Linden Lab announces it is to be acquired

© and ®Linden Lab

On Tuesday, July 9th, 2020, linden Lab announced it is to be acquired by “an investment group led by Randy Waterfield and Brad Oberwager”.

The acquisition is currently pending approval by financial regulators in the U.S., due to the Lab’s subsidiary, Tilia Inc., which forms part and parcel of the acquisition.

The full statement on the matter, which can be read on the Lab’s corporate website, includes a statement from Linden Lab CEO, Ebbe Altberg:

We’re excited for this new chapter to begin. We see this as an opportunity to continue growth and expansion for Second Life and our money services business Tilia. We’re grateful for the ongoing support from our community, business partners and investors. Now more than ever, there is increased recognition of the value and utility of virtual worlds to bring people together for safe, shared, and social on-line experiences.

Once the acquisition is finalised, both Mr. Waterfield  and Mr. Oberwager will join the Lab’s Board of directors.

Bradford Oberwager has founded and/or run five tech/CPG companies—Jyve, Bare Snacks (acquired by PepsiCo), True & Good! Snacks, Acumins/more.com (acquired by HealthCentral), and Blue Tiger/Open Webs (acquired by CarParts).

J. Randall Waterfield is Chairman of The Board & Chief Executive Officer of Waterfield Group, one of the largest private financial organisations in the United State, and occupies board positions on a number of other companies and organisations.

J. Randall Waterfield (l) and Bradford Oberwager (via Waterfield.com and LinkedIn)

Also commenting on the acquisition, Brad Oberwager states:

Both the company and its virtual world community have a unique culture and creative energy that remain important to the long-term success of Second Life. There’s a bright future for both Second Life and Tilia and we’re excited to help fuel these growth opportunities.

With the news breaking on Twitter, Altberg responded to questions on what it means for Second Life with a simple “Continued Greatness!”

I reached out to linden Lab on finding out the news, but was informed the company has no further comment on the acquisition beyond the press release.

However, given that the acquisition will see Mr. Waterfield and Mr. Oberwager joining the board, I would anticipate that – given the nature of acquisitions – it is unlikely there will be any immediate visible changes to Linden Lab, Second Life or Tilia Inc., and, and the company will likely to continue to operate in a “business as usual” mode with regards to both Second Life operations and the community for the immediate future. That said, there will likely be a lot of speculation as to the future of SL, together with concerns / fears as to what the longer-term future might be.

While it is purely speculative on my part, I would hazard a guess that the acquisition will take into consideration the increased interest Second life has witnessed over the last year(ish), and particularly as a result of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, and will see in inflow of cash for the company that will allow it to (hopefully) meet its immediate goals with both Second Life and Tilia Inc., and allow both platforms to continue to be developed.

This is certainly the belief held by Linden Lab’s co-founder, Philip Rosedale, who now heads-up High Fidelity Inc. Also quoted in the press release, he states:

Since its inception 17 years ago, Second Life has been a pioneer in the concepts of virtual societies, land and economies. I’ve known Brad [Oberwager] for 14 years personally and professionally, and I’m confident he will bring his passion and proven strategies to help Linden Lab achieve new heights in distribution, scale, and quality while remaining true to the original vision, creativity, and community that makes Second Life unique and special.

Source:  Linden Research, Inc. to Be Acquired, Thursday, July 9th, 2020.

With thanks to Whirly Fizzle for the pointer.

Second Life & COVID-19: a Digital Cultures study – call for participants

Tom Boellstorff and his digital alter ego, Tom Bukowski (image: Steve Zylius / UCI): launching a new study in Second Life

Tom Boellstorff (Tom Bukowski in Second Life) is a name that frequently pops-up in these pages. A Professor of anthropology at the University of California, Irvine (UCI), Tom has a long association Second Life as a part of his research – which has in the past produced two books – Coming of Age in Second Life: An Anthropologist Explores the Virtually Human, (Princeton University Press, 2008), and Ethnography and Virtual Worlds: A Handbook of Method (Princeton University Press, 2012). Most recently, I covered the transfer of his classes at UCI from the physical classroom to Second Life (see Tom Boellstorff: teaching digital culture in Second Life) and the result of that effort (see: Studying digital cultures in Second Life).

On Thursday, July 9th, 2020, Tom will be initiating a new round of weekly discussions on the subject of digital interactions and the impact of the SARS-CoV-2  / Covid-19 pandemic – and he is seeking the input of Second Life residents.

