Robin Harper, formerly a Vice President at Linden Lab, recently gave a talk where she said:
Metaplace the virtual world had roughly 19,000 active users when it closed early in 2010. Metaplace then introduced “Island Life” on the Facebook platform, and eclipsed that number in the first week. ” Island Life” now boasts over seven hundred thousand users. Same art, similar perspective, tried and true game format. (Source: Sitearm Madonna’s blog)
When I read that, I was amazed. Metaplace the virtual world was around from mid-May 2009 (public beta) to January 1, 2010, or about seven solid months, but never really got much traction (even though they were “on the Web”). Then they launched a single game on Facebook and BOOM, a gazillion users!
I’m betting the executives at Linden Lab heard that story.
“…enable us to invest in bringing 3D to the web…”
According to Kingdon [the CEO of Linden Lab], the restructuring also better aligns Linden Lab with its two longer-term goals. First, the company aims to create a browser-based virtual world experience, eliminating the need to download software.
I’d often wondered if Linden Lab had any real plans to do rendering of the Second Life world inside web browsers. I guess I can stop wondering.
I do wonder what they’re looking at for doing the real-time 3D rendering. They say they want to eliminate the need to download software, so that rules out Unity or other plugins. Most computers have Flash installed, so that presents some options. There’s also the possibility of doing the rendering on the server and sending the renderings to the user as streaming video (like what OnLive does). (Linden Lab tested that idea internally, but hasn’t said if they dropped it or decided to pursue it further.) Another option is to use WebGL, which is currently a work in progress.
Also, at the end of the press release:
Secondly, Linden Lab will look to extend the Second Life experience into popular social networks. “Ultimately, we want to make Second Life more accessible and relevant to a wider population,” he said.
Is that code for “Facebook users will be able to use Second Life inside Facebook, just like they can use Island Life today”? If the Metaplace experience is any indication, such a move could cause a big increase in the number of SL residents. It’s a nice idea. I’m not sure it’s true. The hard part is getting SL to render (reliably) in web browsers. Once Linden Lab has that working, they can try it on many websites (including Facebook) with little extra effort.
It was odd to learn about Linden Lab’s two longer-term goals at the end of a press release about restructuring and layoffs. I don’t remember reading those goals anywhere else before (and I follow SL quite closely). Linden Lab is a strange company. They’re transparent about a lot of things, more so than most companies, yet they bury the Big Picture in a press release?