On Friday, April 20th, Linden Lab hosted two Town Hall meetings at which questions were put to the Lab’s CEO, Ebbe Altberg. Those wishing to ask questions were asked to submit them via the forum thread A Conversation with Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg, although outside of the core meeting, Ebbe took time to answer questions from the audience present at the event.
Some 200 questions were asked, many of which were technical in nature. As many of the subjects of these questions were no things Ebbe could respond to directly, the decision was made to have the Lab’s subject matter experts address them directly through the forum thread itselfafter the Town Hall meetings, a process which may take several days to complete. So, if you did ask a technical question that wasn’t raised at either Town Hall event, be sure to check the thread to see if an answer in provided there.
The following is a transcript of the core questions and answers offered at both sessions, with audio extracts provided as reference.
- These notes don’t follow the chronological flow of the sessions, as I’ve attempted to group subjects by topic for more concise reference.
- Due to the nature of the event, some questions of a similar nature were asked at both sessions, which elicited very similar answers in each case. Where this is the case, I have generally provided the answer which – in my opinion, admittedly – offers the most information.
- Similarly, Ebbe’s opening comments at both events followed similar lines, so I have only provided a transcript of the remarks made at the first session.
- Questions are given in bold.
- The “back to summary” links will take you back to the blog post summary of the session, and can be used by those who prefer to “subject hop” rather than work their way through the entire transcript.
Opening Comments – First Session
Well, thank you for coming. It’s a pleasure to be here, it’s been too long. I feel like it’s mostly during the early educational conference (VWBPE) that I pop in; I sure want to do it more often. So, I’m happy to be here and get a chance to interact with you all and talk a little bit about what I’m thinking of, and how excited I about what we’re doing.
I’m going to start out by talking about the team. We have an awesome team from Product and Grumpity to Engineering with Oz, support and the land development that’s done by Patch and his team, and Brett on the Marketing side and Xiola. And so many people on all of those teams are such an incredibly dedicated group of people. And it’s an honour, really, to be able to work with this group of people.
They are extremely passionate about Second Life; they’re extremely passionate about the work that they’re doing; and Second Life is in very good hands.
The other thing I wanted to mention is we are focused on growth. I know it comes up every now and then; with Sansar, what does that mean? Is that the end of Second Life or are we somehow going to transition you all over to Sansar?
Second Life and Sansar are two independent teams, two independent products, and the Second Life team is working their butts off to make Second Life better, and we’re investing, and I have high hopes for Second Life not only continue to exist, but to grow.
Second Life today is better than ever. The performance and the quality is better than ever because of the incredible work that this team is doing every day, and we’re just going to continue to go and make it better.
As a part of growth, there are a lot of different things that contribute to that. Obviously, a lot of the things that team have been doing for years to make the quality and performance continuously better and better, and also to continue to add features to make it a continually exciting product to enable incredible creativity, and [for] solutions to be built on the Second Life platform.
On Transitioning the Economic Model
But the other thing which we mentioned at the bottom of the blog post about the fifteenth year we’re celebrating now, is we’re also looking at the economic model that we’re dealing with. Like I’ve been saying for years, land is expensive, and so we’re, step by step, trying to transition how we collect money – which today is, primarily, land – and we want to find ways to continuously reduce that.
You saw [this] a couple of years ago, with the buy-down programme which allowed people to get better rates; and what you saw very recently with the 10% drop and additional land allotment we did for Mainland, which has had a really exciting response and has kept Patch and his team very, very busy with lots of customer actions and interactions.
At the same time we mentioned that this means that we have to raise fees in other areas: transaction fees; subscription fees; how much stuff we give for free versus what you have to subscribe to get, to try to shift the model. I kind-of liken it to us having very high real estate taxes and very, very low consumption taxes, and we want to shift those a little bit to get a better balance.
And [if we] get land cheaper, then it’s easier for people to own and hold land, and that means they have an opportunity to create, and that means they participate in the economy to buy things. So yes, even though transaction fees go up, hopefully we’ll make that up in volume so that people who are in that business still come out ahead.
As you see also, we have a lot of work underway on things to help increase the creative possibilities, with projects like Animesh and Bakes on Mesh, to be able to create even more interesting content, whether it’s for your commercial intent or for fun. And we’re going to continue with that as well as the environment controls, so that you can have better control of environmental settings [Project EEP].
