Linden Lab CEO On Second Life & Sansar's Future

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Linden Lab CEO On Second Life & Sansar's Future
April 17, 2019

Results from my survey of readers asking how they felt about the future of Sansar and Second Life after watching my interview with Linden Lab CEO. (Which you can watch below, if you missed it, or watch again because why not.) With 79 people voting, almost 51% said they were more confident after hearing Ebbe Altberg speak, with less than a quarter saying they were less positive. Voters also submitted several really good questions, which I'll follow up on with Linden Lab and his communication team.

 

Now that readers have weighed in, here's my own take: I was definitely impressed by Altberg's passion and deep dive knowledge about managing and planning for the future of Second Life and Sansar, and overall, his ebullient Swede engagement. (Linden staff tell me his enthusiasm has boosted internal morale, which floundered as CEOs before him came and went.) Some key pros and cons and stood out to me:

 

Positive:

- Openly admitting SL land tier is Too Damn High: Specifically saying, "We've been over-monetizing land". Previous CEOs and Linden staff have been loathe to admit the obvious, even as sims disappeared all around us. 

 

- Acknowledging that launching Sansar as a VR-centered product was fueled by hypeWe were at hair-pulling levels of frustration when it looked like Sansar was being promoted as a VR product even when VR sales prospects were so small (as they still are).  During the peak, Palmer Luckey-on-the-cover-of-Time hype period when Sansar launched, Ebbe says, "It was all hot and hip and interesting to talk about VR so we kinda rode that a little bit". Hopefully there's still time to change Sansar's focus to be PC -- similar to what Philip Rosedale just announced with High Fidelity

 

- Announcing plans to add game mechanics to Second Life's first time user-experienceSomething I've been pleading for, for fricking years. I'm a bit disappointed the apparent plan is to confine those mechanics just to the first-time user experience, instead of applying them to all users. But it would be a good start.

 

On the negative side of the ledger, in my view:

Downplaying Second Life's branding problem due to Adult content, especially from extreme fetishes: Either Ebbe hasn't visited much of Second Life's many Adult-rated regions, or he's being disingenuous about how much really extreme content exists in there (3:00-5:15 above).

 

To take his "Broadway in San Francisco is Adult-rated" example: Yes, there's scantily clad women hanging outside strip clubs on Broadway in North Beach. But there's not, say, "Bukkake Bliss" or "Bondage Ranch", which were two of the most popular SL regions for a time -- not to mention "Yiff Spot" (i.e. beastiality fetishism), another popular destination. Or at the farthest end of the extreme, what's described in this Wikipedia link with no images that's still possibly Not Safe for Life that, yes, mentions Second Life as hosting that content. Ebbe can "beg to differ" on this point, but the Internet never forgets, and without a conscious rebranding, all of this remains indelibly marked on the current Second Life brand.

 

Indifference to how poorly optimized mesh hurts Second Life as a social virtual world: When I pointed out that popular mesh bodies are so poorly optimized, they almost become (as one Linden vet put it) like a DDOS attack, Ebbe ultimately shrugged and said, "Users are going to do what users are going to do." Even if that means Second Life has largely become a solo activity. Which may be fine for him, but then the company can't also honestly promote Second Life as a social world in the same way that VRChat or other worlds can.

 

De-prioritizing a cloud-based streaming option for Second LifeAs we said at the time about 5 years ago, the OnLive streaming service was among the best things to come to Second Life (though it sadly went) and the pricing options back then seemed sustainable. So it's disappointing for Ebbe to put streaming into a "we may get to that someday" category (21:55 above). Since they're putting all of Second Life in the Amazon cloud, why not making it available by cloud streaming, too?

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