Second Life

Mark Kingdon and Philip Rosedale Keynote at SLCC

M and Pip on Tonight Live, Image via Malburns Posterous

Linden Lab dynamic duo Mark Kingdon and Philip Rosedale greeted a slightly bleary-eyed crowd at the Second Life Community Convention with thoughts on the progress of the past year and the challenges ahead.

The presentation followed an initial full day of sessions (and the first full day in which things were vaguely organized, and you could actually register) in which the Lab gave a sneak peek of a new orientation island specifically geared to enterprise and Chris Collins, who’s heading up the Nebraska project, talked about how Second Life is being pitched to enterprise.

Collin’s had a slide which outlined the Web-side ‘portals’ including the new Work Web site, but which included two OTHER additions that he didn’t expand upon: Learn, and Develop (Learn was obviously for education, and I’m going to guess that Develop will be some sort of, um, microsite for content developers maybe (and perhaps that’s where they’ll put Torley?))

After dealing with technical glitches (which have plagued the main sessions) Pip and M took to the stage.

My typing skills leave something to be desired, so what follows is more impressionistic that a transcript of their presentation:


Philip started by asking the question – are we facing evolution, or revolution?

Technology improves, it’s an evolutionary pattern, things change over time. But technology can also be revolutionary. There’s a difference between the two things. The difference between these two things has a bearing on how we perceive where SL is at today.

The idea at the center of SL is to ‘digitize reality’ (or supplant?)…to create an option to reconstruct the entire world as we know it today in a digital form.

That process, though slow and hard and difficult, IS underway. There is more diversity now in SL than ever before…educators, enterprise, and long-term residents. The original mission is, therefore, proceeding as planned, and we are in the early stages of meeting the plan – to reconstruct reality in digital form.

The current residents and businesses in Second Life are settlers. But if Philip’s vision is correct, we are at the very earliest stages of this (r)evolutionary change. And if you’re here now – it will change. These are early days. Whatever you have now is at a microscopic level of change, it will be supplanted. We are on a prairie and this will soon by New York City.

If what Ray Kurzweil said is true, the rate of change is exponential. Based on this, where Second Life will be 2 or 5 or 10 years from now will be exponentially different than it is today, and that this change is within the broader context of technology change.

20 years from now we will be thrust in a very different world, in which there are two bifurcated paths: one path will be the world which we created in Second Life and in digital form; the other world, the “old” world, is the one in which things are built out of atoms, and that world itself will be radically changed because we will gain complete control of the atoms (within the limits of physics).

So – we will have two choices – a “real world” in which we can control all the atoms. And another world, in which reality is digitized. There is an interesting juxtaposition between these realities. And the digital world will have capabilities that, even though we control atoms, we can not replicate in ‘reality’.

We will get to a BILLION people using virtual worlds/Second Life. That’s massive change.

As we build Second Life, we will not STOP at reality.

The level of detail, the magnificence, the quality of virtual worlds will not STOP when it becomes ‘real’. Moore’s law implies that the power that drives virtual worlds will in fact be BETTER than the resolution of the real world.

Laney Loon’s video an example (Dusan: um, will track that down later) – how EASY it is to create staggeringly beautiful content.

A theater for human experiences that we have not seen and will not see in the real world.

Current residents of virtual worlds will be ostracized, and not liked, and misunderstood. People in the real world have this feeling that maybe there’s something here, but this drives fear and discomfort. We have not crossed the chasm yet. This is a challenging time.

Recognize that we are at the very beginning. We will need to weather tremendous change as we move towards a global digital world and we may not like the change, we may not like what is inevitable, because these changes are revolutionary, not simply evolutionary.

Mark Kingdon

M started by showing what he loves most about Second Life (photos from his Flickr stream), talked about where he hangs out (Linden World for work, out meeting with people).

It’s hard to describe, because much of what M showed were photos, but he spoke very passionately about his in-world experiences terraforming, building, meeting and exploring, and the in-world pictures told a story of what SL means to him.

He spoke briefly about how residents “jumped on” a discussion about Twitter vs. Second Life (about which more is here) and how Prokofy, Gwynn and others commented on a blog post on Advertising Age and how this led to in-world demos and discussions with the journalist.

Moved on to a review of where we’re headed and where we are now. In contrast to Philip’s long-term vision of a billion people, M will focus on where we’re at now and in the short-term.

- Second Life is growing. Not exponential, maybe, but linear and growing, and the infrastructure can handle a doubling of the user base.
- The content database is doubling yearly. Is now at 270 TERRABYTES.
- We are coming out of the trough of the Gartner Hype Cycle.
- The trough exerts a gravitational pull on growth – you need to fight the ‘anti-hype’.
- Second Life has been the poster child of the hype cycle (just Google it!)

Over the past year or so, lots of work has gone into building out SL:
- We’re in the middle of a top-to-bottom renovation
- Create more relevance to new users
- Help explain relevance to new users
- 4% increase through change to the home page (use of verbs)

Improve usability:
- New viewer (screen shots tomorrow!)
- Rework orientation experience – collapse orientation to 5 minutes from 5 hours
- Localize content (different languages)
- Improve support experience

Improve stability with goal of no crashes, which are down 60% since last year. Viewer crashes are down 40%. Hours lost to downtime are down 81% over last year.

Where is SL today?
- Highly engaging platform and experience (8x Facebook for engagement hours)
- Mega market place
- Growth in residents, hours, concurrency, transactions etc

What’s Ahead? Second Life 2.0
- Make it delightfully accessible and easy
- Imagine a lightweight/Web-based client
- In-world functionality brought out to the Web, imagine being able to view what’s happening in world from the Web
- iPhone applications
- Build a more powerful network effect – SL is the ultimate social tool without social tools.
- Create the tools, apps and support that support content, commerce and community.
- SL interconnected by bringing more of the Web into SL, and more of SL out to the Web, more connection with social media, etc
- Also see interconnected grids – interconnectivity with other Grids, with content protection and perms
- Built on a stable and reliable platform

- Easily accessible
- Broadly relevant
- More social, connected with real world friends, network effect
- Interconnected


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