On Friday, June 4th, Linden Lab broke the news that the company’s CEO, Ebbe Altberg had passed away.
The post, from Patch Linden, reads in part:
Second Life found new highs in 2020 between a worldwide pandemic taking grip, through the times of a tumultuous leadership change in the United States, and during movements of civil changes that will forever live in history books. Second Life provides many with the comfort of a normal that continues to exist for all of us, where many use it to escape real life pressures, stressors and day to day challenges. In Second Life we can be our ideal, our best, celebrate all that is good across the world together. Sadly we have also seen some people go, and they will never be forgotten as they touched us, gave us their best from their hearts, minds and souls – this thing called real life sometimes knocks on our door and makes a call.
As I am here before you today, it is with profound sadness that I share with you Ebbe passed away yesterday evening restfully and surrounded by the love of his family.
This is deeply sad news for all of those who knew or had contact with Ebbe during his seven-year tenure at LL. His arrival at Linden Lab the start of February 2014 came at a time when user / Lab relationships were at a particularly low state, and his arrival could not have been more timely.
From the outset, it was clear that he had more than a passing knowledge of the platform – his son, Aleks, had been keenly involved on the Teen Grid, up to and including starting his own business, and Ebbe himself was a long-time friend of former Linden Lab board member Jed Smith (who had actually tried to get Ebbe to join the company once before).
Referring to himself as a “left-brain / right brain kind of person” – he graduated Middlebury College (Vermont USA) with a degree in Fine Arts with a concentration in Computer Applications, it is fair to say he not merely was aware of the potential of Second Life – he was positively enthusiastic about it, technically and creatively.
From the outset, he was openly and warmly communicative with the platform’s user base, getting in-world as often as he could to meet people either casually or via small and large events – such as an early “fireside chat” a handful of us were invited to attend just a handful of days after his official arrival at the Lab, or via larger town hall style meetings, and appearances at events such as VWBPE, the SLB celebrations the Lab Chat sessions and their successor, Lab Gab, and more.
His openness and honesty did much to renew users’ faith in Second Life – but occasionally carried something of a price. When he popped-up at a Third-Party Viewer Developer meeting in June 2014 and mentioned in passing that the Lab were working on a new platform (which we would come to know as Sansar), the resultant conniptions among users was very palpable (and, being honest, partially fuelled by some hasty and somewhat inaccurate tweeting of his comments sans proper context) – which would require numerous repeats by both Ebbe and other at the Lab that the new platform did not mean “the end” for Second Life, but the company was committed to both.
In this latter regard, he fully supported the team that came together under Oz Linden to continue to build-out and improve SL and make it more accessible to people, whilst always stepping forward and facing the ire of users over perceived wrong-doings and working to further build / re-build confidence in company and product.
Nor was his enthusiasm constrained to platform and users – he faced the media head-on on numerous occasions in the US and international, proud to talk-up Second Life, Linden Lab, virtual worlds and the potential of VR, a technology to which he became an ardent convert. He also had the foresight to spin-out the lab’s expertise in virtual tokens into a subsidiary, Tilia Pay, presenting linden Lab with a further means of generating business for itself.
Prior to joining Linden Lab, his career have been wide-ranging, encompassing both major global corporations such as Yahoo and Microsoft, much of which I covered in a brief profile I was able to put together on him just appear he officially joined LL, and I was pleased to note that he and I had shared interests in both Formula 1 racing and space exploration, which allow for some early conversations between us.
The precise cause of Ebbe’s passing has not been made public, but it was clear to many through various sources that he appeared to be affected by a long-term illness, and over the last 12 months in particular, his presence had been somewhat conspicuous by its absence (I believe that perhaps his last public appearance as CEO was the occasion of Oz Linden’s retirement earlier in 2021).
However, it is clear that illness did not in any way blunt his determination to ensure Linden Lab and Second Life in a much stronger and better position than when he joined the company – a determination that included the hard choice of letting go of Sansar, and guiding the company through the difficult waters of acquisition and bringing into the fold investors who have the vision and willingness to move both company and platform forward.
Given this, and despite the shadow cast by the announcement of his passing, I’ve little doubt that he could be justifiably proud of all that he achieved at Linden Research Inc., and because of his dedication and enthusiasm, both the platform and the company are much better and stronger today than perhaps they’ve ever been.
My deepest and sincerest condolences to Ebbe’s family and all at Linden Lab at this time. I can honestly say that for all of us who have been invested in Second Life, he was more than just a CEO, he was a fellow resident an adventurer on the virtual frontier. He shall be greatly missed.
Rest in peace, Ebbe. And thank you.