Ebbe Altberg on DW: words and thoughts on the next gen platform

Ebbe Altberg discusses the Lab's next generation VW platform (among other things) with Designing Worlds
Ebbe Altberg discusses the Lab’s next generation VW platform (among other things) with Designing Worlds

On Monday October 6th, Designing Worlds, hosted by Saffia Widdershins and Elrik Merlin, broadcast a special celebratory edition, marking the show’s 250th edition, and the show featured a very special guest: Linden Lab’s CEO, Ebbe Altberg.

The interview covered a number of topics, and ou can watch the show via the links at the end of this article, or read the transcript. One of the items discussed was, inevitably, the Lab’s next generation virtual world platform.

The following is intended to provide a more direct look at some of what was said about the new platform, and to offer some speculation  / thoughts on my part. Audio clips are provided, but please note they do not necessarily include everything said about the new platform; my aim in including them is to present what I feel is the core comments made about it, and offer some thoughts of my own. Should you wish to hear the comments in the context of the interview, time stamps are included with each audio extract for the point at which they occur in the original video.

What’s in a Name?

One of the points of interest / speculation in the new platform has been on the subject of its name. The Lab have simply referred to it as their “next generation platform”, and users have variously referred to it as “SL 2.0”, “The New Thing” (or TNT) or “SL: The Next Generation”, and so on. Ebbe explained why there isn’t a more formal name for the new platform at present.

[1:10:10]

The second point bears thinking about. Consider the term “SL 2.0”; while innocuous-sounding, its use could encourage us to consider the new platform purely in terms of how we see SL. For example, using the “SL 2.0” label might cause us to think of land in the new platform as being the same as in SL – defined region types providing specific capabilities – when there is no indication that this will in fact be the case. Thus preconceptions are established which can have unwanted repercussions down the road. So while it might be handy to have a label, keeping things to a very generic “next generation platform” or “new platform” offers the easiest way of avoiding this from the Lab’s perspective.

On the Question of Open-source

Much has been made of the initial decision to make the new platform closed-source, with some commenting on the decision going so far as to describe it as a “mistake”. However, Ebbe points-out during the programmed that “closed-source” doesn’t necessarily mean that there can be no involvement on the part of TPV developers, nor is the closed-source nature of the new platform set in stone.

[0:54:08 and 0:56:50]

Will making the new platform's client extensible, rather than open-source, prove the best route? The Lab is open either way
Will making the new platform’s client extensible, rather than open-source, prove the best route? The Lab is open either way

Given that the new platform is intended to operate across different hardware environments and operating systems, there would appear to be a certain logic to the approach the Lab is taking in trying to make the client end extensible, rather than open-source right off the bat which might offer a way of achieving greater uniformity in how additional features are presented across these multiple devices.

Of course, a lot of the success of such an approach depends on the gateway the Lab put in place by which additional plug-ins (or whatever) are vetted and “allowed” where the client is concerned, their improved track-record with TPV and open-source developer contributions for SL notwithstanding.

Whether it might also mean that users get that Holy Grail long desired in SL – a client which is fully customisable by the user in terms of which features they “download” and use, or plug-in to their experience, remains to be seen. However, to lay eyes, it would appear that this approach might make it easier to achieve.

Compatibility and Portability

[0:57:39-0:59:03, 1:00:05-1:00:41, and 1:01:01-1:01:30]

When it comes to people’s inventory there are a couple of potential, but valid points that need to be made, both of which I hinted at in response to comments about the new platform on this blog back in June 2014.

The first is that while we may well have tens of thousands of items sitting in inventory representing a lot of expenditure, there’s a good chance that a fair percentage of those items are “dead weight”, having been long since superseded, replaced, gone out of fashion, etc. As such, any value in these items has already been written-off given we’ll likely never use them again. So perhaps we shouldn’t be so focused on “losing” the investment they seem to represent as might be the case.

The second point is the not-so-small questions on whether we actually have the right to transfer items in our inventory elsewhere, be it another grid or the Lab’s new platform. The IP for the items in our inventories resides with the creators of those items – and if they do not wish their creations to be ported to the new platform, we should be prepared to respect that wish. Hopefully, this is also something the Lab will be considering as well.

Getting People Into the Platform

[0:17:18] (On-boarding users is also discussed alongside marketing the platform from the 0:47:48 mark in the video as well.)

Moving to a model of providing users with the means to attract people into the platform directly through their own experiences (or presence) in the platform is undoubtedly a good move. Allowing users to do this through their own websites, etc., has the advantage of allowing very specialised use cased to take advantage of the platform, as is touched upon in Ebbe’s comments.

Mark Kingdon actually hinted at this approach back in an interview with Dusan Writer in 2009, although his idea of “siloing” incoming users through to communities was perhaps more centralised than is envisioned here.

