Friday, March 14, 2008

Rosedale logs off

Mister Second Life himself, Philip Rosedale a.k.a. Philip Linden, founder and CEO of Linden Research Inc. announced he steps down as CEO.


“I feel that the most important contributions I have made and will continue to make to Second Life are related to building both the product and the company through my direct contributions to vision, strategy, and design. As we grow, the role of our CEO will increasingly be to hire and grow the right team - to lead and help the company scale - to thousands of people and tens of millions of users of Second Life. I believe that we can hire a fantastic person in that
role, and also give me the ability to totally focus myself on the job that I do well. I bet this will be the most interesting job opening in the technology world.”

It is not that the man who brought in the idea and the streaming technology into Sansome Street, San Francisco, will be shut off from the grid entirely, According to Reuters he...


"will become chairman of the Linden Lab board when his successor is found, replacing Mitch Kapor, who will remain a board member and the company’s largest investor. Rosedale said he will also keep a full-time role at the company
working on product development and strategy."


This move comes as a surprise to many as Philip has been the real life personification of Linden Lab. Will it really change? Will Phil fade to grey as this snapshot predicted?



Though nobody is panicking, things are changing at Sansome street. By the end of 2007 we saw Cory Ondrejka leaving the buidling as well. Aleister Kronos has a pretty accurate remark about the change of flavor and Linden Lab:



There doesn't seem to be any air of panic, just the recognition that a big, grown-up company (which Linden Lab has now become) requires an entirely different sort of leadership from a hip, young start-up. I made this point (as many others did) when Cory Ondrejka left Linden Lab at the tail end of last year: "once you have a large (and largely
successful) implementation on your hands, your focus shifts from rapid innovation and heads more towards Quality of Service and effective service delivery."


Provided they get the right person - and that's a big proviso - then this should be a good thing for consumers of Linden Lab's services - that's us residents, both private and corporate. Hopefully, we will continue to see innovation and creativity from the Lab, after all Mr Rosedale is only moving within the outfit, but tempered with the skills needed to deliver a customer-centric, high quality service. Well... I can hope, can't I?


The question is, who's going to be the new man? I do know a couple of candidates...

Labels: , , , ,

Monday, January 28, 2008

Breaking News: Linden Lab to Open server code

One of the main questions in (Second) Life is when Linden Lab finally goes open source. In this article I wrote:

Linden loves Open Source

Linden Lab did
react to the user comments by stating:‘we’d dearly like to open-source the servers’

Which sounds pretty hopefull, but...


‘The big problem is that in the current architecture, servers are trusted. Identity information, ownership information — all that is stored on the servers, and in a closed-source, behind-the-firewall environment, we can communicate between the servers securely. Trust, identity, connectedness — all of these are huge problems.’

However, I've already seen infrastructure designs that would make this possible. The plan is on the table, so please don't hesitate to make it happen.


Wéll, it seems they've taken swift action, according to this Information Week article Linden Lab is planning to open up the servercode for Second Life in before 2009.
Miller said Second Life in 2009 will change from one grid to multiple grids. Linden Lab said in April it plans to open-source the Second Life server. The company open-sourced the client a year ago. Next year, users will be able to run their own Second Life servers, optionally behind a firewall or temporarily, for an individual event. Residents will be able to bring the same identity with them from one private Second Life grid to another.

I think in their eagerness the guys from SL Review misread the article, as they wrote:
"Linden Lab said in April it plans to open-source the Second Life server. The company open-sourced the client a year ago. Next year, users will be able to run their own Second Life servers, optionally behind a firewall or temporarily, for an individual event. Residents will be able to bring the same identity with them from one private Second Life grid to another."

What I think happened here is that they read April. This is about the 2009 architecture, Mitch Wagner wrote about april 07 when Linden Lab first spoke of their ideas to go open source. Prokofy Neva was probably right as she suggested the departure of Corey Ondrejka as CTO of Second Life in December was probably because of differences over the speed of going open source. I think she thought Corey wanted to speed up, and maybe she's right. Corey might have wanted the grid to open up sooner and Phil had his second thoughts about that. Anyway, we'll have to wait, but we'll get there.

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, December 17, 2007

How linden lost its Core

On December 11 there was a glitch in the Metaverse as Linden Lab crashed the core of Second Life: Corey Ondrejka had left the building. Immediately a stream of rumours began to appear in the blogosphere, good for 4.500 + hits on the search "Ondrejka + Fired" at Google within a week.


The official reading is that Corey thinks its time to look for a new challenge after a couple of hectic years at Linden Lab. The word on the street however says that he disagrees with the man upfront on the future of Second Life. This disagreement could lead to a departure on friendly terms, but judging from an email that popped up at Massively the general consencus is that he was fired:



Trying to sum up 7 years of work at Linden is an impossible task. All nighters at the Linden Street office. Gaining 20 pounds but then losing 70. Flying 350,000 miles on Linden travel. Recruiting and hiring many of you. Creating a programming language that now had 2.5 billion lines of code written in it – note to self, next time spend more than one night designing language. Changing the world.


It has been an absolute thrill working with all of you on Second Life. When Philip looked across a rickety card table in November of 2000 and told me that we would do more than build a great product, we needed to build a great company, too, I knew it would be a wild ride. Through the peaks and the valleys, Philip's ideas challenged and inspired me. They often led to solutions I would never have considered and helped to make Second Life what it is today.


