Sunday, April 14, 2024

That PandoDaily article was extremely silly.

If you’re going to start an essay by tarring all non-Silicon Valley media as dummies, its helpful if you yourself get basics right. Like not making factual errors in your headline. To wit: It’s “Second Life,” not “SecondLife.” And the company that runs the service isn’t SecondLife; it’s Linden Lab.

When I first read the article I was pleased because I was glad to see Philip Rosedale, Linden Lab, and the Second Life community get some praise for a change. But after thinking about the piece three minutes, it revealed itself as evident bullshit.

PandoDaily and Sarah Lacy have discovered that a company that has remained in business 10 years is not a failure. And PandoDaily thinks this is news. And then Sarah Lacy makes it all about her.

Second Life will never grow unless the ability to master a viewer is made far more simple and far less confusing. Right now, Second Life requires a level of sophistication far beyond what the typical Facebook user can feel comfortable with.

I visited Cloud Party again yesterday, my second visit since it launched. Although it has a long way to go, its ease of use heralds a good future even though it looks like hell.

Second Life should be viewed as a success if everyone can admit that it was never a mass market platform, but a game specific to those who have a need or a desire to engage in the highly intensive interface it requires. And like any game, it has reached it’s plateau.

A mass-market Second Life (and I do not think it needs to be pad oriented) built upon ease-of-use and robust performance, with good content and graphical appeal still may have a mass-market future down the road.

Hamlet’s got one point I agree on: For most of SL’s users, this might as well be IMVU. Its pretty similar.

Sit in one spot on a cartoony avatar and flirt / drama with those around you.

Well Hamlet didn’t say that, but that’s how I read 70% of folks staying in one sim and chatting it up.

– And yes, most of you with your 8′ tall Barbarella avatars, are just as cartoony as those in IMVU. Only the avatar over there can’t “fail” at it and end up looking wrong as easily.

Phillip’s comment:

“Rosedale said one of the biggest Socialverse surprises he had building SecondLife was how when given total creative license, most of the houses just looked like ones in Malibu. Most people just covet the things they know, he says.”

– Is it. SL has too many human avatars, but not just that – too many that are ‘WASP’ Kardashian-knock-offs. Everyone in SL wants to be the ‘girl in high school that picked on them the most’, and live in the house she now lives in on reality-tv somewhere.

Most people just don’t care for a virtual world that is original, unique, and user created. They just want to be an army of Kim Kardashians and Paris Hiltons.

– And not enough people are out there that desire that fix in this way. Let alone who haven’t already been taken by IMVU.

The fact that SL lets some people -not- be Kim Kardashian makes it the -weaker- product, sadly enough… People in that ‘if only I could be WASP-glam’ crowd disdain being around those not in it or not seeking it.

“PandoDaily and Sarah Lacy have discovered that a company that has remained in business 10 years is not a failure. And PandoDaily thinks this is news.”

The thing is, in Silicon Valley, that -IS- a failure.

Repeat: staying in business 10 years, round here, means you did it wrong.

Which is why Silicon Valley is such a mess.

People don’t seek to become long term stable companies – they seek to get hyped up and bought out, or hyped up and IPO’d, then sell out.

When one of them actually turns out a product that has lasting stability and comfortable paychecks its owners can bank on and its employees can settle into and think about retirement with… the rest of the region looks over and says “Ha ha… you suck!” while eating ramen noodles and playing the startup lottery…

And I think LLs biggest problem is that it either fails to realize its a stable business, or fails to communicate this – and keeps acting or appearing to act like it needs to find the next shiny, rather than just managing the brand.

(The said, in the behind the scenes quiet way – they have done a lot of work in the last year and a half that has been about finding ways to keep the brand stable, though some were not ideal – and better communication on this would help.)

p.s. to the above: Note how Phillip has himself moved on from SL. Even he doesn’t get it about being a stable company. He’d rather sit out on the Nude Beach in San Francisco (Baker Beach, where the photo a few weeks ago was taken) with a laptop playing startup lottery with employees eating takeout Chinese… than manage and grow a healthy lasting business that has the potential -if done right- to keep his grandkids in profit.

String: it is far too early to tell if CP will eclipse SL or not. They’ve only barely gotten CP started up.

But I will agree that CP has gotten an enormous amount of the hardest part of the work done in a mere 5 months, whereas SL still has the same bugs and crushing limitations it possessed in 2003. These noobs came onto the scene and in less than half a year did all the things LL said couldn’t be done at all? Were I an LL exec, I’d hang my head in shame.

All of these people that think Cloud Party is going to take over the world need a serious reality check.

1) A successful buisiness needs to MAKE MONEY. Just how is Cloud Party planning on doing that? …… Anyone?

2) After it becomes larger than an OpenSim, just how is anyone going to find anything there? The current version of their visual inventory will cease to function when the items start numbering in the thousands for instance. Let alone the billions as are present in Second Life.

