetization. They didn’t get Second Life. (Truthfully, nobody does, and the first step to understanding virtual worlds is recognizing that you don’t get it. It’s a tremendously flexible potential platform. Like the Web, if you try to put it in a conceptual silo and productize it, you’re going to be making something like early 1990’s walled-garden AOL, which will fail in the face of the true Web.)

I work with MICA, the Meta-Institute of Computational Astronomy. We maintain a presence in Second Life, even though really we’d rather be working on open source servers that we control ourselves– i.e. OpenSim. There are two main reasons why we stay with Second Life. The first is that OpenSim doesn’t yet have a good Voice solution… but that will change. The second is that Second Life is where everybody is. The popular talks that I and some others give wouldn’t make sense anywhere else, because the audience isn’t there. And this is what Second Life’s greatest asset is.

If Linden Lab had focused on helping make virtual worlds take off– make them more useful by providing functionality people wanted and needed, working on interoperability so that people could take their Second Life accounts to and from software that was developed not only by Linden engineers, but by everybody– I predict they would have done a whole lot better. Their already existing audience would have given them a leg up, and would have kept them a leader or at least a major player. Yes, they would have been helping “competitors”, but by raising the profile, utility, and popularity of virtual worlds in general, they would have helped themselves.

I predict that the decline of Linden will set back the adoption of virtual worlds several years. And that may not be so bad. After all, before the Web, there was Gopher, which was never all that big. Before that, there was CompuServe, a walled garden that a lot of people used, but which became increasingly irrelevant as there was the Web. Second Life had the opportunity to be the seed for the 3D web, but instead they chose to focus on being the 3D CompuServe. As we go into the future, OpenSim, or another platform that defines its protocols, provides a working reference implementation, and supports true interoperability will form the basis of the true global metaverse. And, once we have that, and once people are able to develop cool things to run on top of it as flexibly as possible (i.e. not limited to just LSL and renting space on Linden’s servers), we’ll see the metaverse take off. As to whether or not Second Life is part of that, we can only wait and watch. It will take more vision than trying to somehow connect to current hot buzzwords (”social media”) if they really want to be a part of this. And even if they are, they may not be a meaningful part. (After all, AOL is still a part of the Internet, is it not? But with the possible exception of the AIM protocol, they aren’t a meaningful part.)

32 Responses to “Second Life’s greatest asset, and how it was squandered”

  1. Maggie Darwin (@MaggieL) Says:

    Hi Prospero, glad you are doing well.

    Apropos of your mention of an open-source virtual world with good audio support, allow me to direct your attention to OpenWonderland (OWL) OWL is a 100% open-source Java toolkit for building collaborative virtual worlds, with considerable uptake in the education, simulation, research and collaborative work arenas.

    Here’s audio of a great interview at TWiT Randall Schwartz (@merlyn, of PERL Camel/Llama book fame) talks with Nicole Yankelovich (Executive Director of the OWL foundation) about the project, its history, capabilities and future.

  2. Latif Khalifa Says:

    Very thoughtful analysis and I couldn’t agree more. Still hoping LL management realizes their mistakes and start moving the company in the right direction.

  3. Meadhbh Hamrick Says:

    nothing else to say other than “+1 prospero.”

  4. rknop Says:

    Maggie– I’ll have to take a look at that. I remember hearing Nicole talk to “ReLaM” (a KIRA/MICA thing) back when I was still at LL. I wanted to ask her for a job :) . Wonderland sounded very attractive then, but I figured it would be relegated to the dustbin of history after Sun-cum-Oracle jettisoned it. I’ll have to check it out and see what’s going on with it.

  5. V Says:

    Thank you for writing what I always wanted to write. We’re heading for exciting times, and I’m not sure if OpenSim can fill the gap faster than SL is tearing it open. I wish they can. Maybe now, if a few of the Ex-Lindens will help them, they can.

