The Future of Linden Lab

Although there are serious problems with governance, marketing, programming and even core infrastructure in Second Life, overall the future prospects for Linden Lab look pretty strong. That doesn’t mean Second Life can’t lose the market lead it currently enjoys, but it’s unlikely Linden Lab will end up a non-factor in the meshverse. They’ll probably fare better than Netscape which while living a very low key life at AOL, has um, uh another life at Mozilla. Second Life has survived difficult transitions in the past, they have a visionary and resourceful board, momentum, a stable economy, passionate premium members, thriving communities, critical strategic partnerships, virtual world management expriences and last but not least over 7 million registered residents. Nearly a half million of these folks logged in during the past 7 days. Yes, you can take exception and say that many accounts are owned by the same person but consider the following question. Has anyone gone Shopping for Virtual Worlds and found any with comparable numbers and capabilities? Let’s assume that one or two alternatives to Second Life really start to ramp up. Not only will they face most of the same challenges as Second Life does, some of the millions who registered for SL will take another look and find that it’s changed for the better. Perhaps it will be the cool new weather LL acquired with Windward Mark Interactive or some innovation from the Amazon developer community. Last week eBay’s Meg Witman was interviewed in Second Life and said she wanted her people to revisit their involvement with Second Life because of the sustained growth. If eBay comes up with a way to attract its customer base into Second Life, real estate values in SL will climb. Then again, SL property could be greatly devalued by one or more of the many virtual world developers including Google, MySpace, Sony, Nintendo, Microsoft and AOL whose virtual economies are powered by PayPal/Linden Lab exchange servers. It’s hard to find a scenario in which Linden Lab is not a significant player in the meshverse.

Related Links:

Amazon’s Second Life Virtual Marketplace

Marketers ‘floundering’ in Second Life

Reloaded Again and Again(is anyone counting?)

Opportunity Fading: Why The New Second Life Offers Less for Business


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3 Comments »

  1. csven said

    I’m glad you wrote this. I agree Linden Lab is well-positioned. While I often point out problems, I’m just as likely to call out those like Clay Shirky for not getting the facts straight.

    I still have a hunch that when they open source the whole thing they’ll offer a new system – an SL 2.0 if you will – and take their substantial social learnings to the next level while overseeing the open source backbone that helps tie them into the open sourced clients/servers. Avatar portability will be bigger then MS’s Live or XFire, imo. If they can tap into that they might be a powerful standard-setting force.

    And while I understand the business reasons for starting to censor just like Yahoo and rest, with something like Croquet on the (somewhat distant) horizon, and with what we’re seeing with music and video, the sooner business adapts to a fundamentally uncontrolled 3D environment the better off they are.

    There’s still good reason for business to experiment in Second Life. After all, there’s really nothing else comparable. Hopefully the legal issues will be ironed out quickly.

  2. Thanks for writing this. It’s good to keep in mind that LL can simultaneously fail to maintain their current business while they shore up their future role as important infrastructure of the metaverse.

    The world needs SL++ about as much as it needs WoW++, so the best case (for humanity, not individual companies) would be if the SL clones die a quick death, LL keeps growing that market, and the rest of us develop new forms of online spaces.

    In this case diversity of form is more important than diversity of competition.

  3. csven said

    @Trevor – I have to wonder if the “clones” won’t accelerate the upgrade I’m assuming… hoping… will come.

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