All those projects are on their way. I can’t speak to dates; a lot of these things are in early tests, and we’re going to work with you and try to be very open as we work things out, so we can be in lockstep with you, and you can test things out and we learn from you so that by the time we’re ready to roll things like these out, it makes sense to all of us.
Second Life and the Cloud
And then we’re investing in some really long-term stuff; moving our entire grid and infrastructure from our proprietary grid to be based on a cloud infrastructure. It’s a huge project; we continue to work on that. I don’t know how long it will take; it’ll probably take most of this year and then some. But that just gives you an indication that we’re serious about the long-term.
The cost of hosting by cloud service providers like AWS by Amazon, and Google and what Microsoft are doing, has reached a point where it makes sense for us to go to those infrastructures, rather than having our own proprietary infrastructure. And it also will enable us to do some more flexible things; geographical distribution of infrastructure to improve performance around the world; other types of things – maybe easier to move between different classes of server for different types of performance or have more on-demand services.
But we have not yet decided on what types of features or models or pricing that might have; it’s quite a way away. It’s a huge investment, so just take away from what I’m saying here is we’re investing in Second Life, we’re very motivated to grow Second Life … don’t get distracted by Sansar; you can go check out Sansar if you want – it’s free to hop in, just like Second Life – and try it out if you want, but it’s two different products and I’m happy if you use both or [if you] choose one or the other. It’s up to you.
So with that, I don’t want to take up too much of our time, because we have lots of questions to answer, but I’m super excited about the team, I’m super excited about our future and with that I’m happy to start taking questions.
Revenue: Land, Fees, Subscriptions and Compliance
Could you give some kind of time line for moving Second Life to the cloud, and how much cheaper land would be?
Like I said earlier, I don’t think we have – I mean cost wise, it’s roughly on a par with our proprietary infrastructure, so I think there’s more opportunities for us to reduce costs in land in how we jigger our business model, more so than a direct reduction in cost of the infrastructure as it costs us to do it. I think those lines of how much it cost to operate a proprietary infrastructure versus going with a third-party cloud infrastructure are probably fairly close to one another.
But we also see [with] the competition between these big players – Microsoft, Google, Amazon, etc., – those costs keeping coming down and down and down. They also have a lot of investment in infrastructure … so cost-wise, it’s not crazy to do, but the features we can take advantage of and have a much better platform than we have today over time.
[So] I wouldn’t necessarily attribute the move to cloud infrastructure to a direct correlation to how much land costs. I think us shifting the business model from primarily being land fees to more balanced between land fees and other fees, I think has more opportunities to reduce the cost of land.
We have not yet decided how to take advantage of the capabilities this new cloud infrastructure might give us. Maybe they could be lower-class servers that could make it possible to have a lower land cost; or maybe even higher capability server infrastructure that would potentially increase the cost, if you wanted that extra performance.
[Then there’s] On demand – in Sansar we basically park experiences, or regions as we say in Second Life, if no-one is there using them. Which means that those “regions” in Sansar are less persistent, if you will, at this moment. But that allows us to have a much, much lower cost of the infrastructure, because the grid is not always running, like Second Life is. And whether we introduce something like that is still to be decided.
First, the work of just going to this cloud infrastructure without breaking anything and just having everything work as you would expect it to work, that’s a huge undertaking of itself. So we’ll start there, and I’m confident there will be opportunities for better services, more performance services, and over time, more cost-effective [services] for us and you. It’s a smart investment, but I can’t really speak to how the move to the cloud will affect pricing directly right now.
How can Linden Lab sustain itself on a free-to-play basis? – Free-to-play, revenue and subscriptions
Well, I’m not sure exactly! I mean, clearly, many of you pay, and free-to-play is the model that obviously has become a very dominating model for platforms like this as well as gaming. so I don’t think we have any plans to make it required for people to pay to come in and participate in Second Life.
And to my earlier points, we just want to get a better balance in how we collect [revenue] so that we don’t inhibit creation and consumption, but still make sure that it’s a profitable business for us and can be a profitable business for many of you that have those intentions.
And it might be that as part of upcoming subscription plans that maybe you get a little bit less than you get today, if you’re not paying. So we’re trying to figure it out – and it’ll take a while to figure out all the details – what exactly can a free resident do versus a paying resident; and there might be some changes there. but free-to-play is here to stay.
