So, what about SL in 2013?

So, 2012 is done, reviews are written and the New Year has arrived. Now it must be time to stop looking back, and look a little ahead.

The Platform

The Lab has given some indication of what to expect for 2013. Some items of note, together with some of the things not mentioned, are:

  • We have the upcoming deployment of server-side avatar baking – which the Lab calls Project Sunshine – bringing with it the promise of no more avatar bake fail issues
  • We should see the roll-out of initial improvements to interest lists and object caching
  • Further work on platform performance and stability
  • We’ll also see the deployment of what is hoped will be the “first phase” of normal and specular maps which, over time, could revolutionise the physical look of in-world objects be they made from prims, sculpts or mesh – but not for avatar skins or system layer clothing

Doubtless more will be announced during the course of the year.

For the Company

  • LL’s new products, Dio and Versu will arrive
  • The company will continue to develop their ideas for “new virtual worlds”  – and will hopefully share more information with users
  • Patterns will progress towards a full release, currently scheduled for the end of the year, and will introduce several features requested by users
One of the options ("albums"?) within the Dio website
One of the options (“albums”?) within the Dio website
  • It would appear likely the Lab will announce further new products.

For the Community

  • 2013 marks SL’s “official” tenth anniversary, a such, and building on the success of SL9B, the community is doubtless going to come together with it own celebrations to mark SL10B whether or not LL try to involve themselves
  • Bay City also marks its 5th birthday and will be hosting a wide range of events and activities
  • RFL SL 2013 promises to continue a long and stunning tradition in which the community comes together to raise funds to help in the fight to eradicate cancer. The focal weekend for events will be the 13th / 14th July 2013
  • BURN2 will again return.

What Would be Nice to See

I’m not that into making predictions for a New Year (as the old joke goes, I’m a peripheral visionary – I see into the future, but only way off to one side…). Instead, there are some of the things I’d like to see in 2013:

  • The Lab finally make a concerted and persistent effort to use all the channels at their disposal to communicate with and inform their users
  • The public JIRA closure amended so that everyone can at least see JIRA items (comments don’t have to be re-opened)
  • Someone finally takes the Commerce Team firmly in hand and takes responsibility for:
      • Ensuring Marketplace issues are dealt with
      • Merchants are actually kept informed more fully on matters
      • Direct dialogue between the commerce team and merchants is resumed – such as through in-world user group meetings
  • my.secondlife.com is better leveraged, both as a communications platform by the Lab and, more particularly, to enable better and more in-depth communications and interaction between users, such as suggested by Estelle Pienaar
  • Rather than gearing the attractiveness of Premium accounts purely towards new users, LL seek to increase their appear for existing users. For example by:
      • Offering more flexible options (e.g. offer a larger stipend or a Linden Home stipend / free land tier; or offer a Linden Home or 1024 sq m land tier)
      • Allowing the tier allowance to be donated towards private estate holdings
  •  Linden Lab re-engaging with the community as a who in a concerted and constructive attempt to address the core issue of new user retention- which still remains a major issue where growth within the platform is concerned.

What Is Likely to Remain a Concern

This can most probably be summarised in for words: tier and declining revenue. While it is not the sole issue facing SL (see matters such as user retention, for example), this has dominated conversations about SL’s future, fuelled most recently by the news that around 12% percent of private estates have been lost to the grid in 2012. However, calls for tier cuts need to be tempered by the fact that, like it or not, they are not so easy for the Lab to make.

Certainly, given that the current decline is unlikely to reverse itself in the medium term, this is liable to be a subject we’ll be returning to during 2013, and it would be nice to see the Lab give some comment / assurances on the matter.

6 thoughts on “So, what about SL in 2013?

  1. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, i’ll say it again: i’d love to see more powerful build tools. And it’d be good if something like the old TUi building classes came back…

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  2. personally i am worrying if LLs investors will still be patience on their over 10 year old venture. This might be some in ‘What Is Likely to Remain a Concern’-category.
    Sorry for not giving a prospering-bright-view on this and i’ll stop myself from detailing this.

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    1. Any company relying solely on venture capital or private investment is prone to risk. However, despite all the concern with regards to SL tier, let’s not forget that LL as a whole is still in overall good health, so there is no reason for anyone on the board to jump ship as yet. In fact, the relative health of the company is demonstrated in that it could entice someone like will Wright to come aboard as late as 2011.

