Image: Linden Lab
Second Life co-creator Philip Rosedale is going back to his roots. With him and over the hype of the Metaverse, Second Life should pick up speed.
Second Life is often referred to as a flop. Wrongly, if you look at the figures: according to Brett Linden, marketing manager of the development studio Linden Lab, the pioneer of the metaverse has more than 70 million registered users. According to current statistics, tens of thousands of them are still active every month.
According to Linden Lab, Second Life, in its 19th year since going live, “is having one of its best years.” The company speaks of “a growing user base and a booming economy that has an annual GDP of $650 million with 345 million transactions of virtual goods, real estate, and services.”
The Second Life marketplace is said to offer over two billion user-generated assets and eight million unique assets.
On to the Metaverse: All good things come in threes?
The fact that Second Life is often seen as a failure in the eyes of the public is probably due to the standards being too high. When Second Life’s hype peaked around 2007, co-inventor Philip Rosedale, among others, was already proclaiming the era of the metaverse: “The 3D web is going to come fast and everyone will have an avatar”, Rosedale said at the time.
Today, we know things turned out differently: Second Life still exists, but our daily lives are dominated by easy-to-use social media services on smartphones. These are videos, photos, short messages – not encounters between avatars in a vast digital parallel world.
During the VR hype, Rosedale launched a second attempt at the Metaverse in 2013 after retiring from Linden Lab. But its High Fidelity virtual reality platform has failed miserably despite millions in investment. For Rosedale, clumsy and immature VR glasses were particularly responsible for this misery. Sansar, the VR world of Linden Labs, did not succeed either.
Philip Rosedale: A second life with Second Life
Now Rosedale surprisingly announces that he is returning to Linden Lab for a second life in Second Life. He wants to act as a strategic advisor in his old studio and support it in the expansion as part of the Metaverse hype.
Bradford Oberwager, president of Second Life’s parent company Linden Research, wants to use Rosedale to breathe new life into Second Life. Future developments in the digital world must focus on social and economic components. Second Life is about to expand again.
As motivation for his return, Rosedale cites the advertising business model of companies like Meta, which he deems essential and which would prove even more detrimental in the context of the Metaverse. “I think there’s a real existential risk in the way it’s being implemented,” Rosedale told The Wall Street Journal.
“No one is able to build a virtual world like Second Life,” Rosedale said upon returning. “Big tech offering VR goggles and building a metaverse on ad-driven behavior modification platforms won’t create a one-size-fits-all magical digital utopia.”
Second Life, on the other hand, is a “positive and rewarding experience for its residents”, offers space for millions more users: inside and has a “thriving subscription business”. “Virtual worlds don’t have to be dystopias,” says Rosedale.
Along with his wealth of experience, he brings with him a small group of developers, a number of patents, and unspecified financial involvement through his own company High Fidelity.
Rosedale, like Meta, is unlikely to increasingly rely on virtual reality for Second Life. In early December 2021, he was still critical of Meta’s Metaverse plans and VR technology in general: “People don’t want to walk around all day with VR glasses as a cartoon avatar,” Rosedale said. We talk at length about his meta-review in MIXEDCAST #276.
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