The new platform is unlikely to funnel new sign-ups through a single new user experience, but allow users to build their own means of bringing users into it and getting them oriented (image: the MetaHarpers new user experience from 2012 - blog post)
The new platform is unlikely to funnel new sign-ups through a single new user experience, but allow users to build their own means of bringing users into it and getting them oriented (image: the MetaHarpers new user experience from 2012 – blog post)

Does this mean the Lab won’t offer their own gateway(s) into the platform? I think that unlikely. The new platform will in all likelihood have its own web presence, a-la SL, etc. As such, it makes sense for the Lab to also offer their own gateways into the platform, or to perhaps offer the means for people discovering the platform through any official website or advertising to reach any more generic on-boarding processes which might be established by any mentor groups active within the new platform.

Marketing the Platform

[0:49:58]

The idea of looking to vertical markets tends to point towards the Lab looking more sharply at the potential for their new platform to have more clearly defined business uses. There’s nothing wrong with this, as virtual worlds clearly have some very strong practical educational, training, learning, commercial, etc., applications; one only has to look at the use of Second Life among a wide range of educational institutions and the adoption of OpenSimulator by a range of businesses.

However, it is likely that the idea of “big business” coming into the new platform is liable to have some SL users reacting negatively, if only because of the long shadow of history cast across Second Life from (again), the Mark Kingdon era. There there was an attempt then to pivot SL more closely towards being a business solutions application – to the point of what appeared to be openly hostile comments being directed towards the existing user base by the likes of Justin Bovington of Rivers Run Red.

Will the apparent focus on vertical markets itself shape how the new platform looks / operates? (market sectors for illustration only, and should not be taken as indicative of anything the Lab is planning)
Will the apparent focus on vertical markets itself shape how the new platform looks / operates? (market sectors for illustration only, and should not be taken as indicative of anything the Lab is planning)

On a speculative note, the manner in which the new platform is being discussed in terms of meeting the needs of vertical markets again has me wondering, as I’ve ruminated before when considering the new platform, if it not so much going to be a single “world” as we see SL, but as a platform on which multiple “worlds” can be established that encompass specific verticals, and in which organisations in that vertical (say, education) can establish their “experiences” (aka “presence”?). These “experiences” can then be interconnected with one another, if required, to allow for collaboration, shared resources, etc., all in the knowledge that there is a clear separation between their own environments and the “virtual world at large” (i.e. you and me, the more “SL-like” user community) unless they choose to bridge that gap (between experiences or worlds or whatever).

Progress, Alpha Access and Time Frames

[0:40:59-0:41:54 and 0:42:56-0:44:07]

(The first mile stone referred to in the audio clip is the Lab simply being able to import content, carry out some basic scripting, and move avatars around within the environment.)

Perhaps the biggest take away fro the discussion on the status of the new platform is that while the Lab may wish to be fast and agile, they are prepared to take a considered approach in terms of actually getting things done and when, and aren’t being unduly constrained by deadlines. This may sound like a contradiction, being “fast” and “in no hurry”, but I’m assuming the “fast and agile” aspect may be more to do with responding to emerging technologies which may benefit the platform, etc., rather than necessarily just the speed with which it is built.

A pragmatic view is also being taken with regards what form any initial alpha testing might occur users.

[0:44:06-0:45:45 and 46:30-46:46]

Within this as well, it is noted that the new platform is to be available across a range of hardware and capitalise on emerging software such as HMDs and 3D cameras and the means of reproducing (if not necessarily capturing) mouth movement through to registering facial expressions in real-time (much of which is also couched in terms of potentially entering into Second Life).

Much emphasis is also placed upon the fact that the growth of the new platform is going to be gradual. It won’t from the start cover every imaginable use case, and won’t necessarily cater to everything users of SL already enjoy. This, as much as anything else is why SL is liable to be around for a fair while to come. Given the apparent desire to try to attract use cases beyond those commonly seen within SL, and to perhaps reach into markets where SL has previously been seen to “fail”, it might even be to the Lab’s preference to try to establish the new platform such that it can stand on its own two feet without a heavy reliance on their current user base. Although actually achieving this without the leverage of an existing user base would clearly be a lot harder.

Thoughts

The interview really only scratches the surface of the new platform – but this is to be expected in some ways. The idea to move in this direction may have germinated during Rod Humble’s tenure at CEO, but the real work has only been going forward for the last few months; so in some respects the Lab are still feeling their way, and there will be much that is in a state of flux. This is likely why issues such as how the Lab will generate revenue from the new platform weren’t discussed; while there is a view within the Lab that Land should be “cheaper” and margins should be such that the Lab can do more in the way of volume business, the overall approach and business model still appears to be in as much a state of flux as anything else – and it is certainly not as straightforward as some might believe, having its own set of interdependencies.

That said, I would have liked to have seen more questions around some issues the new platform will have to tackle, in whatever form it takes. For example, how issues of identity will be handled. This is something I’ve touched upon myself in discussing the new platform’s ability to reach a mainstream market.

Simply put, there are two “opposing” views on the issue of identity. For those of us engaged in Second Life, the ability to define our identity howsoever we wish by virtue of the pseudonymity we enjoy, is intensely liberating. However, for many people out in the mainstream world / market the Lab would like to reach (and possibly thanks to policies employed by the likes of Facebook), it is downright creepy and off-putting. They are intensely uncomfortable around the notion that the people they may meet in a place like SL may not be entirely as they present themselves. so if the new platform is to satisfy the preferences of both groups, there needs to be some kind of balance struck, and I would have liked to have heard some of Ebbe’s thoughts on the matter.

