Back in October 2012, I was pointed to an interview with former Lab CEO Rod Humble in Gamesbeat, in which he talked about the Lab’s (then) new products, the Lab and Second Life. In reviewing that piece, I picked up on a statement that Linden Lab is “still investing in 3D virtual worlds.”
In the middle of the comments following that article, Rod himself popped-up to reassure people that the Lab was (and is) still committed to Second Life. In this comment, he also acknowledged the use of the plural – “virtual worlds” – stating:
My comment about also investing in virtual worlds is correct. As you know I don’t like to detail things until we are close to something actionable, but we absolutely are investing in the large virtual world space which I think will make Second Life users, business owners and developers very happy…. but its a ways off :)
Making an unannounced visit to the TPV Developer meeting on Friday June 20th, Ebbe Linden (Ebbe Altberg, the current CEO at the Lab) went a lot further than hinting at “virtual worlds”. He made a clear-cut statement that not only is the Lab working on a “next generation” platform, he’s been actively talking to the media about it, and that things have reached a point where they are ready for internal demos at the Lab.
Obviously, the idea that the Lab is working on something “other” that Second Life – particularly given it is another virtual world platform – is liable to cause a range of responses from excitement through to misgivings and outright worry (many of which were expressed during the meeting).
His comments on this platform can within a wide-ranging discussion on Second Life, issues of user retention, how best to tackle bringing new users into SL (including the role the existing user base can play, how users and Lab can support one another, etc.). I’ll have more on this in due course.
For the moment, I’m including an audio file of the conversation on the platform the Lab is developing, extracted from the wider discourse, together with some key bullet-points:
- There are no clear details on exactly how the new platform will work and how it will be marketed
- It is not going to replace Second Life per se, but will initially run in parallel to it. Second Life is still a viable product with a strong revenue stream. How long the two run in parallel and whether or not one or the other will eventually be closed down depends on a lot of variables, not the least of which will be the volume of users and the success of both in terms of continued revenue generation
- It does not mean the Lab are stopping work on Second Life developments and enhancements – although it does mean that some projects (such as the introduction of a new scripting language or a complete overhaul of the avatar) are unlikely to go ahead within Second Life
- The new platform is not Philip Rosedale’s High Fidelity, nor is it based on High Fidelity (although conceivably it could leverage some of what High Fidelity is doing – and possibly vice-versa). As I’ve frequently pointed out in this blog, and others have elsewhere, High Fidelity is an entirely separate technology development being carried out by an entirely separate company (although the Lab were an early investor)
- The platform may or may not have some compatibility with Second Life in terms of content, it is to early to definitively say which it will be. However, the direction which has been set is not to allow things to be constrained by ideas of backwards compatibility with SL or to become overly complicated as a result of thoughts about backward compatibility. Although there are some hopes for some levels of migration, given the new platform may well be revolutionary, rather than evolutionary, whether this will be possible , and at what level cannot at this time be determined
- This does not necessarily mean there won’t be a means by which content can be exported from SL to the new platform, although the Lab is understandably concerned over the quality of content
- It will initially be closed-sourced; whether this remains the case, hasn’t been decided
- Resources at the Lab will be split going forward: Oz Linden will be leading a team of engineers focused on Second Life, and the Lab will use other resources / resources recruited into the company to build-up is liable to be run starting in late 2014 or early 2015, with people invited in to it under NDA.
The comments on the new platform grew out of a discussion about SL and the media, and the audio extraction picks-up from the end of the chat about PR.
Note that in the audio, questions are included from the 8:11 mark onwards, and Oz Linden adds a comment between 11:12-12:00. Following Ebbe’s comments on people accessing the new platform under NDA from the end of 2014 or in 2015, the conversation wound-down and he departed the meeting.
Speakers: Ebbe Linden, Oz Linden, Jessica Lyon, Latif Khalifa, Takoda (Lassie)