These discussion sessions form the core of a new study Tom is running, supported by the National Science Foundation, and which he explains thus:

The title of the study is The Role of Emerging Virtual Cultures in the Prevention of COVID-19 Transmission, and it is intended to examine the role of virtual cultures in the prevention of COVID-19 transmission.

As we know, this pandemic has been reshaping on-line interaction; as many have noted, what we call “social distancing” is really physical distancing, and because of it, an unprecedented number of people have been socialising on-line, in new ways and for new purposes. A better understanding of these new digital cultures will have consequences for COVID prevention: successful physical distancing will rely on new forms of social closeness on-line. It will also have consequences for everything from work and education to climate change.

– Professor Tom Boellstorff

Anteater Island: landing point

Central to the project is the examination of the implications of virtual worlds for new digital cultures, and a drive to answer questions such as how do such shared spaces using directed interactions through avatars transform things like intimacy, collaboration, the formation and extension of friendships, and help to expand cultural and social understanding / engagement.

Answers to questions like these might provide innovative strategies for preventing viral transmission, by forging new forms of social closeness in the context of physical distancing. It will also help us better respond to the transformed social lives we are all destined to encounter in the wake of COVID-19.

– Professor Tom Boellstorff

Sessions will be held every Thursday (unless otherwise stated) starting at 10:00am SLT at Anteater Commons, the central social area within Anteater Island. The series will open with a discussion on the subject of distance itself, with the session’s introductory notes stating:

One phrase we have learned since the beginning of the pandemic is “social distancing.” But as many have noted, this really means “physical distancing”; new social intimacies are forming on-line. How are they different from our on-line interactions before COVID-19?

And what does “distance” mean anyway? From its beginnings, the internet has been a technology to reduce distance. How is “distance” in Second Life different from “distance” on Facebook, Zoom, or email? How do we experience distance and closeness in Second Life, and how might this transform what we mean by “social distancing?”

Second life residents who would like to participate in the study are invited to join Tom and his research assistants on Anteater Island. Those attending should note:

  • Session are planned to last one hour, and will be held in Voice and local chat.
    • There is no requirement for attendees to use Voice if they do wish to, comments in local chat are acceptable.
    • However, attendee should have Voice enabled so they can hear all that is being said.
  • As this is part of a formal study, sessions will be recorded and text transcripts saved to help with the production of notes, etc., after each session. Screen shots may also be taken during sessions.
  • If any names, etc., of attendees are to be subsequently used in publication, permission to use names (avatar or personal name) will be sought. Those who are quoted will have the option of reviewing any statements they made  to ensure they are happy with their use.
  • The usual Second Life Community Standards / Terms of Service rules apply regarding use of language, avoidance of harassment, rudeness, etc.

I hope to be at least least some of the discussions, and may also be reporting on them and other aspects of the study through these pages.

Links to Tom Boellstorff in this Blog

SLurl Details

Name Changes update: new last name options released

© Linden Lab

On June 16th, I reported on the announcement that the first set of last names for the Premium Names Changes capability would be “retired” (i.e. removed from the list of options) at the end of Wednesday, June 24th, 2020.

Those names: Alpaca, Covfefe, Damballar, Float, Jazzhands, Mainsail, Nimble, Piggins, Plumday, and Yeetly – have all now gone from list of available last names.

They have, as of Thursday, June 25th, 2020, been replaced by a new set of names that have been added to the list of available last names. These are:

Vortex – Fluffpaw – Sassypants – Amethyst – Bloodrose – Aurelia – Starlight

In addition, and as announced by Linden Lab at the launch of the above last name options, there are three additional last names added to the list to mark Second Life’s 17th anniversary theme. These are:

Wayfarer – Rover – Wanderer

These three names will only remain available through until the name round of updates, at which time they will be retired.

Name Changes was introduced in April 2020, providing Second Life Premium subscribers with a fee-based ability to change both the first name and last name for their avatar / account.  If you are unfamiliar with the capability, you can read more here: Second Life: the return of last names, and some notes.

 

Indie pop musician showcases Second Life music video

Katie Dey (l) released Dancing, a track from her new album myData on June 24th, 2020, which uses a machinima recorded in Second Life, filmed by Devi McCallion (r)

Katie Dey, an Australian indie pop musician whose music covers the genres of experimental pop, psychedelia, and bedroom pop, is set to release her fourth album on July 24th.

Announced by Fader magazine, myData is described as:

An album-length exploration of a long-distance relationship that unravels into an epic about love, connection, and all the strange, unruly factors that surround those things, from capitalism to sex to internet servers. 

– Shaad D’Souza, writing in Fader

However, what is particularly interesting about the album is that the first track to be released from it on June 24th, 2020, and entitled Dancing, features a music video shot entirely in Second Life.

