Wednesday, December 19, 2007

More Forecasting on 2008

In my previous post I already did some forecasting on 2008 and 2009 in terms of where the NVE industry is going. Today, Virtual World News (the guys from the VW Conferences) released a survey on the trends for 2008. In this survey some 45 industry leaders participated.


For a good overview of the contents of the 36 page whitepaper visit Fleeep's blog. My general observation is that each of the respondents is very positive about the developments of the industry. 2008 will see explosion this, massive growth that and so on. Since the majority of the respondents are either from MDC's (Metaverse Development Company) or from MSP's (Metaverse Service Provider) this positive view can be expected. I'm not sure it's fully safe to base your investment plan on their opinion.


The Questions


The questionairre is simple, it's not a long list to pick and choose, but 5 open questions which makes it possible for all of us (not among the 45 chosen) to ponder them ourselves. The questions are:



  1. What are your top 3 trend predictions for 2008?

  2. What business goals have you set for 2008?

  3. What challenges do you expect 2008 to bring for the virtual worlds industry?

  4. A number of new platforms are launching in 2008. What are the biggest impacts this will have on the industry?

  5. How will the above changes affect your specific segment of the industry in 2008?

The Answers

  1. What are your top 3 trend predictions for 2008?
    At this moment I don't have a clear top 3, I see a number of scenario's and trends emeriging this quarter though, here they are:
  • In 2008 we're going to be disappointed in Virtual Worlds. As I've pointed out a few times in the past weeks on this blog the current setup is it's Dozens of Them (which by the initials DOT is probably heading for another dot-world crash). What I mean by this is that we've seen about a hundred big companies immerse in Second Life, all with pretty much the same content: Information stands, auditorium and some entertainment stuff. While these are created with great skills by the MDC's it's pretty much the same stuff over again. Right now, most of these virtual enterprises are Marketing & Communication department babies and they're going to be disappointed as they don't bring USP's and ROI's. From this angle we have to differentiate between type of immersion, like:
    - mere presence
    - branding
    - crowdsourcing
    - engagement
    and forget about Business Development.
  • As a result of this disappointment, more MDC's will have to cut down capacity like ESC, or bring in different expertise. 2008 will see a slight shift from the current MDC's to more traditional IT companies like Sogeti or Capgemini who have longterm relations with their clients and a proper supply of Business Analysts who know their clients core business and have the ability to translate that core business to IT and VW solutions.
  • The former means that 2008 will focus on integration, creating API's and mashups, providing data-mining tools etcetera.
  • From a social point of view there will be disappointment in Virtual Worlds as well, mainly produced by lag and hardware power. 2008 will be a good year for NVidia, Intel, AMD and other hardware producers as both the Gameverse and the Metaverse will require a boost in sheer graphical and processor power. Another fundamental part of this new univerese will be the availability of bandwith as worlds like Second Life use streaming technology and are producing over 8 Gbps in data traffic. It will be up to Internet2 / Lamdarail to put their 100 Gbps network into full production (which will probably be beyond 2008) to service this bandwidth need.
  • The Metaverse in general will concentrate in general on the Extraverse, the branded or themed worlds. Since we do not have the ability (in most cases) to translate our core processes into virtual representations, the NVE industry will still be an instrument in marketing media in 2008.
  • As far as extraverses go, they will get more and more aimed at specific groups, for instance girl worlds like Barbieworld and GoSupermodel will grow rapidly. 4th quarter 2008 might see it's first VW specifically aimed at 50+ agegroups in beta.
  • The majority of funding will be coming from governemental organisations exploring virtual worlds in serieous gaming ventures.
  • Social Worlds will lean heavily on the gameverse to find the key to upgrading registered users to active users. This will mean that more and more storylines will be implemented in the Metaverse and offer new handles for interactive media (convergence with television a.o.)
  • Another challenge for Social Worlds will be the mashup with social networking sites like linked-in, Facebook and the likes. This also brings in the all important question of Identity Management (and in its wake interoperability and portability).
  • On the part of Second Life we will see improvement in stability as Aric Linden's QA team will be finalising their tests on the new Windlight client in January, making it the most stable release Linden Lab has ever produced. Havok 4 will be implemented somewhere mid 2008 as physics engine.
  • Aside from taxlaws and other governmental regulations the industry will gain some significance for retirment funding and insurance companies as more and more people will earn their living in virtual environments.
  • A huge issue will be the "What if I die" scenario: What happens to my second life and my virtual assets when I'm no longer there. When I'm gone, who owns my identity, will there be successionrights?

Okay, past bedtime now, the other questions will have to wait.

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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...)

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Thursday, October 11, 2007

Cry Havok

Linden Lab is working under the hood of Second Life again and is upgrading it's Physics Engine shortly. Currently they're testing the Havok 4 engine on the Beta Grid. The upgraded engine is supposed to bring more stability to the Grid and make it less vulnerable to griefer attacks.


Here's a YouTube testing


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