Tuesday musing about Linden Lab's upcoming social VR world: "Sansar" is Sanskrit for "world" (as Strawberry Singh notes), which makes it a better name for a virtual world than, well, Second Life. (More on that below.) At the same time, everything that Linden Lab has said about Sansar strongly suggests it's not a world, in the sense of being a unified, seamless simulation with a sunrise and sunset, flora and fauna, and so on. Rather, the CEO compares Sansar to WordPress -- i.e. a content creation platform. The challenge Linden Lab will soon face is the need to present Sansar as a world to consumers, but a platform to content creators.
Compare this to why Second Life, which was once called Linden Lab, was named Second Life. In fact, it was almost called something like Sansar. From my book:
“A lot the game worlds were verbs which described what you’d be doing,” as [business developer Hunter Walk] recalls it now. “You know... ever-questing! Or place names—Ultima, but online!” Linden was working with a branding agency to create the world’s eye-in-hand logo, but remained stymied on what to actually call the place. Ever the Californian fabulist, Rosedale wanted a named that suggested a mystical dreamworld—Sensarra, for example.
Walk balked. “Using the world was already so unapproachable and was gonna be for so long, why put up another barrier, a strange name that people didn’t understand? And secondarily, because of everyone bringing their different idea to it, I wanted the name to be a vessel that people could fill themselves, that would be evocative of the promise of the world, and then put that responsibility upon the user to fill the promise. So I didn’t want to describe what they would find when they got there. I wanted to describe what it could be to them.”
From this reasoning, Hunter suggested "Life 2", and the rest of the Linden Lab team iterated on that to dub it the Second Life we know today. But in retrospect, maybe calling it Second Life was a mistake, over-encouraging users to mainly engage in roleplay, rather than limitless building and exploring. (Contrast with the largest virtual world. which suggests a verb that users readily embraced: Minecraft. They crafted! They mined!)
And now that we know Minecraft succeeded in ways Second Life has not, we can see the problem Sansar confronts -- to consumers, the name suggests a place, but an obscure one, within which they're not sure what to do. While to content creators, the name doesn't sound like a creation platform at all.