That the Lab is working on a new virtual worlds platform have divided opinion since it was first announced – and this interview is unlikely to lessen the fact that opinions are divided. I’m frankly dubious as to whether there really is a huge mass market for virtual worlds of the kind being envisaged, for a number of reasons I’m not going to bore you with here. However, that doesn’t mean the Lab shouldn’t be endeavouring to position themselves such that they can try to better capture some of that market, should it appear, and offer the kind of services and accessibility people demand, and which cannot necessarily be achieved with SL.

When taken as a whole, this interview is, to me, a further indication that under Ebbe Altberg’s leadership, the Lab is attempting to be more transparent and open with its users as to what it is doing and where it is heading, and is continuing to make good on its promise to engage and communicate a lot more pro-actively than has been the case in the 3-4 years prior to his arrival. And that has to be for the betterment of Lab / user relations, whether or not we agree with the direction they’re taking vis any new product.

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29 thoughts on “Ebbe Altberg on DW: words and thoughts on the next gen platform

  1. Thanks Inara. Lots of great info and analysis. On the question of inventory, I don’t personally care. Burn the old, move on with the new. As you said, you’re never gonna use half the stuff in your current inventory anyway.

    As for Identity, it’s interesting that you bring it up that way. MySpace never had a “Real (sic) Names” policy, nor does Twitter. Google+ did, but after 3 years of alienating users they fired the VP in charge and abandoned that policy. I imagine LinkedIn would have such a policy, but you never really hear any fuss about it. To me Facebook stands almost alone in their “Your life; our way” policy, and I’ve always understood that to be a pure financial manipulation motivated by the pools of money they make from data mining our lives. So I’m not clear that a “flexible” name policy is a problem. Particularly in the context of the verticals described. If an architect uploads a new business center or shopping mall because TNT avatars are more immersive than their Autocad or 3DSM simulation, they’re inviting specific participants to visit and the fact that there may be other platform users out there somewhere with entirely other use cases doesn’t seem problematic.

    As for being “more vertical” and less like SL Regions, that’s interesting. I wonder if there’d be any loss of sense of community? I do think it’d solve problems. The endless horror stories of new users, or faculty taking classes to SL, only to be sex propositioned, vampire harassed, or generally trolled, are endless. I’ve always felt that the “one world” or “one server” of SL was great vs a place like WoW where the RL Globe is parceled out and you can’t actually meetup with everyone you know. You don’t hear complaints about MMORPG’s like Facebook or Twitter having quite the same harassment issues. Or you do hear them, but at a much lower per capita rate.

    The little I know about TNT, it feels right to me. It also reminds me what a truly special place SL is. TNT will almost certainly be better in every technical way. Whether it is better or lesser or about the same in actual experiences and relationships is anybody’s guess. Both TNT and High Fidelity seem “obsessed” with business use cases, and Philip’s long time holy grail of business conferencing. I can’t predict the success of these, but they’re less interesting to me. Still, they could help the platform do better, be more robust, and have a better reputation. It’s pretty crazy to think that YOU know better than the guy who invented SL, but I’m not that excited about High Fidelity. TNT sounds the more promising to me.

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    1. My point is not so much how other platforms have moved on but in the fact that Facebook, with both its “authentic name” policy and with the lion’s share of social media users, has perhaps become the accepted norm among many social media users whom a VW might seek to attract, and who might thus be put off by the idea of pseudonymity – and let’s not forget all the hype, etc., created by the likes of Eric Schmidt prior to his volte-face (as well as others) seeking to portray the use of pseudonyms as “bad”. Plus, Twitter et al may not have an outright policy, but it’s probably fair to say that at least as many use “authentic” IDs as much and purely pseudonymous IDs – and could well feel a lot more comfortable keeping their circles to those who do likewise.

      WRT verticals – I don’t think there would be any loss of community if done right. I think the easiest way of picturing what I’m suggesting is that rather than being a singular world like SL, the new platform might be aiming more towards something of a “metaverse” in its own right; a place where those of us who are familiar with VWs can continue much as we do now, establishing a presence, interacting, engaging in commerce with one another, etc. – and which can be appealing to other users like us. Then at the same time, it can be used to provide more dedicated environments / “worlds” for those vertical markets, and those engaging within those “dedicated” spaces can opt to define where and how they open doors or portals or whatever with others within their local “community” – and with the broader “world” you and I occupy.

      However, your last comment echoes some of my sentiments as well on the shape of things to come in general. I’ll have to blog on that at some point :).

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  2. I read Ebbe’s comments much the same as you do. It is too early in the process for LL to commit to much of anything.
    I have a couple of thoughts:
    1- There is really no reason why there needs to be only one instance of the new platform. One to make businesses and educational institutions happy (RL identity oriented) and another similar to SL. They could share an economy, marketplace, etc.
    2-With regard to Alpha and even Beta testers, they have an experienced and willing user base in SL. Some enticements to do more than just show up and look around would be beneficial. I suggest Premium Users be given their 512sqM of land in the new world *In Addition To* their current allotment in SL. Once we have some land where our stuff is persistent we will build (and buy) things to fill it. (re. item 1; this implies the initial world will pseudonymous.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. “There is really no reason why there needs to be only one instance of the new platform. One to make businesses and educational institutions happy (RL identity oriented) and another similar to SL. They could share an economy, marketplace, etc.”

