Last Names for Avatars Hurt SL User Growth & Won't Return, Linden CEO Reveals -- Good, Hamlet Responds
Last names for Second Life avatars won't be returning, Linden Lab CEO Rod Humble announced, declining calls by the hardcore SL community to bring them back, so that new users would have to choose a surname for their avatar from a selected list of pre-established surnames, just as new users once did, until that sign-up process was changed a couple years ago.
Why won't last names return? For a very very good reason, as Mr. Humble explains:
I already knew identity is very important, and the last name issue is extremely polarizing. What I didn’t know was how big a negative impact it used to have on new users signing up (the data is startling at how much friction it added). Folks just wanted to create their own name; they became even more annoyed if there was a pre-done last name that could fit but that had already been taken.
This is news to me -- if I had known last names had hurt new user sign-ups, I would not have advocated for their return. This also reveals a clash between the cultural desire of the established SL community, to create a meaningful second life identity that's part of a pre-existing world, and the reality that most people interested in trying out SL just want to jump in without any heavy upfront expectations like that.
However, Rod Humble did offer a compromise:
What we will be doing is adding in at least one and maybe more special characters like a dash when you signup so you can make a more normal looking name. So you can have “horatio-nelson” for example, which is impossible now. Work will begin on this as it slots into the task list.
So people can have last names of a kind. Which actually seems more fitting to the SL goal of creating as open-ended a user-created world as possible. Because come to think of it, it was kind of strange that so many longterm SLers actually advocated for more restrictions on others' identity options, not less.Tweet