Pay no attention to the furry avatar behind the curtain. Linden Lab has a new pitch for Second Life: it wants to be a 3D teleconferencing platform for enterprise customers. Today the company announced a new product called “Immersive Workspaces,” an area in Second Life set aside for corporate meetings. Of course, you could already do that years ago, but this new product is “a completely exclusive and secure experience, with no connectivity to the Second Life mainland.” In other words, business users can be confident no one will crash their event with a barrage of flying penises.
It’s still not a great idea. Griefers — troublemakers who show up at Second Life events and try to annoy people — were indeed a serious problem for potential business users. But there’s far bigger concerns:
- Second Life remains hard, much much too hard, for new users to learn. Relatively fundamental things in Second Life — how to walk, how to communicate, how to log chat — require several hours of practice to get the hang of.
- The service has terrible reliability. By Linden’s own numbers, Second Life software crash rates hover around 20%. Servers deliver poor performance 4% of the time. And of course, the more people in a Second Life region at a time (as in the case of a teleconference), the worse the performance.
- Second Life simply adds no value beyond existing, proven, cheap, and easy-to-use technologies. Everyone knows how to use a telephone, and they always work. If desktop collaboration is needed as well, there’s Cisco’s (CSCO) WebEx, among other tools.
It’s good to see Second Life thinking out of the box — for a company that pioneered radical new tools, Linden has been surprisingly complacent in recent years. But if something is to be done to make Second Life essential, this isn’t it.