Looking into Linden Lab Layoff Rumors -- UPDATE: Confirmed, 30% Lindens Being Laid Off, Restructured Team to Develop Web-Based Second Life Viewer -- UPDATE 2: My Take on What This Means for SL's Future -- UPDATE 3: Babbage & Other Beloved Lindens Let Go
A memorial to laid-off Lindens created on the island of Ms. CodeBastard Redgrave -- direct teleport to the floating graveyard at this link
I've got word from multiple sources that an extremely significant layoff of Linden Lab staff is coming very soon, or is in the process of happening right now. This would be in addition to the estimated 5% of Linden staff who were let go in April. In fact, one source believes it will be up to 100 employees, which would constitute some 30% of the Linden workforce, including a number of senior execs brought in by CEO Mark Kingdon. Yesterday, I asked the Lindens for an official comment about the layoff rumors, and what they might mean for the future of Second Life. Their publicist said this: "While we’re not in a position to talk today, we will be in touch this week with a fuller update." So stand by for more soon.
Update, 12:40pm: A Linden press release that just hit the press wires confirm the layoffs will be 30% of Linden Lab staff. The restructured company will focus on integrating Second Life with social networks (a move that's been happening for some time), and creating "a browser-based virtual world experience, eliminating the need to download software". That announcement has been long overdue. It's only sad it comes with the job loss of so many talented people.
Update Two, 2:30PM: Some readers are wondering if this announcement means Second Life is being turned into a web-only virtual world. My reading is that the Lindens are creating a web-based Second Life viewer option. Such software has existed for at least three years. In 2007, a small British company called Pelican Studios backed by IBM showed me inDuality, their version of a web-based SL viewer which had nearly all the functionality of the downloadable client:
IBM is a close partner with Linden Lab, so this is a very likely direction the Lindens could be going in. Related directions would include a version of Second Life compatible with the Unity web plug-in, or Web GL.
Does this news mean the downloadable client is going away? Probably not, or least not in any way that matters. My guess is the company will probably shift development funds away from the official client, since a number of third party viewer developers, such as Emerald, are already extremely popular with SL's hardcore user base.
They include Babbage Linden (Jim Pubrick), who confirms in a Tweet of his own:
That's especially sad and surprising, since Jim was working on web-to-SL integration hacks, like this Twitter log-in API.
Others mentioned by Yoz include community manager and Teen Second Life director Blue Linden, OpenSim interoperability developer Whump Linden (@whump) and VP Cyn Skyberg (@cynfusion). I'm reaching out to them to confirm Yoz's Tweet.
Update, 7:10pm: Added memorial tribute by CodeBastard Redgrave.