Will SecondLife Live on

I think the answer is quite a definite and clear ‘maybe’…I was discussing this with Andreas Nergaard at Colibria, and we agree on a few things regarding SecondLife.

  • The idea is good. It is of course not Linden Lab’s idea, but has been both implemented and described in books before, for example in Neal Stephenson’s Snow Crash. In terms of technology, I can remember playing around with VRML sooo many years ago. That had a similar idea also.
  • SecondLife will not prevail for long as it is. The whole user experience is not good enough, but more importantly it lacks a degree of anarchy which is necessary to inspire people to invest time and money in it.
  • For such a metaverse [ref Snow Crash] to succeed, it cannot be controlled by one corporation. It has to be more like the internet, with possibility for setting up your own server and playing around. People who do it have to have the dream that they will either become millionaires or at least become someone really special through what they do in this metaverse. Reputation or money (which again goes back to reputation).
  • There has to be some common protocol and infrastructure. Without knowing too much about SecondLife’s technical solution, I would think that theirs could become the foundation for such a common metaverse, if they opened it up.
  • There needs to be open source alternatives which provides both servers and clients into this space. There should also be hosted servers of course. All these servers should be able to accessed in a connected grid from the clients. Server owners may be able to attract users to their real estate because of a special entertainment offering, collaboration features and special integrated clients with cool extensions. Real estate owners would have lot of work in keeping a living community on their real estate, attracting the right people, celebrities and companies. Maybe you’d even be willing to pay a ‘tax’ for visiting certain servers, but if you’re a resident it’s for free.
  • There should be several commercial clients (and some free) that gave access to the world. Each client could specialize and be enhanced for certain features. Some clients may have better graphics, some may be better integrated towards some servers, some may be integrated with proprietary communities, social networks or proprietary massive multiplayer games. Each of these client vendors could maybe provide open definitions of some of their features such that other clients could display them but maybe not use all the features. Some of these clients could probably be advertising funded.
  • There would have to be some sort of naming server that provide some system in the geography. Register there and put your world in a free space.
  • A users profile should probably reside on the home server, but must of course be able to roam. One of the most important success factors is to make a good roaming profile, where people can build up what they have and what they are. When I say profile, I’m including lots of things, such as information about your avatar, like what I’m wearing, what I look like, who are my friends, which property do I have and all sorts of other data.
  • But in addition to having my profile that I can largely control, there should be ‘objective’ reputation features that I can’t fake. Say that I’m a nice guy that many people like (or not), then they should be able to rate me and that rating would be available for others to see. When you meet me, you’d instantly get an impression of my profile (which I largely create myself) and of my reputation that other people control. Such reputation servers are obviously nothing new, there are lots of variations of it, but I think it’d be a very powerful feature connected to the roaming profile above. To ensure objectiveness, there needs to be some infrastructure allowing for ‘objective’ roaming profiles’, servers that have credibility and we trust to contain the right information.
  • DRM protecting content within the metaverse. Yes, that’s probably necessary for companies to make business out of such an open world.
  • There needs to be a good currency system. Possibly this could be a virtual one like SecondLife, but it could also be real dollars. I’d think PayPal could go in and do a good job at providing such a currency system based in what they have right now.

From the above, I can see several business models and opportunities for SecondLife. But I don’t see it continuing for very long the way they are going. They need to open up the architecture and then do the following:

  • Create a better client
  • Focus on creating prime real estate that users would like to ‘live in’ and hang out in
  • Set up a roaming profile and reputation server that other users with their own servers can also use (because nobody’s going to trust my profile if it’s residing on my own server that I can hack as I wish).
  • Support an open source initiative for both client and server
  • Become a metaverse bank

Clearly, the answer to whether they’ll live on is a ‘maybe’. If they do the right things, they may become fundamental in creating the future metaverse. If they don’t, a Google will come along and do it right (and I’m thinking Google as the innovative and paradigm shifting company it used to be, not the nasty animal it has grown into being).

By the way, there are obviously several articles on the web regarding the future of Second Life, for example this one in the Register.

[I posted this entry earlier, but then deleted it by a mistake… oops. ]

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