  6. Ordinal Malaprop Says:

    It is odd. The impression that I got from when I was invited to San Francisco some years ago now was that certain things were appreciated: that SL could not expect to have a monopoly on VW systems indefinitely, and that the best thing was to establish a common protocol now, to make sure that LL was in the position to be a “first amongst equals” hosting and solutions provider in the future. (This was just before the client was open-sourced, and there was very serious talk about how the server code would be open-sourced as well.) This seemed very sensible to me and I left the discussions thinking that LL had a good understanding of the future and was prepared to take the daring decisions to open the platform.

    Since then I have seen the potential of OS client development pretty much wasted, and a greater move towards a closed system with LL as an internal *content* provider – and that is before M, too.

  7. Hypatia Callisto Says:

    thanks for the viewpoint (it was enlightening) but I have a little quibble about Compuserve as an example, and some VW trivia.

    “Before that, there was CompuServe, a walled garden that a lot of people used, but which became increasingly irrelevant as there was the Web.”

    Compuserve had a virtual world. It was Worldsaway, and it had a project called VisCIS, which was a VRML interface for Compuserve, by the guy who ran the Cyberforum. VisCIS never really went anywhere, because the beancounters at Compuserve (and they were beancounters – HR Block!) decided they wanted to sell the service and stopped really developing the platform for the last years, before the sale to AOL.

    Compuserve had some really cool things about it, and people could still learn a thing or two from it and its once-thriving community forums. It wasn’t the bad place folks make it out to be, back in the heyday.

    Yeah, I date that far back. Worldsaway was the first virtual world I ever used. It was based on F. Randall Farmer and Chip Morningstar’s work for Lucasarts, Habitat, adapted to work on the Compuserve service. It was 2.5 d.

    WorldsAway still exists, bought out by the folks who run VZones. The enormous irony of mentioning Compuserve is that Fujitsu tried the exact same thing with the game technology that ran WorldsAway, to create an enterprise product. It also flopped. And after the flop, chaos ensued as Fujitsu prepared the company to become a with an IPO that immediately turned to junk. It was later sold and now belongs to a private company. Getting sold was ironically the best thing that could happen to it.

    That experience formed the bedrock to why I was always against the idea of “virtual office” and the corporate focus to the enterprise product in Second Life, to the exclusion of the general community. People really never learn from history, I think.

  8. Anon Says:

    Hey prospero nice blog post!,

    It was a sad day when you left. one of the key things i think the business has lost in its self is self commuication. By splitting up the company into “3rd parties” as one live chat agent called it, we are seeing the slow death of the grid. New faster grids such as OSGrid are starting to pick up users.
    Mark Kingdom will kill off second life with his marketing plans. He needs to focus on Community and making the community a core of the item insted of saying “we want to be a transparent company” you need to get involed insted of throwing your heads in the sand.

    Mark your killing this world, it may be old but it has alot of supporters, if you make them supporters angry they will move to other worlds and places.

    Oh and Mark, please no more Farmville copying, we dont want to copy other worlds we want to be unique and our own.

    Mark if you want people to be happy, make tiers lower and make sim ownership cheaper for all.

    To the rest of you at the lab, invest your time in developing tools to commuicate with each other, use the second life platform as your network too and dont hide!

    Thats my Advice


  9. rknop Says:

    Hyptatia — I didn’t mean to say that CompuServe was bad. I wasn’t on it, but everything I heard suggested it was very cool for its day. All I meant to say was that ultimately, a walled garden, no matter how cool, is not going to survive in the face of the whole world, when the whole world becomes available.

    There *was* no home access to the Internet back in the 80’s, and CompuServe may well have been the best online service at the time. But it wouldn’t have made sense to try to replicate CompuServe’s business model in 1994, with the Web coming on to the scene. That’s where I think we are now with virtual worlds. (Sadly, I think we’ve been in “1994 for the Web” for virtual worlds for several years now.)

