IBM and Second Life have announced the ability to teleport from Second Life into Open Sim grids (an open source version of Second Life). They describe this as a first; well, my business partner Loki Clifton and others have been doing that stuff for six months. The big guys may have improved the scalability or reliability, but it is not a first and they know it. Must they lie to us?
Linden Lab hope to turn Second Life into a platform rather than a product. One that respects people’s intellectual property, allows transfer of assets and maintains LL’s control of the virtual currency. The benefit to corporates of Open Sim however, is that the virtual world can be SEPARATED from Second Life, avoiding the morality and security issues that send men in business suits scurrying into mouse holes.
The elephant in the room (nicely sustaining the metaphor here) is that the Open Sim versions allow other people to sell ‘virtual land’, currently LL’s major source of income. Already land is being sold at a fraction of the Second Life price. Undermining your own profitability is one of the less successful business strategies. The road to survival for Second Life probably involves transactional fees of some sort. Dare I say ‘tax’.
The ongoing problem for Linden Lab is the lack of platform stability. It crashes and it lags. Assets created within the virtual world are not stable. The monetary system is not stable. I lost several hundred dollars one week and I still don’t know why. Reporting these errors does not lead to remedial action or even attention.
Unless IBM can dig LL out of its technical hole, (unfortunately it’s a development partnership, not a rescue package) the thing doesn’t scale and business is not interested. IBM will host its own Second Life servers for clients; I wonder how solid they will be. I wonder how expensive they will be.
Although I’ve invested lots of time in Second Life and I believe that 3D virtual worlds will be a powerfully disruptive media in the future, I’m writing it off for the time being.