      Yup, that’s pretty much my thinking.

      The alpha / beta testing idea is interesting. I’m certianly very curious as to how “land” in the new platform will be defined!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Me too! I very nearly put quotes around “land”.
        Upon thinking a bit, that also implies there is something like Mainland where you can own small plots of land without involving a third party (in SL parlance, Own vs. Rent)

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        1. Yup. I get the impression the paradigm will be very different – from the idea of defined land types (regions) with set capabilities (as per the comment in the article) right through to he it can be used / owned / whatever.

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  3. Perhaps my biggest criticism is not that Linden Lab is willing to talk to us, well in advance — a nice departure of their former policy of letting residents know about changes at the worst possible moment, i.e. after-the-fact — is that they have been a bit premature in their announcement: the new platform is far enough in the future to not affect us immediately (meaning: we don’t need to pack and sell everything right now), but it is close enough to wonder how much one ought to be investing (in time, money, skill acquisitions, etc.) in SL as-it-is. Even if LL announced that SL would be around until 2020, that might not be enough. It would still mean that we would have to give it up at some point.

    Imagine Apple announcing that in the next few years Mac OS X would be effectively discontinued, without migration path, and that all future Apple devices would just run iOS (they have, in fact, hinted at such a possibility). What would happen to the Apple user base, and what would happen to the ecosphere of developers? Suddenly, everything they have worked on for a decade and a half would have been pointless. Clearly, ‘real’ companies never make such kinds of announcements. Look at Automattic with WordPress: WordPress 4.0 has little in common with pre-1.0, but there has always been a clear migration path, stepwise, to allow people to safely and carefully move towards the next step as it became available. Even Microsoft, in spite of all the hiccups and the reluctance of users adopting anything newer than Windows XP, tried as hard as possible to make the migration path as smooth as they could. Obviously, not all companies view things the same way. Some, like Linden Lab, want a clear cut with the past and start from scratch. Quickly, without googling for it: name three products and companies where new versions of their software didn’t follow a clear migration path. Right. That proves my point 🙂

    So this is a huge handicap. Breaking with the past dramatically means basically that the company couldn’t care less about the user base who has faithfully paid for their financial success over the past 11 or 12 years. They might not intend it to sound like that, but that’s what is actually happening. Hell, as we all know, has a road paved with good intentions.

    The second biggest issue starts now to become apparent, and wasn’t so clear in the previous announcements regarding the new platform. It’s something that most people overlook, and it has mostly to do with recognizing that we already went through two Internet bubbles, and people are still not learning their lessons. Ebbe talks about technology and admits that he has no clue yet about the business model. He might not even know what his market is going to be: ‘going vertical’ is an empty word in this context, because we don’t know what he means by that. Were Linden Lab a ‘normal’ company with a ‘regular’ software product, then it might very well mean something similar to Automattic’s WordPress: not ‘a virtual world’ but a technology allowing people to run their own virtual worlds (perhaps just like OpenSim). In that scenario, the server software would be licensed — there would not really be ‘land’ or anything similar, but it wouldn’t use High Fidelity’s very complex payment/revenue system, either. Additionally, for the consumer market, LL would also run their own grid using their own software and get paid premium for that — again, very similar to what Automattic does with WordPress. I love giving the WordPress example because it’s familiar to 20% of all website owners 🙂 but of course there are a gazillion similar examples, where a company owns the software and runs ‘core’ services, but, at the same time, licenses it, or even open sources it as a ‘community edition’ solution which does not get technical support.

    In essence, the closest we know is the OpenSim model. Imagine that Kitely started licensing their patented application software that runs on top of Amazon’s services (and does a lot of neat features that the regular OpenSim doesn’t). So, besides running a ‘core’ metaverse, Kitely would also sell licenses for others to use the same technology as they do, and, maybe, there would even be a ‘community edition’ OpenSim without the tech support.

    This obviously addresses ‘vertical markets’ while at the same time departing slightly from M Linden’s own views on the subject (yes, LL also ‘licensed’ their software back then — but it wasn’t possible to connect those private grids to the mainland). Effectively LL would be directly competing with… OpenSim, by giving, as the carrot, the ability to anyone to connect to their ‘mainland grid’ if they used the same software. It’s interesting but… the main issue is that LL’s new platform will be empty of content on Day One, so the motivation to license or use their software to connect to an empty grid — a motivation similarly shared by the corporate world as well as the consumer world — will be quite low. Instead, it will only be the ‘LL fanboys & girls’ that will move over, blinded by their faith that LL can actually pull it off.

