Note that there are three videos of this event that I’m aware of:
- The SL4Live – TV livestream recording.
- An audio only recording via the official Second Life YouTube channel.
- A recording by Pantera Północy.
When reading this summary, please note:
- It is not a full transcript:
- Discussion points have been grouped by topic, and not necessarily in the order raised during the session.
- I have focused on those topics liable to be of the most interest to readers / generated the most informative answers, so this is not a summary of all comments. etc..
- Topics are give as bullet-point highlights for ease of reference.
- Audio extracts are provided.
- These have been cleaned-up in places to remove repetition or pauses, etc.
- Audio extracts may concatenate comments on specific subjects that may have been made at different points in the discussion, and so do not always match the chronology of the video.
- Timestamps to the SL4Live – TV video are provided for those who would prefer to listen to Ebbe’s comments “in the raw”. This video is also embedded at the end of this article.
Note: the following is taken from both Ebbe’s comments and my own research into his background, carried out when he joined Linden Lab in 2014, and which also included input from Ebbe.
Swedish by birth and still by nationality – he is still working in the US on a green card -, Ebbe graduated from Tärnaby Skidhem in 1983. His time there was focused on skiing, as he wanted to be a ski racer, with his eyes on the Swedish national team and the world cup. Unfortunately, a back injury stopped him pursuing that particular career option, and so he crossed the Atlantic to study Middlebury College, Vermont, USA.
Founded in 1800, Middlebury is regarded as one of the oldest liberal arts colleges in the United States. While there, he “spent a lot of time in the art studio and the computer lab in an extreme left brain / right brain type of education”, before graduating with a degree in Fine Arts and a concentration in Computer Applications.
From Middlebury, and with the clock ticking down on his visa, Ebbe “slipped into Microsoft on a random banana peel”, where he spent twelve years. Joining in the pre-Windows era, he was particularly involved with the Office products (Word, Mac Office, etc) and multimedia products.
In March 2000, he moved on to Ingenio, a company that created marketplaces for people to buy and sell information over the phone. While there he was responsible for managing the engineering, program management, operations, and quality teams, and served as the company’s interim CEO before taking on the mantle of the Chief Product Officer. And while he doesn’t often mention it due to not being a huge fan of the patent system, he “racked up quite a few patents there.”
After Ingenio, Ebbe joined Yahoo! n February 2008, filling out a number of senior roles, including Vice President, Head of Audience for the company’s EMEA division, being based in Rolle, Switzerland, managing some 180 people and multiple products across six countries. During this period he also served on the board of Yahoo! SARL (Société à responsabilité limitée) – think the equivalent of a Pvt Ltd company in the UK or a limited liability partnership in the USA, before returning to the United States to become the Senior Vice President for Media Engineering at Yahoo! with global responsibly for Media Engineering, a position that involved managing an organisation of more than 600 engineers, architects, program managers and quality engineering staff, as well as having dotted-line oversight of some 150 product managers and designers.
Following Yahoo!, he took up the challenge of turning around a small tech company called BranchOut, based in San Francisco. Around two years old at the time of his joining, BranchOut had been through a roller-coaster ride with its product, a Facebook oriented application designed for finding jobs, networking professionally, and recruiting employees. Seven months before Ebbe joined the company, the app boasted 25 million users across 60 countries – but by the time he came on board, the user base had shrunk to just 3 million. Under his guidance, the company pivoted the BranchOut app into a new workplace messaging application called Talk.co, launched in October 2013.
Ebbe was actually aware of Second life – and had experienced it first hand – a long time before joining Linden Lab in 2014. His son Aleks, had been heavily involved in SL, starting with the Teen Grid, making content and then moving to developing a successful in-world business there (Aleks is now an Lab Employee, working on Sansar, where he is a regular at in-world community meet-ups and product meetings).
More particularly, Ebbe has had a long-standing friendship with the Chair of the Lab’s board of directors, Jed Smith. LL was one of Smith’s first investments when he became a venture capitalist, and through Jed Ebbe gained an awareness of the Lab, its product, and met Philip Rosedale.
So I fell in love with the idea, and understood what Philip and Second Life was trying to achieve, but it wasn’t until many, many, many years later – well, five years ago now – that it came up that they were looking for someone, and it was the right time and place for both the Lab and me to hook up and see how I could help keep things going here.
I have not regretted that decision for a second, it’s been absolutely fantastic; it’s an incredible group of people I get to work with. Having the Second Life team is just an absolute privilege … Everyone is just incredibly passionate about the product … that’s just been a very, very enjoyable ride for me so far.
– Ebbe Altberg, Meet the Lindens, June 26th, 2019
One of the greatest rewards he sees in being with the company is diversity, be it within the people working the Lab or using Second Life, or the equally rich diversity of uses people find for Second Life – be it as a means of expression or as a platform for business, as tool for health improvement or an aid education, and so on, and the multiple ways Second Life can benefit those who engage with the platform.
He is also drawn to the technical aspects of the platform, including its multiple challenges, and the way it combines so many different capabilities: tools for content creation, options for social engagement, the ability to run a virtual economy, etc., all of which combine with the need to constantly discover / learn new things about the ways in which SL is being used, to continually refresh interest in, and enthusiasm for, managing, improving and expanding the platform.
On Fees and the SL Economy
- As a world Second Life has a huge diversity of uses, and there is no single “one size fits all” solution.
- Has always and consistently stated a belief that virtual land in SL is too expensive [it has been a major theme from users throughout his tenure as CEO as well, and preceded his arrival at the Lab].
- HOWEVER, Land fees generate the majority of the Lab’s inflow of revenue, even if it has been over-monetised by the Lab in order to meet that revenue requirement.
- Therefore, if land fees are to be reduced, the Lab must find ways to move its revenue generation from virtual land to other opportunities that have previously perhaps been under-monetised in their ability to generate revenue. These include things like Premium fees and consumer-related revenue generation options.
- Also feels there has been an imbalance in the way SL operates, as a merchant without any land can produce goods and sell them (via the Marketplace) without really paying for the opportunity to do so (just 5% commission on sales), and could then cash-out with very little cost to their revenue.
- Unfortunately, both trying to broaden LL’s revenue generation options to decrease a reliance on land fee, and trying to correct some of the balance in where fee are obtained to help with that revenue generation, can result in some feeling hurt.
- LL are attempting to be careful in how these shifts are made, as there are major risks involved (for both in-world business and the Lab itself), and so are progressing in small steps – the recent Premium and processing fee increases being the latest of those steps.
- Believes there are still opportunities to further re-balance things, and to reduce land costs.
- Also believes it is fair to say that while things like credit processing fees have been increased, they are still well below what might be regarded as “industry standards” for many digital transactions, which can be 30% and upwards.
- Understands that the increases have impacted people, notably creators with very low margins, and who may have to make adjustments to their pricing, etc., and recognises that changes like those now implemented (as of June 24th) might make it tougher for some to survive, but believes the changes are necessary.
- Points out that one of the consequences of high tier is that SL so often loses stunning public regions that have been built, and which people miss when they vanish.