Can you explain how LindeX and transaction fees are constantly increased with no perceived added benefit to users?
Well, I think I spoke to that earlier. You might see increased fees because we’re trying to reduce land cost, so we’re shifting our economy from one side to another side of the equation. And plus, so you’re aware, the investment we’re doing to make sure that all this money coming in and going out is in compliance with state and federal and global law, is quite an undertaking. You don’t see a whole lot of products that have an unbelievable creativity and freedom that we have with the ability for people to exchange goods and services and make money, earn income, and then to be able to redeem money back out again. And so making sure that’s all in compliance is a huge undertaking.
We now have money transmitter licenses in every state in the United States. That’s been a year’s process. and it takes a lot of effort to build the systems and the tools and the team to operate these compliance efforts. So that’s something that didn’t exist many, many years ago, and if it didn’t exist, it would put a business model like this at tremendous risk.
So a huge investment there to make sure we’re all safe, and that there’s no bad actors that can take advantage of a system like this to cause fraud or money laundering or all those kind of things. So huge effort underway there, and that comes at a cost.
And then that and what I said earlier, the increase in fees on transactions or Marketplace or subscriptions, or whatever it might be, will again allow us to lower [the cost of] land. And we think that’s a good trade to be making.
From the “after session” questions, Ebbe added this comment in relations to upcoming US SEC and European data protection law changes:
We take compliance very, very seriously. What data is stored, how it is stored, how secure things are, how money moves. All of this stuff is under extremely tight control. you cannot get money transmitter licenses for all the states in this country unless you have all that extremely buttoned up. Yes, we’re paying attention to what’s coming down from Europe, as well as some of the new regulations coming out of the US. So we always look at those, our legal team looks at those, and we figure out whether they are applicable to us, whether we need changes to comply with those, and if we need to make changes to comply with those, we do so.
What is the Lab’s policy on user data protection?
It’s very important [to us] that [user’s] privacy is as protected as they want it to be … Running a platform like this where you can all transact and make money and redeem money – last year [on] aggregate you all redeemed almost US $70 million, so that’s a lot of people making a decent amount of money.
That requires a lot of compliance, and so we have money transmitter licenses in every state of the US and we follow all the laws for how data is stored and is protected and encrypted and separated away; and who internally has access, and obviously that no-one externally has access, and also how we keep that data where it belongs.
We couldn’t have this degree o compliance and this degree of money transmitter licenses if we did not have sufficient security and compliance around privacy. And so we will always pay attention to new laws and regulations as they come up, and make sure that we are in full compliance, not just for legal reasons, but also in the best interest of you all.
So, believe me, we take it very seriously, and we’ve been doing it for many years, and it’s something we don’t have the luxury to be sloppy with at all, so this is very serious and I’m very proud of the work we’ve done to make sure that personally identifiable information is stored and managed in very secure ways. and we also don’t really participate in any business models that require us to leverage this data in ways that [you] wouldn’t want us to. We’re all in this together.
Have you considered charging for additional avatar accounts, say US $10?
I don’t think that particular thing has come up, that I’ve heard of, to charge for … I not sure if that’s right or wrong. I’ll let Grumpity and team think that one through; but I haven’t heard that idea come up.
Are there going to be adjustments to Premium accounts?
Yes, definitely. And that’s what I meant by “subscriptions”.
So when we think of Premium accounts, what exactly do you get for free? What do you have to be a Premium account holder to get what capabilities? What Premium account levels will there be? How many? As you increase your Premium levels, how many more features and capabilities can you get? And then what is the actual pricing of each of those.
It’s a large project, but we definitely want to come out with a new Premium model that again creates a better balance of what you should get at different price points, and also make it more attractive so that more people like to subscribe. Which then hopefully generates more revenue, which then hopefully allows us to reduce land cost again.
So when I say “fees” increasing so we can reduce the cost of land, it’s all of that. It’s Premium, it’s transaction fees, and things we can think of to get a better balance and a more fair distribution of how we collect money.
So that’s a huge complex spreadsheet with various options as to what goes into what plan, and trying to get limits and features and capabilities and stuff put into the right plans for the right models. Something Grumpity spends a lot of time thinking about.
Will the changes to Premium accounts also see changes to how arrears are handled, e.g. not lock accounts out?