Lets face a few facts. The exact same problems Linden Lab faces regarding large amounts of inventory and across platform communication are faced by ALL virtual world competitors. Several OpenSim worlds learned this VERY quickly after opening their pie in the sky dreamer low priced sims. Prices rose a LOT. Why? Because they HAD TO!

These types of things are just economic facts. Bandwidth and servers cost money. You can’t live for long on venture capital and dreams.

OK, Scarp, here’s your reality check:

1) They are already making money from land rentals right now. And that is only the beginning.

2) Their visual inventory allows you to add thumbnail pictures to each entry. This is already more than SL has to offer. Plus, there is a search function. Plus, you are judging the feature set of a beta version as if it were the final product. They are literally adding new stuff to Cloud Party every few hours. Refresh your browser!

You are trying to argue that CP is doomed because OpenSim didn’t scale well. You are completely missing the fact that all of OpenSim’s scaling issues were essentially solved when it became hypergrid-ready. Those grids you are talking about use the old centralized model, and that’s why they fail to scale and have to raise prices. You ignore that CP’s topology is closer to hypergrid than to SL’s tiled land map model; you ignore that CP uses sharding and is designed to fire up and shut down arbitrary numbers of regions on demand. Your conclusion is based on the assumption that CP is merely SL inside the browser. It isn’t.

Scarp – inventory scaling problems are solved by not having a single server that holds everything, and is thus a single point of failure. You can distribute things by having one database per 100 sims and appending the number of which database to the beginning of teh UUID. Thus if you suddenly quadruple the number of sims, you also quadruple the number of databases serving them. And you need not worry about syncing them — the UUID includes the number of the database, so even identical UUIDs on two different databases won’t be the same as the database numbers at the beginning won’t be the same.

This was proposed years ago as a scalable solution to the poor overworked ASSET cluster, which does not scale and becomes a chokepoint for data (since every single byte for all of SL passes through it’s gigabit link).

There is so much going on that you just cannot make blanket statements about SL. We have communities of gay warrior barbarians, manga devotees and Trekkies. Mormons use SL to train young men for their missions. Disabled vets use it as a part of the healing process. There are areas of incredible beauty and mindnumbingly ugly blight. You have to venture into the Korean and Japanese areas to see some of the really incredible things, these days, but SL is by no means senescent, dying or dead, despite the best efforts to kill it off.

“The people of the world have spoken. They’re not interested in general-purpose virtual worlds. It’s a niche market.”

Since when was “niche market” the opposite of demonstrated interest rather than the exact definition?

Why should it be at all enlightening or relevant that the only people into “general-purpose virtual worlds” are people who’re well, into “general-purpose virtual worlds”?

What does it matter what “people of the world” have spoke?

Every market is niche at some level. Facebook is niche if it levels out at 1 billion users if you look at it from a glass 6/7th empty “people of the world” perspective.

Second Life demonstrates a large and profitable market for virtual worlds. It does so even with a dismal retention rate of less than 1% of all sign-ups.

If there was a restaurant in a food court called “VIRTUAL WORLDS” and only less than 1% that walked into the door actually stayed to eat, and the restaurant STILL made extremes amount of money, grew, lasted 10 years beating the odds of the average startup in Silicon Food Court, would it really be foolish to not only believe there’s a worthwhile market there, but that it could grow?

It’s OK, that is, if it can be made sustainable financially. And by “Second Life” in the last graf, above, I mean “general purpose virtual worlds.”

Proofreading. I’ve heard of it.

Masami Kuramoto sez: “You are completely missing the fact that all of OpenSim’s scaling issues were essentially solved when it became hypergrid-ready. Those grids you are talking about use the old centralized model, and that’s why they fail to scale and have to raise prices.”

WHY didn’t the larger OpenSim worlds adopt Hypergrid? Well, they simply had to face the facts of economics. They needed to make money. They needed an economy that they could control. They needed to protect IP rights. They didn’t understand this until it became clear that Hypergrid would limit those possibilities, and inhibit their ability to survive. This is the exact SAME reason Linden Lab failed to join Hypergrid after participating in the early development of it.

So your blaming their need to raise their prices is the complete opposite of what actually happened.

As for the future Hypergrid: it will not seriously be adopted UNLESS 1) there is some sort of IP protected cross worlds way of dealing with virtual world inventories. And 2) there is some sort of agreed upon safe and secure standard for micro purchases. This can only happen with an overarching standards group that can set up a protocol of standards, plus the adoption of those protocols by everyone involved.

My main point of posting here is not to badmouth Cloud Party but to suggest that regardless of the base technology of any current or future virtual world, there are certain VERY DIFFICULT problems that they will all have to solve. Here are a few of them: 1) how do you communicate to your users what is happening in your virtual world when the number of events becomes massive? 2) How do you deal with billions of inventory items that must be accessed anywhere on your grid? 3) And most importantly, how do you make enough money to pay for bandwidth, servers, advertising, maintenance staff, customer support staff, and product development staff, THEN make a profit on top of that?