The video has been written and directed by another indie pop singer, songwriter and producer, Devi McCallion – perhaps most famous for her association with Black Dresses – with the assistance of Sofa (yogurt 200). Both the song – seen as something of a “striking new sound” for Dey – and the the video, are already garnering a positive response.

I’ve no idea if Katie Dey is a regular Second Life user, but she certainly appears familiar with some of the technical challenges in producing a video of this kind, commenting to D’Souza that:

This video was made entirely in Second Life, and I hope when people watch it they think about just how much work it would take to do that. If you’ve ever played that game you know how difficult it is to even control the camera, let alone create a whole world, with such incredible characters, such breathtaking cinematography.

Created remotely, across countries, in a pandemic, on a dying laptop, their lives in utter chaos, the world in chaos… I hope people cry about these beautiful characters, and then cry about the beautiful humans that put so much love and care into creating them. Anyway, the song is about dancing. Like, metaphysical dancing, I guess.

– Katie Dey to Shaad D’Souza for Fader

Video maker Devi McCallion, however, does appear to be something of a Second Life user. In May 2020 she hosted her own first-ever DJ set in-world, which can be seen on her You Tube channel, and some of her other videos contain elements that may have been filmed in-world as well.

I reached out to Brett Linden to enquire if Linden Lab were in any way involved in the video’s development – but it was apparently produced entirely independently.

I would love to say that we were involved, but we weren’t! It was completely organic and a pleasant surprise to us.

– Brett Linden, Senior Director, Marketing, Linden Lab

Catch the video below – my thanks to Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg for the pointer.

 

Second Life: looking at the new Linden Homes Stilt theme

The new linden Stilt Homes (r-l) Tortuga, Havana and 2-storey Lauderdale

On Tuesday, June 23rd, while speaking at the SL17B Meet the Lindens event, Patch Linden announced the next theme of Linden Home that is being lined up for release: Stilt Homes, designed to be placed in coastal setting, their stilts allowing them to sit on land, over water or between the two.

Once available – the new houses are currently only available for preview at SL17B – will again come in four styles, and will occupy 1024 sq m parcels. When they are released, they will become the sixth type of new Linden Homes to be made available over the last 18 months, with two further themes already in preparation.

The new theme is … stilt homes. They take their inspiration from south-eastern US geographical areas that basically are Floridian shore-side stilt home communities that tend to pop-in in low-lying and potentially even hurricane prone areas. Generally, they’re fairly brightly coloured; they have fairly good-sized open concept floor designs, and we’re going to offer them in three different variants. There will be an over water variant of the home, a partial version of the home that could rest over land and water. and there will be an inland version of the home, all on stilts no matter what because – you know – when the hurricane comes though you certainly don’t want to be on the ground when the flooding happens!

– Patch Linden, SL17B, describing the new Linden Home theme

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The new theme comprises the following styles of home:

The Lauderdale: a two-floor unit with two large down stairs rooms, open with front door opening to a full length front porch with roof over, and sliding doors to the rear opening to a rear deck-come-dock. Central stairs lead up to an enclosed landing area with bedrooms either side, one with views to the front and rear, and the other with views to the front and side and sliding doors to a large verandah with roof over at the rear of the house.

The Havana: is single-storey 3-roomed, cross-shaped house with central front-to-back room providing access to front covered porch and rear covered deck. One side room also offers access to the deck-come-dock, and with windows to front and side aspect. Remaining room has windows to front, rear and side aspects.

The Santiago: a two-storey house with ½-porch with verandah over to the front, and an open-plan ground floor presenting space for two rooms, the larger of which has a bay window to the front and sliding doors to the rear opening onto full length deck, sans dock. A dog-leg staircase leads up to a central landing with sliding doors to the front verandah, and two bedrooms. The first bedroom is a full front-to back room with windows to the front and rear. The second bedroom has windows to the front bay and side aspect, and sliding doors serving a rear private verandah.

The Tortuga: a single-storey house with offset main room to one side with front door to a small covered front porch and sliding doors to the rear deck-come-dock. A second room, also with access to the deck / dock opens off of this, together with windows to the rear / side aspect. A small room sits to the front of the house with windows to the front aspect.

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The theme itself has been a lot of fun to design and develop. We took a lot of plant life from that area and created it to be true to that geographical zone of the United States as well as varying out transportation capabilities between road and dock as well as waterway and such. And the thing I’m particularly excited about is that the home that are over water will marry up to and against regions that are also specific to houseboats. So this is going to give us a new ability to segue from area to area between the stilt homes portions of the continents to also adding on more houseboat regions out and around these continent sections that we’re planning on putting out. 

