Second Life founder Philip Rosedale asked "to sort of beg everyone's forgiveness" for how Linden Lab has over-extended development of Second Life in the past, and for not adequately prioritizing work to improve it. That's how I read the crux of his speech at Second Life's 7th anniversary yesterday, speaking through his Philip Linden avatar, he of spiky hair and rainbow codpiece. Last October, Philip announced his role as Linden Lab's Chairman of the Board would be restricted to "outbound and media type things... talking about Second Life". Now, however, as he told Honour McMillan, he's "lately focusing on how I can help with product direction."
I believe this was Philip Rosedale's first public speech related to Second Life and Linden Lab since the June 9 game-changing news that the company was laying off 30% of its staff, and I think it's fair to say it contained many of the words that most Residents have been hoping to hear from a Linden Lab executive since then. In addition to acknowledging company overreach, Philip characterized the layoffs as an effort to keep SL's internal economy thriving, and the effort to serve enterprise and education users as "peripheral" to the more important task of fixing Second Life's essential shortcomings. These takeaways and more after the break:
Linden Lab has over-extended itself with excessive feature development:
"[O]verall, I would say that our fault as Lindens has been to be overly enthusiastic... we have tried to fix it all at once. We've tried to make everything better at the same time... But I think the challenge we've had is that over and over again, we've been this small, smallish company trying to work on something that is just unbelievably complicated and figuring out how to restrict and serialize and sequence and prioritize all of these different pieces has been a huge problem and frankly, one that we've done our best — [but] we haven't done as well, I think, as we could..."
The layoffs were important to keep Second Life's internal economy thriving:
"We're never going to — as a company — risk the world and the businesses and the livelihoods of the thousands of people [i.e. SL developers] who make money working here by growing too quickly ahead of profits. By doing the difficult process of restructuring the company and making layoffs, we'll return ourselves to solid, very solid levels of profitability."
Linden Lab needs to better serve the existing, dedicated user base:
"We need to focus on the things that matter most to the people who are here, to ourselves as users of this system. We need to make the basic features and capabilities of Second Life work really well... Whether we're talking about how many people can stand together in a meeting like this, or how to put clothes on, or manage your inventory, or build basic objects inworld, or how voice works, how parcel media works, live music — all of these basic features are things that are amazing experiences when you can have them, but they're not easy enough yet.... [I]t's so easy to get ahead of ourselves as a company and forget that."
Linden Lab devoted too many resources serving "peripheral" markets like enterprise and education:
"[W]e sought to get different types of people across that moat and over those walls [of Second Life's barrier to entry], whether we're talking about international Residents, or the community welcome areas, or enterprise or education users — we've been sort of building these little, thin bridges that try and quickly get everybody kind of over that wall and into Second Life. And of course, you can understand why we'd do that, because it's just so fantastic an experience once we can get people there. But I think what we have to do... is ask whether instead we can stop doing those many, many peripheral, highly usage-specific things to get people in here — and instead just take a step back, look at the basic problems that we are all [facing], and by fixing them, fill the moat."
Is Second Life being developed to be more like Facebook?
"SL and Facebook are very different. But we certainly do need to make it easier as an experience, in manner similar to how easy Facebook is."
Image credit: Changing Worlds Building Dreams, which also has a good summary of key Rosedale takeaways.