      It’s also doubtful that venturing into new product areas would have been greenlit – regardless as to the overall status of SL – had it not been possible to demonstrate to the board that there are reasonable opportunities to grow the company’s revenue in new areas in addition to maintaining SL as a viable commercial concern.

      That said, in terms of SL’s longer-term future, there are a couple of elephants in the room, something I’ve been examining in a post which will hopefully be appearing in the near future.

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  3. The story of the mesh deformer leaves me wondering if the Lindens can manage anyihing innovative that comes from outside, a feeling which is supported by the public row between Henri Beauchamp and Oz Linden. I’d like to see the normal maps, they’re a solid technology in CGI, but so are mesh deformers. Open source, as a development philosophy, is a two way street. The Lindens are willing to publish code, but they seem to be thinking more in the mode of the Divine Right of Lindens.
    I am not sure about a 64-bit viewer. I was reminded recently that 32-bit Windows can lose a huge chunk of memory addresses to the video card, so going 64-bit can be a good thing for any Windows user but can I trust the Lindens with access to more RAM, or is the result just going to be bloat? The one good thing might be a clean start to the code, but they’re going to have to do better than they did with Viewer 2. See “Divine Right of Lindens”.

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    1. The story of the mesh deformer is disappointing – particularly given many people were jumping up and down and waving their arms about it long before mesh was rolled out, but those in charge at the Lab decided to employ deaf ears and blind eyes on the matter.

      However, I’m going to put on my Devil’s advocate hat here a moment, because …

      The flip side of the story is that a good potyion of the delay around the tool’s appearance isn’t solely down to the Lab.

      • While the code was still very much in Qarl’s hands, he had to break off from the project on a number of occasions to deal with rl matters and so he could get on with other projects which pay his bills, and while these delays were understandable, they were nevertheless delays in getting the code to a point where he was satisfied he was “done” and ready to pass it over lock, stock and barrel.
      • Then there was the matter of the project being somewhat “extended” in terms of the original brief Qarl had when the whole debate about standard and custom avatar sizes entered into things and lead to elements of the deformer being re-worked / revisee / added to.
      • Further, leave us not forget that the project additionally got waylaid while Qarl was still working on the code when “alternatives” in the form of Redpoly Inventor’s idea showed up and many in the mesh clothing community evaulated that as a potential solution.

      All these have served to lead to the project becoming somewhat protracted.

      There have been other potentially mitigating circumstances for the Lab as well.

      • There has been a long-standing call for sample clothing required for testing that has been out there for around six months (and which Nalates Urriah and I have routinely blogged about) which has seen only a “few” items supplied.
      • Time has also been taken away from drafting test plans while viewer issues (such as the crash rate / memory leak problems which stalled viewer releases through September and October) were dealt with.

      So, the delay has been frustrating and upsetting – but it is fair to say that it is not 100% LL’s fault that things have been drawn out. Which is also, again in fairness, not to say that the deformer was ever anywhere close to the top of the list priorities-wise.

      If anything, the risk would now appear to be that more eyes at the Lab are looking at the deformer and other issues – weighting, etc., which could mean that further delays may arise or, to use your term, the Devine Right of Lindens does come into play, and something wholly different is delivered which is not exactly anticipated or which does the intended job. On the other hand, we might finish up with something a lot better than people had anticipated.

      But then, I think most people have reached a point where they’d like to see “something” which actualy moves beyond a project viewer …

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  4. yes,
    Typically a VC should return with ~20%/a and an exit after 2-7 but at least 10a.
    LL is far away from this as i can see.

    maybe a positivity view on this?

    LL do not loose atm big chunks anymore, even not in these crappy situations the world economy showed some of us. So the remained valuta is well parked 🙂
    VCs still here, might have a more bright interest on LL. For me some of the VCs really look like they do have this kind of way and i really like that! 🙂

    from my wishlist
    involve residents in a reasonable manner, with some (say 10%) shares.
    Done in the right moment, keeping longterm efforts low, will give in may directions a smart push.

    SL might not look like ‘the next big thing’ and specially 2013 might also an ‘interesting’ year.
    But all this can lead to a stabilized LL from which a VC might see a smart&untypically ways to get a reasonable return of their lost thought investments.

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