Another high-profile exit from Linden Lab, the company behind Second Life: VP for Biz Dev Gene Yoon (a/k/a the avatar “Ginsu Linden”) is leaving the company.
Gene’s departure follows the exit of John Zdanowski, Second Life’s CFO, less than two weeks ago.
There’s been a lot of turnover at Linden. The core executive team that gave birth to Second Life, witnessed its meteoric rise, and endured some of the backlash are now mostly gone.
- In February VP of Marketing / high-profile spokeswoman Robin Harper left for points unknown
- Second Life founder Philip Rosedale stepped down from the CEO spot last year to take a more advisory role as Chairman
- CTO Cory Ondrejka, the engineer who programmed most of Second Life, left for EMI Music after a dispute with Rosedale
The service is completely in new-ish CEO Mark Kingdon’s hands now.
Where Mark goes from here is something of an open question. Linden’s old business model relied on creating and selling ever-increasing amounts of “virtual land,” which Linden Lab collects something akin to a property tax on. But at the same time Linden relied on virtual land for most of its revenue, the company also encouraged the development of OpenSim, an open source clone of Second Life which lets people freely host “land” on their own PCs without any money going to Linden.
So what’s next for Linden Lab and Second Life? Well, the company has been talking up Second Life as a business teleconferencing app, and the recent decision to finally confine Second Life sex to a virtual red light district represents an radical shift in the type of service they offer. Hopefully the change in stance will make Second Life more palatable to business (read: fees-paying) customers.
Presumably, getting businesses to bite will be the job of Gene’s successor. Linden says revenue has grown for the last four years (a major feat in this environment), and the company is profitable. That said, management does seem to have jeopardized part of its revenue model by emphasising a commitment to “open-source.”
The leaders of the OpenSim / open source community Linden once embraced have their own agenda, and they’re getting closer to offering something as good as Second Life for the hobbyists. Five years from now, the Second Life idea will undoubtedly still be here, playing out on thousands of distributed OpenSim servers. But it’s not clear that Linden will capture the benefits of that.
Photo: Joi Ito