We do give people a good window to catch-up and correct, and you can still get in after that. so I think we’re quite thoughtful and liberal when it comes to making sure that if people get into a squeeze here and there, that they don’t get into some irreparable harm from that. but we can review it and see if there’s more we can do to help people that occasionally have a challenge to stay current.
Will any reduction in land fees apply to Skill Gaming regions?
We would love to lower the cost of all land. Which land, in which sequence, by how much is still TBD. We did do the buy-down programme a couple of years ago, we did the Mainland reduction, and we’re hoping to do more of it on a go-forward basis. But at that the same time we’re going to have to do other things to compensate for that, to get the balance right. But yes, I would love for all land to be cheaper and cheaper over time, so that more content, more creativity and therefore more transactions [take place with] more interesting things to do; and make it affordable for more and more people to have places to create and live and do whatever they want to do. That’s a core motivation of us to do .
Will there be any modernisation of in-world infrastructure like the InfoHubs and other Linden-owned objects both on Mainland and in the themed private regions offered for sale?
Let me give a shout out to Patch’s team over in the [Linden] Department of Public Works and the Moles our team is working with is a great group of people. And they’re very excited. They’re working on Linden Realms updates, improving and updating the Mainland Infohubs and starting to think about the next generation of Linden Homes. So they are excited to make all kinds of changes to land and experiences in Second Life. So, more to come there. Patch is the person to talk to about some of those plans, and I’m super happy with what that team is doing.
What’s the plan for mobile with Second Life?
We’re in the early discussion stages, so Grumpity and I – Grumpity who heads-up Product here for Second Life – we talk quite a bit about what it would mean to invest in a mobile Second Life experience or product. So we’re trying to figure out how to validate the idea, and how much would it take to do it, and what could the value be to us and to customers to do it.
So we need to understand that equation before we can commit ourselves to doing it, but we’re actively working, trying to figure out how to give ourselves confidence that it would be a project to jump into. [We] just need to understand just how much of an investment it is, what kind of a value it can add for us, and what’s the return on that investment.
I’m hoping we come to the conclusion that we should proceed, and invest in it and go do it, but we’re not ready to jump in just yet. But I hope will come to the conclusion to jump in soon; so more to come on that.
Note: this question was asked in terms of iOS ahead of the formal start of the meeting, and I’m including some of Ebbe’s reply – which again was on the broader subject of mobile products – below.
I think the main question is if it would really primarily be a companion for existing users, so therefore increase the time spent in engagement and commerce. Or would it be an opportunity to actually reach users who don’t even have PCs and Macs, and would that be an addressable market, is something we have to wrap our heads around .
Will the return of Last Names allow people to freely choose their last name, or will it be ‘choose from a list’?
Note: my March 23rd, 2018 article The return of Second Life Last Names – update with audio provides further background information on this project, as supplied by Grumpity, Oz and Patch Linden.
From what I understand, it will be a pre-made list. You’ll also be able to change or first name, and it will be probably something subscribers can take advantage of, and probably come with a fee, to make sure that it doesn’t happen crazily everywhere; so to have some sort of control over it.
Yeah, I see people say they’ll pay for it, and so it might be one of those fees that help us reduce land cost a little bit, we’ll see how much that could generate.
And one thing someone suggested to me, I think it was Grumpity, that for people who script, Don’t use names, use Agent IDs. Because you can’t assume that a name is persistent over time. So just think about that if you are a scripter.
I don’t know when this will happen, but I know the team is planning for getting it done, and it’s been a highly requested things, so we’re going to go do it.
When will Animesh Bakes on Mesh and Environmental Enhancements be available?
I think it’s hard to say exact dates, and we try to refrain from that because it’s hard to know exactly. I know these projects are well underway, some of them are being tested and we’re interacting with users . and I think on the forums, we’ll make sure that you’re all aware of the places you can participate in the ideas around these features and test these features and make sure they don’t break things and make sure they’re performant , make sure these things are as good as they can be before they become [widely available].
There are groups and forums and places where these projects are being discussed, so I assume we’ll make sure that everybody’s aware of where those locations are and where those meetings are, so that people who are interested in those projects can [be] heard and help us make sure that we get it right.
