The Lab looks back at 2013

secondlifeLinden Lab has issued a blog post looking back over the course of the last 12 months, noting what have been, in their eyes, the high points of the year.

It’s an understandably upbeat piece – and there is nothing wrong with it being so. It’s possible that some will see it as a reason for more grumbles and complaints about X, Y and Z. Certainly, I’ll be offering my own look back over the year as seen through the pages of this blog in due course, and not all of it may be as positive as the Lab’s post. But all things considered, this has been a reasonable year for the platform, particularly on the technical level, as the post points out, referencing as it does Project Sunshine (Server-side Appearance), Project Interesting (the interest list updates, the last of which will be making their presence felt in viewers in 2014), materials processing and CHUI.

There’s good reason to point to these items, and several which pass unmentioned, such as the Lab finally deciding to get behind a methodology by which mesh garments can be made to fit, and the ongoing work to overhaul the Lab’s network communications protocols, as taken together they all demonstrate that the Lab still has the interest Second Life in order to try to substantially improve it and to address users’ needs.

And while the decision over which approach to take in order to get mesh garments to fit may not be pleasing to everyone, at least we now know that we are going to see mesh garments fit our assorted shapes, and it’s not going to be too much longer before it is available to everyone. We can even take some comfort in the fact that while it may not be the easiest to work with from the creation standpoint, it can be used (and indeed, is being used), and it is likely to stand the test of time in terms of maintainability.

The Lab’s introduction to Project Sunshine from earlier in 2013

Server-side Appearance (SSA) in particular was deployed as it should have been: without being tied to specific time frames or “to be done by” dates, while fully involving the TPV community in order to make sure that everything was not only on course, but to also help ensure the Lab didn’t miss any glaring holes or make any damaging omissions. Yes, there were issues and upsets along the way – the loss of the “z-offset” height adjustment capability, the introduction of the less-than-ideal “hover” option to replace it. But on the whole SSA was perhaps one of the smoothest deployments of a substantial change to the platform rolled-out in the history of Second Life. Not only that, but it appears to have helped forge new levels of co-operation between the Lab and TPVs.

This year, thanks to SL’s tenth anniversary, also saw the platform regain some attention from the media – and while some of it was the same old, same old, it’s fair to say a good part of it was fresh and positive.

Of course, there are the things which are left unsaid: Marketplace sales may well have been good, but the Marketplace itself still remains a sore point for many merchants – as does the long-term silence of the Commerce Team when it comes to outward, ongoing communications. In fact, communications from the Lab have remained at rock-bottom throughout most of the year. Had there not been a raft of projects going on under the “Shining Project” banner, one wonders how much actual communication would have taken place between Lab and users outside of the in-world user groups. We also have the unfortunate situation with the Terms of Service still to be sorted through; while some things like the changes to how third-party L$ exchanges can operate could have perhaps been better handled than they were at the time – but that again brings us back to the most awkward of “c” words, and I’ve banged on about that enough in the past.


Facebook may not by everyone’s cup of tea (it’s certainly not mine), but that’s no reason to get upset over the SLShare capability introduced this year and which provides the Facebook users among us with the means to share their SL experiences with friends and family if they wish

Tier hasn’t been quite the cause célèbre it has been in the last couple of years, but it has still been a worry for many, despite the fact that there really isn’t a lot the Lab can do about it without potentially hurting themselves more in the process. something which is probably unlikely to change any time soon. It’s also something I’ll likely have more to say about myself in the near future, if only to update (and complete) my post on the subject from the start of the year, which I never quite got around to finishing with its “second half” despite periodically working on it.

But even with these not-so-upbeat aspects of the the year, we’re all still here; or the majority of us are, and many of those who have departed have not necessarily done so out of annoyance or anger with the Lab, but simply because times change, interests wax and wane and life inevitably rolls on.

All this is not to dismiss the issues which have occurred during the year; 2013 hasn’t all been a bed of roses. But then again, name a year in the public history of the platform that has. However, this year has been positive in that it has seen the Lab put good, solid effort into making Second Life more robust, and more predictable than perhaps it has been in a good while, and added some decent nips and tucks to capabilities across the board. Hopefully, in 2014, we’ll see the same approach taken towards unravelling the thorny issue of ensuring more of those coming into Second Life “stick” (to use Rod Humble’s expression) long enough to become fully engaged with the platform, its user base and its economy.

After all, contrary to the opinion held in some quarters, it’s not just (or even necessarily) the cost of land that’s the key to SL’s sustained growth – it’s the numbers of people using it. But that’s a blog post for another day.

3 thoughts on “The Lab looks back at 2013

  1. Dear Inara,

    the Season’s Greetings to you from me – and a wish for your 2014 to be happy and contented.

    Thank you so much for the work and commitment you show every day to the residents of SL – and those further afield!.

    B xx

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  2. There are a lot of ways to look at the bundle of ideas you’ve introduced. One perspective is that the lab’s doing a pretty good job, except on communications where there seems to be this strange inexplicable rift between the lab and the users they theoretically serve.

    If you look at Silicon Valley as a larger ecosystem though, the lab, unfortunately, fits right in. The corporations / platforms that promote and facilitate openness the most, tend paradoxically, to be deeply secretive. Facebook is the sharing platform, but the secretive company. Mark Zuckerberg is the champion of publicness, except when it comes to Mark Zuckerberg. Google will help you find anything, except what Google’s plans and intentions are.

    The one distinction here, as everyone is so fond of noting, is that with corporations like Facebook and Google, the “users” are not the real customers. The users are actually the product that is sold to the real customers: multinational corporations. With Linden Lab however, whether you rent regions, simply upload textures, or anything in-between, the people who use the world are in fact, the lab’s actual customers. In fact it’s a genius of SL that while most new media start pure, think Television or The Internet, and then slowly lose their idealistic dreams as they become mere corporate mouthpieces, SL has taken the opposite trajectory. Back at the height of the hype cycle every corporation and political candidate had a home in SL under the presumption that they’d be making a fortune and winning elections in SL. The “failure” of SL is in fact the victory of the platform to be not so useful to American Apparel, IBM, and Barack Obama, but tremendously useful to Sensuous Maximus, Stiletto Moody, and of course, those infamously duelling, but both successful, cousins, Bryn & SaveMe.

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    1. You’ve encapsulated the silicon valley mentality perfectly vis LL and the likes of Facebook and Google; the only thing I’d probably say is that the mentality is rife throughout many industries, not just technology, and companies are far too prone to seeing customers as little more than a commodity in the “fight” to maintain a strong balance sheet and stronger revenues.

      This is actually where my concern for the platform lies: while there has been a stated desire to “get back” all of those who had given SL a try and then wandered off, is the Lab talking in terms of trying to entice people back as long-term retained users, or in simply upping the churn of retained users in the short-term. Both would help the platform to varying degrees, but a healthy, growing retained user base would obviously be the better of the two.

      Your point on SL’s perceived “failure” is also very well made. Wishing you the best over the holiday season and for 2014!

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