I continue to believe in both Second Life and Linden Lab, but Philip and my visions for the future of Linden Lab are divergent enough that he decided to lead in his own way. While I will miss all of you, I have confidence in
engineering - in all of you - to adapt and excel going forward. You are a phenomenal collection of talents and I know that both Linden Lab and Second Life will be hugely successful.


Valleywag, which first reported on the separation on Tuesday, says that Ondrejka was fired over the same differences of opinion that Ondrejka mentions in his email (especially the last paragraph).


Philip Rosedale responded:



"I can confirm that Cory Ondrejka, CTO, will be leaving Linden Lab at the end of this year, in order to pursue new professional challenges outside the company. I wanted to take this opportunity to publicly thank Cory for his tremendous contribution to the company and to Second Life, in terms of its original vision and ongoing progress.


As it grows, the needs of our company are changing, and
the role of CTO, or technical lead, has also evolved. herefore, Cory and I are in agreement that our paths, at this point in time at least, lie in different directions.


During Cory's tenure the engineering team has grown tremendously, and given the breadth and depth of our technical expertise, we do not foresee any impact on our development plans. Together, we've produced great things in the development of Second Life, and I know Cory will go on to achieve excellence in his chosen field."


Which, according to massively is a basic formula of saying "we fired him". This gets fuelled after (again) massively obtains an internal Linden Lab email reading:




8:47pm EST] I have obtained a copy of Philip's email that he sent to his employees, which you can read after the jump


...Cory is going to leave LL. He has been with us for 7 years, and was the fourth person to join. So this is a big deal. Cory has been a huge part of the company, having
designed big parts of SL, hired many people, contributed greatly to the culture, and given a powerful voice to SL and LL. Among other things, he had the original design idea for the love machine, single handedly wrote the scripting language, and got us all doing A&Os back in 2001. Losing him will be hard for the company. I will miss him a lot.


What's worse is that ultimately his leaving is my decision.Cory and I have differences in how we think Linden should be run, differences that in the past few months have become irreconcilable. These are tensions that were more manageable when we were smaller, and there have been times that they have helped us do great work together. But now, as we change and grow as a company, I feel that we need a different set of strengths in engineering leadership.


I strongly believe that this is the right decision, although not without pain, for both LL and Cory. Of course, I'm not going to go into the details of these differences. This is one of those times when, in having me as your leader, you will also have to trust me in my decision. I will hold a brown bag as soon as possible to talk about this with anyone who would like, and will schedule time both in-world and in person here in San Francisco.



Please send any external questions you get about this change to Robin who will make sure they get answered.


Philip


What will be the effect of this sudden departure? The large majority reads it as a bad omen. Tateru Nino writes:


If you asked me this-morning, "Who can Linden Lab least afford to lose" my answer would have been simple: Cory Ondrejka and Robin Harper. At least (sitting on the outside here), every other member of staff seems to be replaceable.

I tend to disagree and go with the other reading, which was clearly voiced at Ambling in Second Life:


As a friend of mine put it, small companies need uber-hackers - they ignite the process, build innovative solutions and get you up and running quickly. I may be doing Cory a disservice, but it seems to me he fits into this category. However, once you have a large (and largely successful) implementation on your hands, your focus shifts from rapid innovation and heads more towards Quality of Service and effective service delivery. The skills for
this sort of role are quite different, and this may be where Rosedale has identified a key weakness. God knows, most of us are aware that this has been a key weakness!

Second Life has exploded over the last year, from 500K registered users in August 2006 to 11 million now. Scalability and Stability of the grid has been an issue and resulted in the Project Open Letter initiative, a call for more stability by hundreds of residents. Linden Lab has done a good job on these issues in the last six months though, as the grid capacity for concurrent logins has been doubled from 30 to 60K and with Havok 4 to be implemented on the main grid soon, the issue of stability will be largely addressed as well.


If this would do the trick for Second Life, it would put Corey into the driving seat. But when you put it into the perspective of Mark Lentczner's (Zero Linden) vision for Second Life, it falls short massively:


(Headlines from Zero Linden's office hours, posted by Dizzy Banjo on Soundtracking Virtual Worlds)



  • Linden are not just talking about the sim limits we have now - they are talking truly epic scale: "to evolve the SL architecture into something that is internet wide."

  • Transition to "SL2.0" is being designed to be as seamless as possible.

  • Now for the numbers: 60Million regions; 2Billion avatar accounts; maybe 50M to 100M on-line... though admittedly hypothetical

  • And "on-line might mean something more lightweight in the future"

To achieve this, it seems pretty obvious that coding Second Life needs a different approach. With Linden Lab slowly turning away from that cowboy TAO approach and slowly implementing a more structured approach to avoid the issues that have angered the crowd in the past there would be no room for a rogue-programming approach to Second Life.


Now the speculative part. Would Mark Lentcner be LL's new CTO? I think he would be a good choice, as he is actively communicating with the Second Life community he has credit there. The only problem is, what is it with Second Life and Eastern European names? (Ondrejka out, but Zdanowski and Letcner and whathaveyougot...)

Labels: , , , , , ,