So I think it’s things that will roll out over the next couple of quarters or so, but I’m not sure exactly, and it will go out when its ready [but] we should have all that this year – unless something more important comes up. You never know. It’s hard to be super precise on dates; but it’s actively being worked on and looking forward to it being out soon.
Will the Teen Grid ever come back?
Also not something being actively discussed. I think actually bifurcating or having multiple grids …. I don’t know if that’s in our best interest. I mean, I would rather we try to figure out how we make it so those people can be here, and making sure we have the right controls in place to make sure everybody can be here rather than trying to have multiple brands or grids. So that would be my preference. And there are no plans right now to do so .
What is the Lab’s commitment to the open source project?
Well, the open source client in Second Life, we have no plans to change that. I mean, trying to change that and go closed source for the Second Life client would be a bit nuts, I think, at this point.
… And the work they [third-party developers] do? It’s awesome; it’s incredible, it’s super helpful to us. I know many of you [use] third-party viewers, and third-party viewers can provide all kinds of unique options that are more optimised for various different tasks, whether it’s for creators or stuff like that. We have no plans to change that for Second Life.
Will any features from Sansar be back-ported to Second Life, such as the rendering engine or Marvelous Designer support?
The rendering engine? No. These are such completely different beasts with completely different expectations as far as what kind of hardware you can run, what types of content you can create, how you create that content. So the rendering engines are completely different from one another.
[But] there are certainly things both teams can learn from each other. So there are techniques we might use in Sansar that the Second Life team can choose to learn from and take advantage of and vice-versa. But right now, there’s no obvious way to just swap technologies between these two. They’re two completely different products with completely different architectures with even very different use-cases in mind.
Marvelous Designer is awesome, but whether it’s something that could be leveraged for Second Life or not, I’m not sure. That would be something for the Second Life team to look at: whether the output from Marvelous Designer could be of use to the fashion industry in Second Life. I’m not sure about the extremely tight integration with it in Sansar. but could the learnings we’ve had from working with Marvelous Designer and Sansar be applied to Second Life? Interesting thing to look into, but I’m not sure.
Note: Marvelous Designer is used by Second Life clothing designers, but entirely outside of the platform. With Sansar, there is much closer integration between the platform and the application, such that Marvelous Designer’s native file format is directly recognised by Sansar, and Sansar can leverage things like Marvelous Designer’s cloth physics and clothing rigging.
Will my.secondlife.com [Profile feeds] be improved to help make connections a-la Facebook?
Well, we’re certainly not going to go and implement Facebook … But making it easier for social connections and for people to stay connected and create communities is a core part of Second Life, so those things are important to us. It doesn’t mean that we’re going to build Facebook in here. And I don’t know that … the solution is my.secondlife.com; it could be improvements to group chat; it could be improvements in lots of areas over time.
Would it be possible to spin-up a second instance of a region being rebooted, and transfer avatars to it and maintain traffic, rather than forcing them to teleport elsewhere / log off, and then letting the original just shut down?
It’s a neat idea. Sansar is built to maybe support something like that, because that has built-in instancing as part of its platform, and it would be a good question for Oz as to whether something like that would be possible i Second Life. And then again, even if it was, how much effort would it take to do, and then on top of that, how common of a use-case is that versus to everything else that’s on the potential road map of things to do. So would it make it north of the line of things to actually get to? … so I understand it makes sense, I just couldn’t speak to how hard or how it would be prioritised. But it’s a good idea .
When is Second Life going to be optimised to run well on high-end client systems with good Internet connections and graphics capabilities?
Well, it’s not necessarily just graphics; it’s a lot more than that. and it’s also not necessarily completely up to us, because user-created content comes in highly unoptimised flavours all the time. If you were just a gaming studio creating a game, the amount of effort that goes on between artist and engineer to super optimise [content] for that particular use-case, and to develop that content and assets, is a highly optimised process.
Here, we’re dealing with user-created script, user-created content, user-created textures, and sometimes that can be highly unoptimised. And then we have incredible flexibility with all these avatars, what all these avatars are wearing [both] content and script. so we’re dealing with challenges that games don’t even have to deal with.
But, we’ve come a long way. Second Life today is more performant than it’s ever been, thanks to a number of initiatives, whether it’s Jelly Babies to low-level plumbing to better server infrastructure to better code, and we’re going to continue to make it better and better and better. And we’re going to continue to be challenged with user-created content of all kinds.