    But, like Inara, I’m skeptic about this being a good strategy to turn the new platform into a mainstream product. LL is not Apple. The best they can do is to be Apple in 1984: targeting their new platform to a tiny niche of non-conformists who refuse to spend their time on Facebook and YouTube, but prefer virtual worlds instead. Apple, however, had to change their marketing stance — from non-conformism to hedonism — to grow from a tiny company exploiting a niche market to the biggest company in the world. And it took them 30 years, and being at the forefront of (at least) four industry paradigm shifts. LL has just one, but it’s better than nothing: they showed that, using the model of SL, it’s possible to make a profitable company out of running a social virtual world with user-generated content. All other models, as we know, have failed. (OpenSim virtually copies the same model as LL; Kitely are the only ones who have dared to implement a slightly different model, but, as time goes by, it’s interesting to see how even Kitely is coming closer and closer to LL’s pricing model).

    So. In the 1980s, IT companies were supposed to present business models and understand their markets; as a result, companies like Microsoft and Apple became giants. It’s with the late 1990s that things changed: suddenly, just having a nice techy idea seemed to be enough to push a company ahead. The Internet bubble crashed twice thanks to that. It might still crash a third time, because I still see companies, all the time, coming up with neat ideas without any business model whatsoever, raising millions from venture capitalists, and utterly failing, over and over again, after a couple of years. Why? Because they had no clue about what business model they ought to have (‘we’ll think about that later, when we get a few million users’) or what market they should address (‘everybody will love our product!!’). Well, let me channel Kevin O’Leary for a moment: sorry, guys, that doesn’t work any more. It might have worked for, uh, Yahoo and Google (who are still around), perhaps even for Facebook, but Amazon, eBay/PayPal, and similar giants all have done their market research and drawn their business plans.

    Of course that doesn’t mean that LL has no business plan! They might deliberately been hiding it from us — because, as I wrote elsewhere, now they have competition, and now they don’t want to give their competitors any clues (surprisingly, Philip Rosedale is quite willing to share with everybody what his business plan is, and how he wants to address his market…). It’s a possibility. I would just expect a little more assertiveness from LL’s CEO regarding that point. Instead of saying, ‘we have no idea what we will charge or how’ they should be saying ‘we know exactly what revenue model we will have, and you’ll all be amazed at how cool it will be, for us and for you, but at this stage, we prefer to remain silent about it a little bit more until we’re ready for the closed alpha testing’, or words to the effect.

    As for the privacy/pseudonymity issues, I think that the Nymwars are almost over: even Facebook seems to be reverting their rules. Who would have thought that just a few scandals about the secret services of the world spying upon their citizens would switch the mindset 180º in just a couple of years?… Well, we Nymwar fighters were right after all — we did foresee what would happen if there were no privacy protection on the Internet… now it’s easy to see that we were right after all 🙂 So, no, I don’t think that LL would now suddenly go back on their 11-year-old policies, specially when everybody out there, including Facebook (!), is quickly amending their own policies and allow people their privacy…

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    1. Sure there are risks. Just as there are risks in trying to plod on with SL. No-one is denying that. And frankly, whenever and however the Lab announced they were working on a new platform, however they tried to prepare the ground ahead of time, the outcome would still be the same: cries of joy on one side and cries of outrage on the other and a lot of people in between saying, “oh?”

      But right now, there really is no reason for anyone to stop using SL or reduce their comfort-level expenditure. We’ve no guarantee the next gen platform will arrive or whether it will even appeal. Pragmatism is the key – and that doesn’t automatically equate to saying, “OK, that’s it, I’m not spending any more in SL.” In fact, as I’ve said several times in these comments, in many ways the continuance of SL is actually more down to its current user base, regardless of anything the Lab is planning by way of alternatives.

      The bubble issue is actually recognised – I just didn’t want to clutter this article with thoughts on it, as it is to me bound-up with a couple of other issues, all of which will likely appear in another article encompassing the next gen platform and HiFi :).

      Turning to the privacy issue, I wasn’t referring to nym wars or whether or not companies have policy A or B. Nor did I say that the Lab would have go back on their policy. What I said was that there are a lot of people who engage across the Internet in the expectation that they are dealing with “real” (for want of a better term) people. They still find the concepts of pseudonymity “creepy” and “unsettling”. Given such people are among the mass market the Lab would apparently like to reach in their quest for “tens” or “hundreds” of millions of users, then potentially there is a need to find a way by which both sides of the equation are satisfied (those seeking that assurance and those of us fully comfortable with the concept of pseudonymity), and I would have liked to have heard Ebbe’s thoughts on this.

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      1. Very well thought-out and interesting post, and it reflects many of my own views on the subject of LL’s next-gen platform.. There is, however, something I need to add, since the “creepiness” of pseudonyms came up.

        I have to say this: Recently, I saw a heated political discussion on a blog. There, a commenter who was using his real name for all of his blogging activities, had posted a multitude of inane, insulting and inflammatory comments against others, and claimed to be more credible because he was eponymous, while the others were pseudonymous. That person posted about 200 (!!!) comments in one day.

        This was the n-th time I’ve seen such rude behaviour from eponymous (usually well-known and / or notorious before they entered the internet arena) commenters and bloggers, and only serves to further cement the conclusion I’ve reached long ago, i.e. that the real creeps on the internet are the “real names only” fanatics and those who insist that others be “100% transparent” as to who and what they are offline. And, of course, this reality destroys Facebook’s argument that a “real names only” policy “improves people’s online behaviour”.

