Lab: “We’re not giving up on Second Life”

Update: Just as a further reminder, all that Ebbe Altberg had to say about the new platform can be heard here, with bullet points on his statements.

As per my article Ebbe confirms: “we’re working on a ‘next generation’ platform” (with audio), Linden Lab are working on a “next generation” virtual world – news of which should be appearing in the media soon, quite likely as a part of the Lab’s PR work around Second Life’s 11th anniversary.

The confirmation that the Lab are working on the platform – and may well have been for around the last two years (see: Rod Humble hints at more virtual worlds in LL’s future, October 2012) – have fuelled rumours and speculation about the future of Second Life (remembering that any new platform is still some way into the future).  As a result Peter Gray, the Lab’s Director of Global communications contacted me with a copy of an official reply the Lab is circulating in response to enquiries on the matter, and has given me permission to reprint it here:

Hi Inara,

Just saw your post – thanks for taking care to get what Ebbe actually said. Below is the comment I’ve just sent along to a couple of folks who asked for clarification, which mostly reiterates what it sounds like you already know. Still, I just wanted to send it along in case it were useful.




Linden Lab is working on a next generation virtual world that will be in the spirit of Second Life, an open world where users have incredible power to create anything they can imagine and content creators are king. This is a significant focus for Linden Lab, and we are actively hiring to help with this ambitious effort. We believe that there is a massive opportunity ahead to carry on the spirit of Second Life while leveraging the significant technological advancements that have occurred since its creation, as well as our unparalleled experience as the provider of the most successful user-created virtual world ever.

The next generation virtual world will go far beyond what is possible with Second Life, and we don’t want to constrain our development by setting backward compatibility with Second Life as an absolute requirement from the start. That doesn’t mean you necessarily won’t be able to bring parts of your Second Life over, just that our priority in building the next generation platform is to create an incredible experience and enable stunningly high-quality creativity, rather than ensuring that everything could work seamlessly with everything created over Second Life’s 11 year history.

Does this mean we’re giving up on Second Life? Absolutely not. It is thanks to the Second Life community that our virtual world today is without question the best there is, and after 11 years we certainly have no intention of abandoning our users nor the virtual world they continually fill with their astounding creativity. Second Life has many years ahead of it, and in addition to improvements and new developments specifically for Second Life, we think that much of the work we do for the next generation project will also be beneficial for Second Life.

It’s still very early days for this new project, and as we forge ahead in creating the next generation virtual world, we’ll share as much as we can.

If we had one message to share with Second Life users about this new project at this point, it would be: don’t panic, get excited! Again, Second Life isn’t going away, nor are we ceasing our work to improve it. But, we’re also working on something that we think will truly fulfill the promise of virtual worlds that few people understand as well as Second Life users.

Ebbe confirms: “we’re working on a ‘next generation’ platform” (with audio)

Back in October 2012, I was pointed to an interview with former Lab CEO Rod Humble in Gamesbeat, in which he talked about the Lab’s (then) new products, the Lab and Second Life. In reviewing that piece, I picked up on a statement that Linden Lab is “still investing in 3D virtual worlds.”

Rod Humble first hinted that the Lab is looking at virtual worlds beyond SL
Rod Humble first hinted that the Lab is looking at virtual worlds beyond SL

In the middle of the comments following that article, Rod himself popped-up to reassure people that the Lab was (and is) still committed to Second Life. In this comment, he also acknowledged the use of the plural – “virtual worlds” – stating:

My comment about also investing in virtual worlds is correct. As you know I don’t like to detail things until we are close to something actionable, but we absolutely are investing in the large virtual world space which I think will make Second Life users, business owners and developers very happy…. but its a ways off 🙂

Making an unannounced visit to the TPV Developer meeting on Friday June 20th, Ebbe Linden (Ebbe Altberg, the current CEO at the Lab) went a lot further than hinting at “virtual worlds”. He made a clear-cut statement that not only  is the Lab working on a “next generation” platform, he’s been actively talking to the media about it, and that things have reached a point where they are ready for internal demos at the Lab.

Obviously, the idea that the Lab is working on something “other” that Second Life – particularly given it is another virtual world platform – is liable to cause a range of responses from excitement through to misgivings and outright worry (many of which were expressed during the meeting).

Ebbe Altberg popped-in on the TPV Developer meeting as Ebbe Linden, and spoke a little about the "next generation" VW platform the Lab is developing
Ebbe Altberg popped-in on the TPV Developer meeting as Ebbe Linden, and spoke a little about the “next generation” VW platform the Lab is developing

His comments on this platform can within a wide-ranging discussion on Second Life, issues of user retention, how best to tackle bringing new users into SL (including the role the existing user base can play, how users and Lab can support one another, etc.). I’ll have more on this in due course.

For the moment, I’m including an audio file of the conversation on the platform the Lab is developing, extracted from the wider discourse, together with some key bullet-points:

  • There are no clear details on exactly how the new platform will work and how it will be marketed
  • It is not going to replace Second Life per se, but will initially run in parallel to it. Second Life is still a viable product with a strong revenue stream. How long the two run in parallel and whether or not one or the other will eventually be closed down depends on a lot of variables, not the least of which will be the volume of users and the success of both in terms of continued revenue generation
  • It does not mean the Lab are stopping work on Second Life developments and enhancements – although it does mean that some projects (such as the introduction of a new scripting language or a complete overhaul of the avatar) are unlikely to go ahead within Second Life
  • The new platform is not Philip Rosedale’s High Fidelity, nor is it based on High Fidelity (although conceivably it could leverage some of what High Fidelity is doing  – and possibly vice-versa). As I’ve frequently pointed out in this blog, and others have elsewhere, High Fidelity is an entirely separate technology development being carried out by an entirely separate company (although the Lab were an early investor)
  • The platform may or may not have some compatibility with Second Life in terms of content, it is to early to definitively say which it will be. However, the direction which has been set is not to allow things to be constrained by ideas of backwards compatibility with SL or to become overly complicated as a result of thoughts about backward compatibility. Although there are some hopes for some levels of migration, given the new platform may well be revolutionary, rather than evolutionary, whether this will be possible , and at what level cannot at this time be determined
  • This does not necessarily mean there won’t be a means by which content can be exported from SL to the new platform, although the Lab is understandably concerned over the quality of content
  • It will initially be closed-sourced; whether this remains the case, hasn’t been decided
  • Resources at the Lab will be split going forward: Oz Linden will be leading a team of engineers focused on Second Life, and the Lab will use other resources / resources recruited into the company to build-up is liable to be run starting in late 2014 or early 2015, with people invited in to it under NDA.

The comments on the new platform grew out of a discussion about SL and the media, and the audio extraction picks-up from the end of the chat about PR.

Note that in the audio, questions are included from the 8:11 mark onwards, and Oz Linden adds a comment between 11:12-12:00. Following Ebbe’s comments on people accessing the new platform under NDA from the end of 2014 or in 2015, the conversation wound-down and he departed the meeting.

Speakers: Ebbe Linden, Oz Linden, Jessica Lyon, Latif Khalifa, Takoda (Lassie)

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