New Users and the On-boarding Process
Is Linden Lab planning to advertise Second Life to attract new customers and keep the population size healthy and sustainable?
We spend quite a bit attracting new users every month, and we are investing in ways to continue to improve those campaigns. And this goes all the way from the ads themselves: where, what networks, what value propositions; all the way to the landing pages, registration flows, then the in-world first experience.
And we’re going to do a lot of testing to see what works best; trying lots of different things. Brett’s thinking about a lot of new different types of campaigns that can attract different audiences in different ways and be more targeted.
And we also want to test for how things can work if you get a much more focused value proposition throughout this whole on-boarding process. So if someone is looking for something specific, they have the feeling that they’re going to get that all the way through the process. Historically it’s been a fairly generic thing, like here’s the value proposition, now come to this generic front door and then we drop you off at the airport and say, “good luck!” And so how can we get that to be more optimised so we can get better return on the investment and higher conversion rates and better retention rates.
All of that is being looked at and worked on every day, so we can get better at it so we can help build audience. and it’s from landing pages, place pages, it’s community gateways; there all ways we’re trying to constantly iterate and improve how we attract new users, ultimately not just to maintain, but to grow … we’ll never stop trying to make that better; if anything, we’re investing more in that than before…
…And it’s never as obvious as you think, you know? You think if you just made this thing or this change; so it ends up being a lot of A/B testing – if we try acquiring this user with this on-boarding flow with this messaging with this experience, you figured just by looking at it, it should clearly be better than this other one. Then you test it, and it’s not; and you keep iterating on it …
What are Linden Lab’s plans to bring-in new users and incentivise past users to return?
Well, it’s improved on-boarding that I’ve just discussed; the more likely you discover something that’s relevant to you, whether it’s a community or experiences that you want to be a part of, then the more likely [it is] that you’re going to come back.
So it’s performance, it’s quality, it is features, and it’s not just things we do, but also enable you guys to create for better retention in content experiences that you make to increase retention of our user base.
And all of these things, whether it’s marketing, product technology, and capabilities for you to create communities and engage people with these communities; all of these things will eventually add up to better retention and engagement. So it all adds up to making things happen; there is no one magic bullet, it’s just a bunch of hard work in lots of areas.
Where does Linden Lab stand on adult content in Second Life? What is the future of adult content in Second Life?
More-or-less status quo is cool with me. We want to make sure it’s a very free, open, creative platform for people to be able to express themselves. We want to make sure that everything that happens is legal; we want to make sure that everything that happens is by users’ choice, so that you can see the content that you want to see and not see the content you don’t want to see.
And just like adult content is all over the place in physical space or on my cable channel, or a few blocks away from where our office is. It’s part of what humans do and want to do. It’s cool with me; so we have no plans to make any changes in what people can create and do in Second Life today.
Will there be more sessions like the Town Hall or like Lab Chat after SL15B?
Note: refer to the SL wiki for a list of weekly in world meetings hosted by Linden Lab at which technical issues can be discussed (note these do not cover the likes of governance, compliance, etc.).
I think us spending more time – and I know many of us already spend time with you, whether it’s Oz with the Open Source group or other team members that are having meetings with various groups around different subject matter, whether it’s around Animesh or whatever it might be.
But having more general conversations where I can speak with you, or other people on the team will meet with you, I think … more is better so I look forward to hanging out with you more and more, going forward.
How do you compare the Oasis [from Ready Player One] as an educational place with Second Life?
We took the whole team here at the Battery [Street] office [to see Ready Player One] a few weeks ago, and it was fun; when we’re standing there inside the movie theatre, I bumped into Philip Rosedale because he and his group from High Fidelity were there at the same time. Then I turned my head, the there’s Jeremy Bailenson from Standford. So I don’t think people in the movie theatre realised that the people who are the most dedicated to actually building things that actually are things like Snowcrash and Ready Player One were actually in the movie theatre at the same time.
I think Second Life is the closest by far that exists on the planet today to an idea like that. I am so incredibly inspired and blown away with the breadth and depth of the types of things that Second Life is being used for; the type of content being made. From educators to health professionals to role-players to people finding the loves of their lives; people who are able to do things in a virtual space they just cannot do in a physical space. There’s so many positive stories ongoing all the time …
So… working on something like this is so very, very easy, because it’s just so incredibly empowering for so many people. So [I] feel so fortunate to have the opportunity to work on something like this and can’t wait for what we’re going to be able to do in the next decades.
