The names of those “let go” following yesterday’s restructuring announcement are beginning to appear. Pastebin has one of the most comprehensive lists. Whether it in complete or not is another matter. Elsewhere there is much speculation that Cyn Linden and Babbage Linden have both gone – but this remains unconfirmed, while Prok Neva points to Blue Linden is among the casualties and also mentions Cyn.
Running an in-world search, it appears that the speculation surrounding Babbage and Cyn is misplaced. I’d actually have been very surprised if Cyn was on the list of the departed, given her very recent promotion. Similarly, given the mighty work that has been done around LSL and Mono, I would also have been surprised had Babbage gone – and would certainly looked at his departure as a negative portent.
Blue, sadly, has gone; and despite what some may say about him, I personally shall miss him. Despite a rocky start to our relationship, he and I went on to have many private conversations on a range of subjects that convinced me that, while the corporate need may have forced his hand at times (and indeed stifled a desire to provide greater support to users), he had a very genuine love for the platform and the people with whom he interacted.
I have to say that, while I wouldn’t wish redundancy on anyone (I’ve been through it twice myself and I know how devastating it can be), I find myself unable to feel much in the way of remorse at the loss of Pink Linden. Her attitude from day one was autocratic, and despite knowing little about SL or the SLX/XStreet SL environment, she was very quick to unbendingly follow the corporate line where a modicum of understanding might have been more welcome – and more appropriate.
If I’m honest, part of my opinion of her was shaped by the whole XSL Content Roadmap situation – particularly her determination to stifle any and all discussion on the subject at her Office Hours meetings, while at the same time using her real life blog to decry the fact that the owners of her apartment block had opted to cut down some fourteen trees around it without consulting the residents. Pot, meet kettle and please note its colour.
I also did wonder at her potential longevity at LL after a) Jack effectively took over matters of commerce; b) the Content Roadmap was shelved.
Beyond the names, the speculation and rumour mill continues apace with tidings of woe and doom for SL, and a general consensus that the platform is heading for a Farmville type future, or that it is about to become Flash-driven. Many are claiming that Viewer 2.0 and the new user experience have been complete failures and have thus precipitated the situation.
Me? I think it is still too early to judge. Let’s face it, the New User Experience hasn’t been around that long, and there are more than enough issues with Viewer 2 to possibly prevent LL pushing it into the spotlight in terms of widespread external advertising. Indeed, it is hard to see any signs of a concerted advertising campaign across the full breadth of the media that one would assume would be needed to raise SL’s real world profile.
As I’ve previously posted, Mark Kingdon and his colleagues are not stupid. They may not get Second Life, but that doesn’t make them stupid. They are marketers, and they know the value of advertising. At the moment, Viewer 2 and the New Viewer Experience stand in a vacuum - few, if any, outside of Second Life have ever heard of them. So is it really any wonder than since their “launch” new numbers haven’t dramatically increased?
Unless, of course, Viewer 2 has been put together in a Costneresque view of the world wherein if you build it, they will come. If this is the case, then I’ll gladly revise my view on the levels of stupidity potentially prevalent in a certain boardroom.
No, current figures on user throughput are simply too fresh to squarely point the finger at Viewer 2, etc., and lay blame. Q2 figures might start to revise this, but even then it might be a tad premature.
So… what has happened? As I said in yesterday’s post, leaving aside the hysteria around the “Web-ising” (or possibly not) of SL and the “Facebook joining”, layoffs and retrenchment of this scale (Singapore shut, Withdrawal from Germany (SL’s 2nd largest national market), closing down the Brighton, UK office) do all tend to point to a company scrambling to save money. And I think that Gwyn Llewelyn may have hit the nail on the head a little more squarely then the theories of Viewer 2 failures, identifying one factor of the equation everyone has been overlooking:
The SL Business Enterprise “solution” isn’t working.
SL Enterprise, and what is now SL Workspaces were launched a long time ahead of either Viewer 2 or the New User Experience (last October / November). Their roots go back a lot further than that, however, and have been the cause of much angst for many of us. Throughout 2009, Linden Lab was constantly being badgered by the likes of Justin Bovington of LL’s (former?) business partner Rivers Run Red to develop huge swathes of “business only” Mainland. For a time, even the likes of Amanda Linden displayed what amounted to a hostile attitude towards residents.
Everyone seemed to be far too enamoured with the 2006/2007 situation where big business suddenly “discovered” Second Life, with the likes of Nike, IBM, Toyota, NBC, etc., all rushing in to set-up shop here…before just as quickly vanishing again.
Many theories have been cooked up to explain “what went wrong” – both within and outside of LL – with many within LL thinking they’d potentially missed a golden opportunity, albeit one hovering just outside their reach that could be recaptured if they only get things right.
Among all the theories for the 06/07 “boom/bust” business cycle, I don’t think anyone considered the most basic and simple explanation: Second Life just isn’t really very good for real world businesses.
I’ve long been a critic of the “business is all” ethos that did pervade LL for a time. The idea that what amounts to a recreational pursuit could somehow become the nexus of corporate communications and technology development always struck me as simply ludicrous.
Yet it became a major mainstay of LL’s strategic development. But beyond a few “case studies” and the dozen-or-so companies using SLW just what – as Gwyn asks – has it actually achieved?
SLE remains in beta. While there has been some take-up of it (the US Navy, for example, appears to have pulled most of it in-world studies back behind their own firewalls where they use SLE), all news relating to it has dried up. There has been no move to move it out of beta; there have been no really big corporate fish hooked by the “promise” of SLE.
Even Justin Bovington has gone quiet.
So one cannot help but wonder if this might not be the reason behind the current situation. Was someone rash enough to pin LL’s future cashflow and turnover largely on the SLE / SLW tool and environment? Where the rose-tinted business glasses worn to the degree that projections were based around the $55K-a-pop sales of SLE and the ability for LL to pull in even more revenue via business “consulting”, rather than through resident tiers, and the chicken is now home to roost?
So what of the future? Does this all point towards LL going “solely” web?
It really is hard to judge – but I do remain of the opinion that those who are condemning SL’s future are speaking prematurely. While new user numbers have not skyrocketed – they haven’t actually fallen. As a recreational platform, SL remains viable and afloat. It is also going through a series of upgrades that point – if anything – not towards a flat browser experience, but rather towards a more immersive experience: we have Havoc 7 about to be finally rolled out; later in the year full mesh capabilities are arriving. While the latter brings with it a host of other issues, it bodes well overall for SL’s ability to remain competitive and engaging.