Photo: Linden Lab
Philip Rossdale, creator of Second Life, goes back to his roots. With him and in the hype of the Metaverse, Second Life must regain speed again.
Second Life is often referred to as a failure. Wrongly, if you look at the numbers: According to Brett Linden, head of marketing at development studio Linden Lab, the leading company Metaverse has more than 70 million registered users. According to current statistics, tens of thousands of them are still active every month.
According to the Linden Lab, Second Life, in its 19th year since it went live, “is going through one of its strongest ever.” The company speaks of a “growing user base and thriving economy with an annual GDP of $650 million with 345 million transactions of virtual goods, real estate and services.”
The marketplace on Second Life is said to offer over two billion user-generated items and eight million unique items.
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The fact that Second Life is often seen as a failure in the public eye is probably due to its extremely high standards. When the hype on Second Life peaked around 2007, co-creator Philip Rosedale, among others, was already announcing the Metaverse era: “The 3D grid will take hold quickly and everyone will have an avatar,” Rosedale said at the time.
We know today that things have turned out differently: Second Life still exists, but our daily lives are dominated by social media services that are easy to use on smartphones. It’s about videos, photos and SMS – not about encounters between avatars in a vast parallel digital world.
In the hype of virtual reality, Rosedale began a second attempt at the Metaverse in 2013 after retiring from Linden Lab. But his virtual reality platform, High Fidelity, failed miserably despite the investment of millions. For Rosedale, immature VR goggles were especially responsible for this misery. Linden Labs owns a VR world that Sansar wasn’t very successful either.
Philip Rossdale: A Second Life with Second Life
Now Rosedale surprisingly announces that he will be returning to Linden Lab for a second life in Second Life. He wants to act as a strategic advisor to his old studio and support him in expanding in the wake of the hype in the Metaverse.
Bradford Oberauger, chairman of Second Life’s parent company Linden Research, wants to use Rosedale to give Second Life a new lease on life. Upcoming upgrades for the digital world are to focus on social and economic components. Second Life is set to grow again.
As motivation for his comeback, Rosedale cites the advertising business model of companies like Meta, which he believes is critical and which is said to prove more harmful in the context of the Metaverse. “I think there is a real and existential risk in the way it is implemented,” Rossdale told the Wall Street Journal.
“No one comes close to being able to build a virtual world like Second Life,” Rosedale says upon his return. “Ditching Big Tech’s VR goggles and building the metaverse on ad-driven behavior-modifying platforms isn’t going to create a magical one-size-fits-all digital utopia.”
Second Life, on the other hand, is a “positive and enriching experience for its residents”, provides space for millions of other users: indoors and has a “thriving subscription business”. “Virtual worlds don’t have to be dystopia,” Rosedale says.
In addition to his wealth of experience, he brings with him a small group of developers, a number of patents, and an unspecified financial stake through his own company, High Fidelity.
It’s unlikely Rosedale, like Meta, will increasingly rely on virtual reality in Second Life. At the beginning of December 2021, he was still critical of the plans for the Metaverse and VR technology in general: “People don’t want to be walking around all day with VR glasses as an avatar,” Rossdale said. We talk at length about his meta-criticism in MIXEDCAST #276.
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