  10. Diva Canto Says:

    I never got involved with OGP/MMOX/VWRAP, I preferred to do the Hypergrid away from that. The reason why I never got involved with the Linden’s efforts in interop was because it was very clear that Linden Lab was a dysfunctional company. It was never against the specific individuals who were working on it, like Marc and Meadhbh, whom I respect very much. But the fact that they were representing a dysfunctional company discouraged me from wasting my time on it.

    In a way, I’m glad that Linden Lab finally made this sharp left turn. I think it will be less dysfunctional from here on, even if it decided to take the myopic route.

    Now interop can follow its natural course… without Second Life, of course.

  11. Wayfinder Says:

    I have to agree with this post in general. One thing it doesn’t mention is the extremely customer-abusive and incompetent nature of the company which has served both to alienate and drive customers away from the Second Life platform. In truth, no exaggeration, this company has lost thousands of customers and literally millions of potential customers by simply conducting business poorly– in a selfish, inconsiderate manner. Abuse your customers… lose your customers.

    It has long been seen that a company that can’t get simple CHAT right doesn’t have much of a future in the industry. We see no name of the poster, no indication of which “Linden” this is (or maybe I just missed it)… but the post overall seems fairly accurate. I am sure there is a lot that goes on inside LL that none of us sees. What we do see is a platform that is degrading in performance with each passing year (despite LL propaganda to the contrary– we use it every single day. We know how it’s performing). We see company policies that are increasingly self-serving, abusive and profit-motivated. We see them offering less and less and charging more and more– and customers are growing tired of that.

    Now that we see other grids coming online that are slowly (but surely) starting to equal– and in some areas surpass– Second Life performance… it becomes quite predictable that Linden Lab’s days are numbered. There are so very many ways this company could fail: major Federal lawsuit bankrupting them… criminal charges for questionably illegal activities… total code failure (domino effect)… or simply people getting tired of the platform and moving on to other interests.

    I thing the poster’s comment about AOL is insightful. We have often likened Linden Lab to AOL or Compuserve on our Elf Clan blogs. As the writer states: AOL is still around. It’s still profitable. It’s also a wimp that lost out on its chance to be the #1 service provider in the world by trying to be a “walled garden” that people threw out due to its repeatedly abusive nature. Linden Lab appears to be following that same path… and management obviously is growing no wiser with age.

    So yes, SL’s greatest asset– its users– is indeed being squandered. Excellent observation. What is sad in this matter… is that we’ve been telling them this for years, only to have such observations ignored. As brought out, the company simply doesn’t seem to “get it”… and obviously does not learn from history.

  12. Wayfinder Says:

    (I need to remember to read other comments prior to posting. LOL)

    Okay, Prospero, thanks for standing up and speaking. It’s appreciated. Echoing another commenter: I too hope exiting employees will assist with the OpenSim project and give it a boost. I hope more will speak out as to what is going on with Linden Lab.

    I don’t thing any of us wants to see Second Life fail. Personally, I don’t care one bit about Linden Lab (they’ve never cared much about us)… but we have a lot invested in the SL platform, both in time, money and relationships. I would hate to see SL crash, but that seems to be a very real possibility at this point.

    Maybe as Prospero says, they’ll limp along and manage to stay online. If they do, that’s fine. But I think it more likely they will be a company that wishes they could get more business rather than a company leading the VR world. We all can foresee the day when $295 sims will be a laughing stock among a world of $75 (or even less) sims with double or triple the prim allowance.

    When the WWWeb started, domain names cost $125 each. Web space was a minimum of $75 a month. Now one can get web space for $4.95 a month (or even free if they allow banner advertising) and the domain name is thrown in free. This is a future Linden Lab is going to be forced to deal with. Whether they survive that future or not is anyone’s guess.

  13. Hypatia Callisto Says:

    another trivia:

    AOL never “got” community forums. (I worked there, I know lots about AOL, grin) It had the worst forum interface you could imagine, scratch, it was worse than you could imagine, and they liked it that way. As soon as they bought Compuserve, they set about killing its forums as well, which were still vibrant and popular up to the time it was bought – nothing was like Compuserve’s forums on the WWW at that time. Delphi sucked (does ANYONE use Delphi now??)