        Also, while on the subject of pseudonymity and anonymity, the “real names only” fanatics prove yet again how clueless they are. Many important people became known for their work by their pen name, stage name, nom de guerre, or what have you. From Bob Dylan to Marcel Dassault (the aviation engineer), from Leon Trotsky to Mother Theresa, from Pelé to Coco Chanel, from Manolo Blahnik to Elton John… All of these people are pseudonymous; they are not known by their real names. In fact, in Elton John’s case, the stage name eventually became (in 1972) his legal name.

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        1. People on both sides of the authentic / pseudonymous fence can be equally obnoxious, so the argument doesn’t actually prove anything either way. There is also, I’d venture to suggest a difference between pseudonymity in this context and the use of a pseudonym in the examples you cite. The people you list are very clearly identifiable and are known. That’s not necessarily the case with online pseudonymity, where person X may or may not be who they claim to be when engaging with person Y. And like it or not or agree with it or not, it is that “not knowing” which discomfits many people sitting under the “person Y” label in such exchanges, and leaves them unwilling to engage in platforms where pseudonymity is seen to be the “norm” (The Patricia syndrome, in part).

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          1. Yes, not knowing who’s on the other end of the line is disconcerting for many people, and pseudonymity, along with the illusion of anonymity, has been (and still is) abused by numerous persons. However, it provides a voice for those who would otherwise not have one (minorities, whistleblowers, people running away from abusive relationships, people seeking advice for issues they don’t feel comfortable discussing with their real name all over the net, etc). So, people better than me have opted to allow for pseudonymity and anonymity. Honestly though… People really should wake up to each other and lose their hang-ups.

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    2. I am encouraged by what Ebbe said back in July: “……. it could be many, many, many years before what really works for people in Second Life is something they could replicate and achieve in this next generation product.” I will continue to build and buy stuff in SL for the foreseeable future, resting assured that there will be a very long transition period before I am ready to move lock, stock and barrel to the new platform.

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  4. Gwyneth is very correct in her points she makes. This text in particular:

    Clearly, ‘real’ companies never make such kinds of announcements.

    Real companies keep no dogs around in the office either or call their customers “whackadoodles” or have no respect for what pays them.

    @Inara

    This is not about the fact the consumer or end user cannot continue to pay for his monthly entertainment and maintain that budget until everything is deserted and shops are empty.

    This is about the ones who did work and pay and invest for a decade and are now the victim of Linden Lab their latest shenanigans and Altberg.

    One little example for you. The Amsterdam sim.

    The Amsterdam sim got sold by Stroker Serpentine in 2008 or 2009 for 50000 US$. That is correct someone did invest 50000 real $ to buy that sim and maintain it and keep paying tier to Linden all these years. Now only a couple of years later the investor gets to hear the company wants to build a new place and whatever happens to the old one they could not care less. Investments come with risk but this goes into the absurd.

    The above is an average sample, there are businesses with a lot more money and time invested involved who can lose everything they worked for in the past decade. Their RL work of a decade and Linden tries to weasel out by updating their TOS stating “You do not own anything and Linden $ have no value”.

    Gwyneth also writes this:

    Quickly, without googling for it: name three products and companies where new versions of their software didn’t follow a clear migration path. Right. That proves my point

    I did had similar concerns: What company did build a competitor for its current main product and how did that go? I cannot think of one.

    There are software companies that try shady things like charging full price for every update for example, result is they lose 40% market share minimum by doign so even if their product is a good one.

    That 70 million revenue comes from somewhere and the lion share of that does not come from “the tourists in Second Life”

    That full sim that gets resold for 100$ today well somebody did pay 1675$ set up fee for that in the past. The situation is a lot worse than one would suspect.

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  5. I really don’t give to much worry about Sl v2 as long as they keep trying to make Sl better, stable, faster without the old bugs.
    If they manage to make SL reliable, no matter how many new virtual worlds appear, it will keep being alive as long as users wish it to be.
    And the fact is, we will always have open sim as a alternative for it.
    Still is good to see some wording about what LL wishes to do next, if only they listen!

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  6. It is very fair to say that 90% of what TPV;s do with the SL viewer would not be possible with a plugin based system.

    Plugins tightly ring fence functionality.So if the UI was in a plugin, we could make the viewer look like anything. Could we make RLVa, a better radar or a viewer side AO. NO, but we could paint the existing stuff pink.

    A lot of what has been done to existing TPV’s could not be done with plugins.

    IMO This is a rather simplistic view of what makes the many TPV’s different from the LL’s stock client.

    LL are just as closed and insular as ever which given their track record should scare the willies out of everyone involved. SL1 took off due to luck and King Philip’s awesome pants, and we all remember just how bad things were before Emerald.

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  7. “The IP for the items in our inventories resides with the creators of those items – and if they do not wish their creations to be ported to the new platform, we should be prepared to respect that wish. Hopefully, this is also something the Lab will be considering as well.”