– Patch Linden, SL17B

A view of an “inland” group of Stilt Homes – Santiago to the left, Lauderdale centre

All four styles of home look like they can be used over land or water; those over land appear to have steps down to the ground from the front porch, with perhaps room to squeeze a car under them. As Patch notes the landscaping is tropical coastal and modelled on that of Florida. The houses with water parcels are either connected by sun washed board walks back to dry land and which can also provide social spaces, or – at least in the demo region – sit entirely surrounded by water, which is an interesting approach.

There is something of the Traditional Homes look to these stilt homes, so much so, that with a casual initial glance, you might be forgiven for thinking that they are “traditional homes on legs”. However, once examined, it becomes clear this similarity is more passing than anything else; something that gives these houses something of a hook into past Linden Homes designs whilst also  – thanks to the large deck spaces and mix of land / water locations – being something completely unique.

The “offshore” Stilt Homes at the SL17B preview region – Havana in the foreground, and Lauderdale towards the centre

Given there desk and docks, the theme also appears to have the largest general footprint of the Linden Home released to date, which might cause problems for those wishing to moor a large type of boat alongside one. Even so, I have to admit that this is the first theme that – once available – might tempt me into giving up my houseboat and trying to snag one that sits in its own “offshore” parcel. Although that said, it would be nice to see a theme that isn’t another aspect of Americana – the rest of the world has house styles to offer, after all!

SLurl to Preview Region

(only available while the SL17B regions are live)

Summer Sailstice in Second Life

Summer Sailstice in Second Lfe

We’re used to hearing news about physical world events being cancelled – and some attempting to relocate to virtual spaces, including Second Life (see: Balticon 54: a real world sci-fi convention using Second Life, and MuseWeb: utilising Second Life in support of a global conference as two examples in these pages, for example).

One real-world event is still going ahead this year – one that can make fairly good use of social / physical distancing – is the annual Summer Sailstice, which marks its 20th anniversary in 2020. However, because the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic can sill have an impact on sailing in the physical world – particularly for crews who may not all be in the same household – a special partner event is also being held in Second Life.

Coordinated by Second Life resident and sailor in both the physical and virtual realms, Dale Irata, and involving the Second Life sailing community, under the banner of Sailors in Second Life, the in-world event has offered physical world sailors an open invitation to come in to Second Life and share a weekend’s sailing and events at marinas across the grid and within popular sailing areas such as North Sea and Blake Sea – and the Second Life sailing community can get involved as well.

The Sailstice Expo Centre

To help engage sailing enthusiasts from the physical world to both understand Second Life and potential get involved in the virtual event, a number of on-line resources have been made available over the last couple of months, including:

The core event  – as with the physical world one – takes place on Saturday, June 20th. However, supporting it in-world an in-world exhibition celebrating 15 years of sailing and boating in Second Life, featuring trade stands by some of the platform’s top marine designers and brands. Having opened on June 13th, the expo run through until Sunday, June 21st.

Folkboat racing: one of the many forms of sailing in Second Life

The events scheduled for Saturday, June 20th comprises (all times SLT):

Time Event
Location
24-hours Camping event – rez your boat for free all weekend

Malolo Island Marina

05:00

Cruise

Rainbow Sails Yacht Club
07:00

Cruise – More info

Flying Manta Yacht Club
09:00 DJ Dance Party Flying Manta Yacht Club
10:00

Bandit 25R racing

Triumphal Yacht Club
Corona Cup SRV210 motorboat racing Starboards Yacht Club
11:00 Nacra 17 Race Nantucket Yacht Club
Noon

Queen Tribute Concert and Second Sailstice Novice Regatta Kickoff Party

North Sea (Merfolk TP)
Shields Class Racing Triumphal Yacht Club
13:00 Bandit race preparation time North Sea

Party at Wicked Good Beach

Nantucket Yacht Club (Merfolk TP)
14:00 Second Sailstice Novice Regatta – see below for more North Sea
16:00

Second Sailstice Novice Regatta Afterparty

North Sea
17:00 Sails and Tails Party (all sailors and merfolk invited) with DJ Night Nantucket Park (Merfolk TP)

Note also that all events are Merfolk friendly!

The Novice Regatta is especially for new SL sailors, and a free boat – the brand new Bandit 22 LTE – will be provided for eligible sailors! You won’t be on the course with folks who’ve been here before, so come out and have a really fun time! More details can be found in the SL Novice Regatta web page.

Follow the links above the event schedule for more information.