    Compuserve’s forums operated with real-time group chat, instant messaging in each individual forum (they were all separately operated, and most not operated by Compuserve but by third parties) and a forum interface together, on top of that they had upload libraries. You were visible in the chat when you were in the forum and the libraries, so you could chat to anyone you liked. It could support huge amounts of people concurrently in groups – it even had an auditorium and a question/answer interface so that you could take questions in a queue to be answered by the speakers.

    AOL pioneered instant messaging across an online service, but it never got “it” about groups + forums, and that’s something Second Life started to approach in a strangely Compuserve-like way, with its groups and group chat, even though it’s not as robust as Compuserve’s were. And just like Compuserve, they are popular in Second Life.

    We might have the Web, but people still want to congregate and socialise with each other in forums. VBulletin has a lot of features that are also quite reminiscent of the old Compuserve forum design, even realtime chat.

  14. ELQ Says:

    Very good post, insightful and dead on as far as I see. If Lindens reading this want to see what they SHOULD be focused on – their Community – they should log in to Inworldz and see what a difference it makes when the whole community is behind the founders.

  15. Maggie Darwin (@MaggieL) Says:

    Prospero: Despite just about everybody’s expectations, OpenWonderland is alive and well. We had our hands full for a while there pushing back against (reasonable but mistaken) FUD from pundits who assumed it was all over because Oracle had defunded the project.

    A lot of us who are involved simply feel it’s too valuable to let die.

    And I personally think it’s much better investing in open tech that’s not rigidly controlled by a corp. It seems to me that Linden Research only opened their viewer because it was being reverse engineered anyway and thought they’d get a modicum of control of the codebase and free QA labor as a result.

    We all know how *that* turned out.

  16. Hypatia Callisto Says:

    “There *was* no home access to the Internet back in the 80’s, and CompuServe may well have been the best online service at the time. But it wouldn’t have made sense to try to replicate CompuServe’s business model in 1994, with the Web coming on to the scene. That’s where I think we are now with virtual worlds. (Sadly, I think we’ve been in “1994 for the Web” for virtual worlds for several years now.)”

    There was no WWW back in the 80s at all.

    Compuserve had its largest amount of users ever in 1995-1996, when people started to use it and AOL to access the WWW, as they were nationwide carriers. What killed Compuserve and AOL’s popularity was not the WWW, but broadband high speed access to the Internet.

    Sorry Rob, but you are wrong on the history :)

  17. rknop Says:

    Hypatia — well, OK. But I would also argue that the web was only minimally practical from home before there was widespread broadband access. Yeah, people used it, but it was kind of painful…. In any event, CompuServe didn’t survive the spread of the Internet into every household, which is the basic point I’m trying to make even if you want to quibble on the details.

    In the 80s, there was no WWW, but there was IRC (I think), there was Usenet, there were ftp sites…. The interfaces weren’t great, but those in college or otherwise with access had a lot of the basic functionality for that kind of collaboration through the Internet. But, nobody at home had it. (I’m not aware of any dial-up ISPs that existed before netcom, which would have been in the very early 1990s.)

    In 1994, even if it wasn’t there yet (i.e. not enough home broadband), anybody who could tell the way the wind was blowing knew that the Internet was going to be huge for the everyday user, and that services like Delphi, CompuServe, AOL, GEnie had numbered days if they didn’t try to get on to that bandwagon.

    Maggie — I honestly believe that Linden opened the viewer code for reasons Ordinal says in Comment #6. Remember that Cory was still there and still had a lot of influence. There really was a recognition that the way to make virtual worlds huge was to foster as much development of it as possible. Of course, that was far from unanimous within the company. I don’t know who was on what side, so don’t try to get me to speculate. (Well, OK, I can tell you who a few of the pro-open sourcers were! Like, say, Robla….) There was talk, once upon a time, of open sourcing the server, but there wasn’t much drive. And, ironically, after OpenSim started to be developed, the push to open source the server basically evaporated. What would have been accomplished by open sourcing the server happened *anyway*. The client was enough.