    Finally the new Toss do make some sense…

    About Gwyneth’s complaints about uncertainty: At least 2 other highly productive creators in SL have told me exactly the same and you guys do have a point. On the other hand the experienced investors (Amsterdam sim) and creators will have the best chances to use their competences to have a jump start at the new platform. Everyone is complaining that SL is slowly bleeding out (sim loss, no newbies etc.). It’s basically a situation where the risk adverse prefer to die slowly and hope for a miracle and the risk takers say that trying something is better than accepting this death trail.

    Usually I am always for business plans, but a technology breakthrough is on the horizon (VR TECHNOLOGY) and SL is not compatible and cannot be adapted. If anyone develops a new virtual world that is more shiny and on the technological forefront and it is fully compatible to the new technologies, people will leave SL. And then the very same creators and investors that are crying now would cry even louder: “Why hasn’t the Lab reacted when there was still time to pull something off?”

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    1. The biggest fault / mistake with V2 was not that the Lab “invented” it, but that thy allowed outside agencies that apparently had no deep-seated exposure to, or experience of, Second Life actually build it (80/20 Studio and, IIRC, Big Spaceship), rather than running the project themselves. It left them with a lot of unhappy users and the need to constantly revisit and revise.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Mona and Inara, talk is good, to much talk and no action is not, so far we are seeing Ebbe talking and some in Linden Lab listening and more collaboration then before.
    Lets ‘pray it will stay this way but also that the Lab is willign to open the channels to all members of Sl community and not only a few choosen ones.
    And no matter how shinny, how amazing Sl v2 will be, the fact is that only keeping Sl v1 alive and supporting it better then they did on the past years will make the cow fill their pockets.
    So stop messing around with all and focus on retention of old users.

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    1. “talk is good”

      Yes, talk is good – especially since one of the biggest complaints you and I and many, many other users have had over the last few years is that the Lab hasn’t been talking to / communicating with users.

      “no action is not”

      Not sure to what you’re referring to here, but in terms of the new platform it’s been stated from the first announcement that it’ll be 2015 before we see anything, so all we can expect is status updates at this point. As far as SL is concerned, we’re seeing action. HTTP pipelining, CDN, constant improvements to the viewer, attempt to improve Group Chat, long-requested capabilities such as group bans, the potential of CDN being expanded to textures and mesh fetching with the promise of more to come. Digging into a range of performance and stability bugs.

      Sure, other issues remain, but that’s part for the course and the Lab work through their “to do” list and as problems arise. So “no action” is hardly descriptive.

      “but also that the Lab is willign to open the channels to all members of Sl community and not only a few choosen ones”

      As far as I can see, that’s what they’re doing. They are posting to their blog. They are posting to forums. They are talking in a way that can be widely disseminated to users (such as through the DW interview), Ebbe has been working his way through meeting with major communities – such education and non-profits, so that they can disseminate news and feedback to their members. There’s a very positive effort going to keep everyone informed.

      “And no matter how shinny, how amazing Sl v2 will be, the fact is that only keeping Sl v1 alive and supporting it better than they did on the past years will make the cow fill their pockets.”

      Except that if the new platform is shiny and amazing, it could easily match or exceed SL, because we have all decided we want to be there instead of here, and it quite possibly attracts other users and use cases, making it the [cash] cow to fill their pockets”. Or, equally, the two might end up having very different appeals. We simply don’t know one way or the other. Of, the new platform may well fizzle to a halt, simply because we do opt to hold on to SL (for better or for worse). That’s the whole point, we simply don’t know – and frankly, no-one can really predict things with any certainty at all at this stage.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Linden Lab will only be able to remain in business when they handle the current corruption they have been actively supporting for the previous decade. The shady under the table deals with land, the friend deals, the FIC that Prokofy Neva complained so much about. That is the cause of the decline. The fact Linden Lab is sitting with Anshe Chung in their offices and helped Anshe Chung to become the monster estate she is today.
    In 2008 Anshe Chung was selling out her entire estate because Linden screwed her over and she could not compete with the other estates. Then Linden begged her to come back and assisted Anshe Chung by providing her exclusively with grandfathered Homestead islands for over a year so she could build up her monster estate she has today. Now she sits in Linden their offices in Battery Street running her monster estate sucking dry the entire market. The same for the other pets that get secret discounts on tier.
    That is the root cause of the entire mess Second Life is in today. Everybody knows it, it is common knowledge and that is why people leave. Soon Linden Lab can play alone with Anshe Chung and a couple of their friends but they will need to do so without everybody else and their money.

    New platform same garbage guaranteed so there is no way people will get fooled again. Altberg does not talk about that but he knows very well what is taking place and is supporting this corruption in his company as a CEO.

    Linden Lab put up empty simulator space with building tools. They asked people to come and build the world for them which they now claim to own. First asking people to come to then systematically abuse them and take advantage of them because they are invested in the platform. That is what Linden Lab has been doing for a decade now.

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    1. “Linden Lab put up empty simulator space with building tools. They asked people to come and build the world for them which they now claim to own.”

      That’s at best an over-simplification.

