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Analysis: Reality is Hitting Second Life Hard
/ May 4, 2007 2:20 pm
Please Stand By
According to an article in InformationWeek today, Second Life residents are protesting Linden Lab, the virtual world’s creator, on what it calls “serious bugs and stability problems.”  One resident, Cristiano Diaz, a web and Second Life developer, is leading the charge, saying, “Second Life is incredibly unstable and has become more and more unstable as it's grown in the last two years.”  Anyone who has spent time in Second Life would not be surprised.  But it might seem strange to those who have merely followed the headlines.  Second Life has been a huge news breaker, the majority of which has been upbeat development announcements, for the last 8 months.

Linden Lab has done a remarkable job transforming Second Life into a PR machine.  It owns the spotlight in the booming virtual world space, largely because of partnerships with major international companies to open Second Life shops.

In a test run last fall, I found the world alarmingly slow, not to mention other shortcomings.  The review was met with scathing replies from the Second Life community.  Further evaluation of Second Life’s blog, however, showed that the avatars were well aware of the issues as well, and were hoping to solve the problems by pressuring Linden, rather than speaking publicly.  After all, many were hoping to make a living in Second Life, so negative press was not in their interest. 

To its credit, Linden was responsive and honest in its feedback.  They occasionally posted blogs announcing a slow Second Life that day as new residents were integrated following a big news story.

But those blog posts rarely found their way to the same publications that printed every Second Life accomplishment. 

Now Diaz is stepping out of the Second Life bubble, going public with a petition website Project Open Letter.  As of last night, according to InformationWeek, the site had 3,800 signatures.

"Linden Lab is getting so much press in real life, companies are investing millions of dollars in it," he said. "It almost feels like fraud, they can't really deliver on what's being promised."

Linden Lab held a Town Meeting in Second Life yesterday afternoon in response.  Befittingly, the meeting was ravaged by bugs and slowness.  Cory Ondrejka, Linden Lab’s CTO, said that “69% of the development staff at LL are currently on scaling and stability and that percentage is rising over the next few weeks.”  Then, after 15 minutes, Ondrejka himself was thrown off, the true nightmare scenario for Linden Lab.  “To have a Town Hall about stability go completely to hell is a testament to exactly what I'm talking about,” he said.   

Now the company finds itself facing scrutiny from a public that, to date, had believed Second Life a darling of the virtual world space.  The strategy has been to please the public first, and leave the virtual world’s issues second.  Can Linden solve its own problems, or do the bugs have an unmanageably large presence? 

There isn’t much time.  With well-capitalized competition flooding the space, the alternatives are a step away for Second Life avatars.  How long before the tents are packed and an exodus occurs?  Once it begins, expect a snowball effect.  Real money, after all, is only made when Second Life’s population grows.  The virtual economy is on thin ice.

Scott Goldberg

Related Links: (InformationWeek)
Learning the Facts of Second Life

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