    I would not bet very much money that Linden keeps the client open source, though. I honestly have no idea which way it will go. What’s out there is out there, but they may decide to stop mucking about with open source in the future.

  18. rknop Says:

    (Also, I have to admit I may still be bearing a grudge against CompuServe from the 1990s because of their role in the whole Unisys GIF patent thing. Which was classic submarine patent abuse at the time, but something good did come out of it: the much superior PNG standard.)

  19. Ordinal Malaprop Says:

    rknop: from all I can see, the open-source viewer project is basically dead now. The existing viewer authors are just waiting for the point at which their viewers are either banned or become impossibly obsolete (with new features not being released as open).

    The Lab never really took advantage of OS development in any case; patches by non Lindens were basically never used, and even source code was provided spottily.

  20. Fleep Tuque Says:

    This is the best summary I’ve seen in a long while, you nailed it. This is the vision MANY of us thought the Lab had, and our dismay to discover otherwise in the last year or so has been a crushing disappointment.

    Every day I hear of another edu colleague starting an OpenSim pilot, and this is why. It appears LL has lost sight of the vision that brought us together in the first place.

    I hope to goodness someone reads this and understands it. Thanks for posting.

  21. Chestnut Rau Says:

    This post stands out from the noise and hits the nail on the head. Thank you for sharing your perspective with the rest of us.

    I remember the “WOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO” I heard when that first interop jump worked. I was quite literally in conversation with Zha Ewry when it happened. I remember the electric feeling that something big was just around the corner.

    Lately, I am just sad.

  22. Daniel Smith Says:

    My sense is that OpenSim is taking on the technical leadership, and as it matures, it will have a much larger installed base than SL. When I spent a few months working at LL in 2006, my sense was ‘no adult supervision’ — I didn’t get the feeling that there was a strong leader saying ‘we have to address Stability now’.

    I think what will happen is a) OpenSim will get a much better PR / Community Facing / “How to get started” effort. b) OpenSim and 3rd party viewers will be at the core of a thriving VR ecosystem. c) the nightmare language of LSL (what the hell where you thinking, Cory?) will fall by the wayside for new objects, and it will become increasingly easier to script complex actions inworld. OpenSim is the Apache of VR, and to a certain degree, it doesn’t matter so much what happens to LL. LL becomes less key with each passing day.

    p.s. @Hypatia Callisto — I worked at aol as well! ;)

  23. Love the Ending « cyberloom Says:

    [...] analyzing the implications of the recent layoffs in Second Life see: Gwyneth Llewelyn, Taturu Nino, Rob Knop, Grace McDunnough and [...]

  24. Marie Says:

    I was an AOL community volunteer for 2 1/2 years, running the website and forum portions of the RDIF roleplay community. AOL screwed up when they destroyed that thriving community in favor of pay-for-play games. They alienated a rather large section of users, who left the service to go elsewhere. I was one of them; the only reason I as still on AOL was because of the roleplay.

    SL is definitely not paying attention. First they cut hardware by shoving 8 sims to each machine, then call it a banner quarter. Now they’ve fired a significant portion of staff, which ultimately means that things won’t get fixed and we’ll be waiting all that much longer for trouble tickets to be answered.

    You hit the nail on the head. Mr. Kingdon is a wall street hack, he doesn’t understand virtual worlds and their needs. He understands the bottom line, and, with his Wall Street ethics, he could give a care about the users of the service as long as they continue to pay.

    Problem is, they won’t continue to pay for something which is fast degrading and way overpriced. Kingdon, you’ve gone and shot yourself in the foot.

  25. rknop Says:

    Along these lines:


    For the near term, however, Linden will not be explicitly funding production of specifications or implementations related to virtual world interoperability.

    So much for the future of SL….

  26. Stefan Andersson Says:


    thank you for a great piece. Funnily; it slots right in with the blogs Diva and I wrote about the LL change of directions, and what they would mean for the notion of the 3D web.