      Second Life didn’t magically appear one day so that the Lab could simply through open its doors and say, “hey come on in and have a play!” They had to do a lot of work and bring Second Life into existence and continue to do a lot to ensure it remains in existence. That includes building the simulator code, creating the viewer, putting together all the back-end systems, services and infrastructure, employing the coders and engineers to build and maintain it, providing all the support and expertise needed to continue to supply and improve it, and so on and so forth. sure, they’ve made some bad missteps along the way and messed up at times – but without them, SL wouldn’t exist.

      As to ownership, the Lab’s always owned the platform. That’s what businesses do – they own the product they create.

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  10. Second Life used to be a testing ground for Rosedale his VR hardware product. It happened by mistake during work on a hardware product invention. I remember seeing a picture of Rosedale standing in his new empty world typing to people and trying to convince them to participate in his project. Without the people coming to his world he was nothing. Linden Lab almost didn’t make it, but because of the system and the agreement Linden Lab made with the residents it did work and allowed Linden Lab to build up their business but the residents did also build up their businesses.

    Then Linden Lab got extremely greedy and started to look everywhere profit was made and how they could get a share of that as well or control that segment of the market. This combined with corruption and friend deals has caused the erosion effect we see today. Remember when Linden Lab wanted to become global dominator with all their foreign offices in the UK, the Netherlands, Singapore and so on. They wanted to be Ebay or Amazon or Google and whatever happened to those suckers who got them to where they were now did not matter. Mitch Kapor called them fortune seekers, hillbillies, poor souls of society.

    Second Life tech is an empty MMO engine with a server creation tool that includes an uploader these days.

    It did happen by magic, the testing ground for the hardware turned into this building level where you could build anything on the server together with others and see every movement in real time.
    To make it people worth their while to spend hours and days into that world building, the economy model and permission system got introduced. Linden wanted to charge for prims first but that did not work, only later the land system came into effect.

    This is also what Rosedale is trying again this time, luring people in to build his new world for him, spend time and work to get paid in spacebucks (which are later declared as having no real value) because he cannot do it by himself, even with his investors. But of course remain in full control by charging tax, this time through a DNS licence tax.

    What used to be high tech a decade ago is pretty average these days, an empty mmo engine with a basic primitive extrusion tool and an uploader for 3D models.

    Is that model a scam as it was intended at first? No but what Linden do after that is. When Ebay would do the same with their Powersellers just watch how they would cave in.

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    1. “It did happen by magic”

      No, it didn’t. It happened because the Lab spent a good deal of time and effort building the capabilities that enabled it to happen.

      Did users subsequently breath live into the world and make it the vibrant place it is? Most definitely – but that doesn’t in any way negative the Lab’s role in laying the foundations and making it happen in the first place.

      Your second paragraph has perhaps the most accurate: in 2008 the Lab did get blindsided, but not because of the “corruption” you keep referring to. In 2006-07 they saw a huge amount of media hype about the platform (some of it fuelled by Philip Rosedale’s grand visions of the “3D web”, to be sure) which saw a massive influx of people and – importantly – major brands. Then by the end of 2007 / early 2008, it had all evaporated, leaving the Lab perhaps wondering what had happened before pouring intense efforts into trying to win those big brands back and trying to make SL into something it’s not – a platform for enterprise (which was actually the focus of Mitch Kapor’s “it’s time to move aside, folks” address at SL5B).

      As to the rest, we’ll simply have to disagree, although you actually point to one of the reasons why the Lab is attempting to start over with something that might have the potential to reach well beyond SL’s appeal in your penultimate paragraph.

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  11. I’m seeing people blame altberg for SL2, but they should be blaming rodvik, this has been in the works for 2 years. rod talked a little about it.

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    1. Rod Humble pointed to things being in the works, yes, and did it first through the pages of this blog.

      However, it would appear that things really didn’t get any direction or start to be really fleshed out until after Ebbe Altberg had arrived at the Lab and had started looking at the company’s portfolio and at future options / directions. Only then did the work start in earnest. As to “blame”, my own view is that it is far to early to start apportioning “blame” on anyone.

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  12. Inara should we wait until Linden files for Chapter 11 before we blaim? We blaim now, now is a good time to blaim before everything turns into a fiasco.

    For Altberg or any CEO it is much more easy to go this route as they have no need to touch the incredible complicated system Second Life is tied do deep roots inside of the community but also the result of a decade of messing up by Linden Lab.

    It is so much more easy to just let Second Life rot and die than to clean it up and fix what is wrong. It is so much more easy to keep milking it dry for every last cent and then close it. Especially with a new possible VR hype around the corner it is now a fantastic opportunity for Linden Lab to get rid of all their mistakes of the past decade and burn the ship. They will just code a new one and all will be fine they think. I invite you to ask any serious game engine developer if the excuse: “We do not want to look for backwards compatability as it would hold us back too much” is a valid one. They will look at you and smile.

    The thing is there are one million people on that ship who have all kinds of interests on that ship

    As for “it did happen by magic”

    Well it did because it was never the initial intention to code a multi-user virtual world. It was the intention to use “the grid” as a testing environment for the VR hardware Linden worked on. When your testing area turns into a highly successful multi-user creative environment used by millions of people it kinda happened by magic.

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