When Cory Ondrejka talks about Second Life, we listen: The former Linden Lab CTO built a huge swath of Second Life’s technology single-handed, until he was fired after a falling out with Second Life founder Philip Rosedale, ending up at EMI Music. So when Cory (who likely still has a stake in Linden) said among his other “predictions for 2009” that Second Life would be acquired, virtual worlds-loving corners of the blogosphere lit up.
Seems to us Cory still succumbs to the classic dot-com delusion: Saying “we’re awesome and deserve to be rich!” rather than asking “who might be interested in buying our service and what might they pay?”
Why we don’t see a Second Life purchase — by any one — as likely.
- According to Linden Lab’s own numbers, Second Life’s revenue base is contracting. Linden Lab makes its money on a monthly charge for “virtual land,” and that land base is shrinking. Linden’s response that we should ignore the numbers because the company has been “misreporting for a while” is not reassuring at all.
- There’s no more revenue to be squeezed out of Second Life. The community is already migrating in bits and drabs to rapdily evolving free open-source variant OpenSim, and any attempt to harvest more fees will only accelerate the exodus.
- Second Life has something of an image problem and anyone who buys it inherits that. Nor is any change coming: CEO Mark Kingdon recently told Forbes he thinks mainstream appeal is a function of reforming Second Life’s “first hour experience” for new users — and not anyone’s discomfort with flying penises or randy furries.
So is there any hope for Second Life? Yes. Linden Lab has been saying some of the right things lately: That a new browser will come, or that they’re taking steps to flatten Second Life’s notoriously steep learning curve. But then, Linden has been saying the right things for years, we’ll believe it when we see it.
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