Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Hamlet, AOL, Facebook, and SL

Location: New World Notes

It must be a slow news-day for fake worlds, or I'd have something fresh to say. Yet I was caught by the change in tone in Hamlet Au's reporting at New World Notes. He's long been viewed as an SL advocate, even after his gig reporting on the Blue Mars virtual world (now in the process of withering into something like IMVU for mobile devices). Now Hamlet is claiming that SL must change fast or fade away.

For a few years, my colleague at VWER, AJ Kelton, has been calling SL the virtual-worlds equivalent of AOL , in its older incarnation as a wall-garden network. AOL remade itself into a starting point for viewing the rest of the Internet, something Linden Lab began with some early interoperability experiments but gave up.

Hamlet is correct, in a reply to a comment, that the comparison is fair:

"The comparison isn't in the services each company provides. The comparison is with their main revenue streams -- both of them are out of date and cannot be replenished."

I've written this at NWN and I'll say it here; if Linden Lab wants a new revenue stream, they need to renew work on interoperability...and more than teleporting to or from the Hypergrid as "Ruth." LL could use its clout to devise licensing for IP so it can deliver Marketplace content to other grids and make the Linden Dollar the default intergrid currency.

That would bring in some revenue from the OpenSim universe. I've a hundred bucks worth of shopping I'd have done for my simulation in Jokaydia Grid, and I bet others would spend that much and more, all with revenues going to LL from commissions.

It's sad to see the best known virtual world miss this opportunity. I'm seeing it clearly in SL for my own use. I will soon pay my annual fee for Premium, but as for tier, I'm happy with my free 512 square-meter sandbox. Now my serious work goes on in OpenSim, where costs are far lower.  Anything I want to import from that side I can build there and import to SL for a measly 10L fee. But some content will be beyond my ability or the time I'd allot to learn more. So I'd just as soon pay some Linden Dollars to the Marketplace to have the content delivered to Jokaydia Grid.

As for other ways to bring in more money? New accounts would help, but I disagree with Hamlet's push for Facebook integration. I recently was dragged, kicking and screaming, to Facebook by my student employees, and I've set up a modest profile so I can manage one of our campus' corporate FB accounts.  I just don't see what the fuss is over, by the way. FB is clunky in its interface (no support I could find for HTML tags, for instance) and the page layout is boring.  I'm sure that templates exist, or that I'm missing some bigger point.

Facebook does a great job of connecting real people. Second Life enables immersion in something one cannot do in real life or even immersion as someone else. 

SL and FB are oil and water. So whatever direction the Lindens choose for their product to escape AOL's irrelevant role in the modern Internet, Facebook is not what I'd choose.

Update 2/22/11:

Nice reply to Hamlet's post by Ananda: c'mon, LL, this could be your goldmine!

I still hope for the day when SL is not such a walled garden, where LL is a central certification and clearinghouse for avatars that can roam (with their stuff!) from place to place in the 3D version of the Web. Perhaps getting a "certified hypergrid identity" or "certified hypergrid host" could provide a new revenue source? LL's biggest asset is not so much the land, but the community network effect and, frankly, the built-up inventories. If LL can find a way to certify alternate land hosts as trustworthy (i.e. you can trust them to host content and assets with privacy and not immediately turn around and resell them) and to provide a content or avatar registry service, so copybot items are automatically flagged, and avatars are free to use duly purchased and licensed content on other grids, something like that might be a better way to go than to depend on continuing to host land in what seems like the most inefficient, inflexible manner possible.


Elaine said...

Where's the "Like" button?

Iggy O said...

For Iggy sometimes, I think folks want a "kick in the pants" button ;P

iliveisl said...

nice! yes, SL has lost opportunity. obvious for me since i went from $2,920 a month to zero and now we spend $160 a month for our own grid

would have been nice to stay inSL and would be great to hypergrid there, but i just don't see that in the cards

my crystal ball (often wrong) points to SL becoming a full-on social place like IMVU and maybe even the eventual end of private estates

but . . . my perspective on it all has shifted dramatically in the last year and SL holds very little relevance to what i want to do with virtual worlds

it's kind of like having a Geocities website way back when and using Comic Sans and animated gifs - it was lots of fun and felt creative . . .

Elrik Merlin said...

The challenge to interoperability is going to be protection of intellectual property for creators. It's no coincidence that commercial creators who are leaving or expanding beyond Second Life are going to other environments, such as InWorldz, where there is similarly no hypergrid capability.

I'm all in favour of hypergrid and the ability to move between worlds carrying your inventory with you, but this cannot and will not happen unless there is a fully integrated and intrinsic multigrid permissions system in place that allows a vendor, for example, to determine whether or not their content is to be available in multiple grids and what the permissions are when the works are utilised outside the grid in which they were created.

Yes of course there would be a great deal of business if this was possible, but unless there is a proper permissions system in place that includes intrinsic and fundamental IP protection and licensing, built into the infrastructure and not as an add-on, I really can't see commercial creators flocking to join in.

Indeed, this, in my view, is why they are instead staying with self-contained worlds where the permissions structure is known, albeit imperfect.

Iggy O said...

Elrik, that is precisely why LL should take the lead and begin to develop contracts with reputable grid owners (or managers) to develop technologies to permit hypergridding with inventory and deployment of SL Marketplace across grids.

I am not a computer scientist, but it can be done. It's a lack of focus and willpower that has kept this from happening. I hope that Rod Humble will see the business opportunity ahead of him.