It's Corey's Turn
"This is no time to go wobbly," Margaret Thatcher once famously said. That's especially pertinent advice right now. Second Life and its owner Linden Lab are going through tough times. And, nascent as the virtual world industry is, many
people confuse it with Second Life itself. To the less informed (and even to some people in our industry who should know better), Linden's current difficulties speak directly to the viability of the medium of virtual worlds.
They're wrong, of course; for those of us who work on other worlds and platforms, business has never been better."
True, Second Life has gotten more media attention than any other world and it has entered the hypecycle ahead of the flock, but I'm sure other social online worlds will start to experience this in the coming year. The more storyplay or gameplay a world has, the less affected it will be by this hype though.
"Here's some of the news that should make us all bullish on the future of our industry: according to a recent Forrester Research report, in a mere five years virtual worlds will be just as important to businesses as the Web; the ever-staid Gartner Research predicts that in four years 80% of Internet users will have avatars; and, as a sign of industry maturity, there are now many participants in each market segment of our industry--from platforms to service agencies to users of all stripes."
That's not the whole truth there Corey. Gartner has adjusted that prophesy in later researches and also, the Forrester Research report (as discussed here) also drops a few stitches.
"But it's undeniable that dark clouds have gathered over Second Life and some of the companies that have relied on it. I don't think I need to recount all the ominous stories from the last few months, but the bottom line is that many
companies and consumers are now avoiding that world. Linden Lab is going through some internal turmoil and may be on the verge of lean times itself. Even staunch Second Life cheerleader IBM has people wondering if it's hedging its bets by mocking virtual worlds (the second article)."
Except for calling ePredator a cheerleader (can someone photoshop this?) I pretty much agree. However, I don't read Corey's column as the words of a thoughtleader in the industry. While naming a few very valid points, its tone is too agitated in my humble opinion.
Electric Sheep Company COO Giff Constable jumps on the train and steps up in defence of Linden Lab (never bite the hand that feeds you):
"It is true that Linden Lab has quite a list of challenges ahead of them: general stability, performance and usability issues… they are handcuffed by early architectural decisions (physics on the server rather than the client; many artificial constraints that limit flexibility such a sim size, spatial privacy, group limits, etc; the performance hit that comes with prims; enforced last names; centralized asset server; a limited and laggy scripting system, etc). They have announced many technical improvements with great potential but which never made it into production. Linden Lab also has many strengths, some of which I laid out here, and I think they will be around for a good while yet. Their platform has weaknesses, but it has some unique selling points which cannot be dismissed."
Giff has to conclude that Corey has a point though:
"I agree with the root of Corey’s message, however, which is that the virtual worlds industry is not in crisis. There is a lot of interest out there, and many really exciting projects."
I really hope ESC's portfolio is filled to the brim, but I doubt it as they laid off 20% of their employees just before Christmas. True, the NVE industry is not in crisis, social worlds have taken on a challenge to prove themselves fit for business.
I fully agree with Corey's last lines though:
"But the medium is much larger than any one company. To use another British turn of phrase (I've been doing a lot of business in the U.K.), "Keep calm and carry on."