You can do this in all kinds of flavours; a lot of sci-fi ends up being a little bit dystopian, but clearly from Second Life you can see it doesn’t need to be dystopian at all. It can be beautiful, life improving, just incredibly empowering for so many people. [There’s] an incredible amount of love and sharing and helping and creativity, so it’s wonderful and I just love it, it’s awesome.
Do you see Second Life lasting for another fifteen years?
Yes I do. Absolutely. No doubt in my mind … Fifteen is incredible. That it’s still such an incredibly successful product. I mean, it’s successful to us, but even better than that, you’re seeing how successful it is for so many other people, too; whether that’s emotionally, monetarily, or creatively. It’s just unbelievable, so why wouldn’t we want this to go on for another fifteen years? So let’s keep it going .
Can you give a positioning statement between Sansar and Second Life?
Second Life and Sansar share a lot of similarities in spirit; they’re both platforms for users to be able to create content, to be able to share that content, and to be able to have social interaction through that content. That’s what we do in Second Life and Sansar, but we’re taking quite different technological approaches to it.
Sansar [mistakenly referred to as “Second Life” in the audio] works on PC and VR, but making it work for VR creates extremely unique requirements for approaching how to build in VR and that then instantly forces us to look at how to build a whole platform in a different way.
So I just wanted to make sure that everybody understands that they are two separate products that share some commonality. I would be happy if you both use both, but I’m perfectly happy with you using just one or the other.
We have two completely separate teams that are working on these two products. They are both motivated to make their individual products work for the use-cases they want them to work for. Second Life is obviously a very large product, it has a lot of users who already have a lot of things going on, so you can’t just change it radically overnight. It is what it is, and we’re going to make it better. But for example, trying to make Second Life work with virtual reality hardware would be a challenge that I’m not even attempting because it’s really, really difficult.
So Sansar is really about understanding what it takes to support virtual reality hardware, what does it mean to have virtual reality hardware, the virtual reality hand controllers … and you realise it changes a lot of things. how you interact with each other; what’s important – voice versus text; how do you support movement of avatars in VR; how do you move in 3D space when you’re inside virtual reality hardware.
So, I would say VR is a significant differentiator between the two products. Otherwise, they are both platforms to enable people to create, share, socialise, monetise … that’s a summary of how I see them; being both similar and very different at the same time .
What have you found to be the biggest challenges for Second Life with regards to your planned vision, and how are you overcoming those challenges? And what are you most excited about for the future of Second Life?
Like I said earlier, I’m extremely excited about the team that works here on Second Life, and if you knew how hard they work and how dedicated they are, and how much they love the product they work on and the work they work on and how much they love working together; that’s an incredible luxury for all of us.
I’m also extremely excited because I feel like this team has achieved a huge amount over the past few years, it’s in a good position to go for growth. I think we were less optimistic about growth a couple of years ago than we are today. I think we are more optimistic that we can get growth back, and that’s all thanks to the incredible dedication and hard work by this team.
I’m also – just generically – fascinated and excited about just the general idea of what Second Life is, and how incredibly empowering and special it is for so many people. how it is absolutely life-changing [for a] huge number of people … their lives would not be as good as they are today, thanks to Second Life. And there’s so many opportunities to make things better.
So I think the challenge is just the incredible breadth and depth of what Second Life offers; there’s so many things we want to do. So prioritising the right things to do, and get the best return on investment is always a challenging task, to make sure we do what’s absolutely best for you all at all times. Because there’s so many things we want to do, but it’s impossible to get to all of it. So we obviously have to be very diligent about trade-offs [and do] the best we can to understand [what] the return on investments across these different efforts are.
So my excitement is that we’re a great team, we have great users; the residents of Second Life do amazing things for themselves and for others; incredible communities; the fact that we are empowering people – where it’s relevant – to make money, and to feed themselves and their families and run successful businesses. That’s incredible; not a lot of platforms provide that.
Really, the challenge I would say is mostly making sure we’re choosing the right things to deliver. and, once we get to growth a bit here, we’re right on the edge of growth, that would mean that we could invest more, and that’s going to be awesome to even accelerate what we all wish we could accomplish in this product.