    I will update my blog with a link to this.

  27. In Light of Recent Events « Says:

    [...] Rob Knop wrote a great blog that fills in a bit more on why the LL change of direction is a change of direction away from the [...]

  28. fab Says:

    I’am sorry but the voice work well in OpenSim since couples of years now ( ex with freeswitch ) and it’s free . More and more integration , evolution was done in opensim world and with the HyperGrid is the furtur. i really enjoy how is possible to devellope a collaboratif project in opensim, unfortunaly is never the case in SL. Have a good day and see you soon in OpenSim World

  29. Maria Korolov Says:

    Great post, loved reading it.

    I think SL had two changes to get in front of the 3D web. First, with the interop/hypergrid connectivity. They could have become the portal to the 3D web then — the way that AOL is now a portal to the WWW.

    The second chance is with the Linden Dollar. The 3D Web was missing a hypergrid-enabled currency. PayPal was clumsy — and expensive. Several local grids had their own currencies, but they didn’t work with the hypergrid. SL could have been the PayPal of the 3D Web, the defacto payment standard, by releasing a secure Linden Payment module for OpenSim. Everybody know and trusts the Linden Dollar (well, by comparison with some of the other virtual currencies, at least).

    That chance is gone — the OMC is a multi-grid virtual currency from Virwox, a virtual currency exchange, that works with existing payment scripts, shows your balance in the viewer, and follows you around the hypergrid. It’s being used by 12 public grids already, and spreading fast.

    I think that SL has another chance to take the lead on the 3D Web — by creating a simple, stripped-down Web-based viewer that works with the hypergrid, and makes it easy for people to teleport all around the 3D Web. If the viewer is easy enough — say, allowing people to embed it in their websites, allowing folks to quickly and easily to access their OpenSim worlds — I think people will forgive the fact that it keeps wanting to take people back to the SL website (the way the YouTube embedded player takes you to the YouTube site at the slightest urging).

    If it doesn’t take advantage of that opportunity (and really, what are the odds that it will?), there will be the opportunity to take the lead on 3D Web search (to be the next Yahoo or Google) and to take the lead on 3D Web shopping (by opening up XStreet to OpenSim merchants).

    The windows of opportunity on these are closing quickly, of course. There’s a vacuum here, and folks are stepping forward to fill it. There are discussions underway about creating cross-grid shopping platforms, and several efforts to create multi-grid directories and search engines, including Diva’s MetaverseInk itself.

    And the race for the Web viewer, of course, has been on since last summer. (Xenki, where have you gone?) 3Di, Rezzable are both working on viewers, and who knows who else is about to jump into the game.

    – Maria

  30. Karen Palen Says:

    I see a parallel here with what happened in hardware with the venerable IBM-PC.

    Before there was an “IBM-PC” there were dozens of little producers straining for credibility. The IBM-PC fixed the credibility problem. The “clones” then started to come along and take the market until IBM managed to kill their own market in favor of “real computers” (mainframes)

    At that point the “IBM-PC” became just the “PC” and took off.

    Second Life has provided the credibility and appears to have vacated the market! Whether the “survive” or not, it is clear that they will no longer define and lead the 3D VR world.

    Nature abhors a vacuum and someone will fill the void, I only hope it is some version of OpenSimulator!

    @Hypatia (post 16) don’t forget Fido-Net! It was ALL dial up home users! Most of the BBS “systems” (e.g. the Well) ended up as WWW sites.

  31. » Big Trouble in Linden Lab? Learning Games Says:

    [...] of other reactions on the blogosphere though. I think the most interesting analysis came from ex-Linden Rob Knop: If Linden Lab had focused on helping make virtual worlds take off– make them more useful by [...]

  32. On Google, Second Life and blog collectives « DrugMonkey Says:

    [...] 25, 2010 Rob Knop has a series of observations up on Galactic Interactions that struck a chord with me. He’s talking about Linden Labs and [...]