A very down to earth and open-minded Linden Lab CEO Rod Humble (Rodvik Linden) spoke August 13 at the Second Life Community Convention (SLCC) in Oakland, Calif., and his message centered around focusing on making the user experience better and easier. Translation: bug fixes, not bright shiny new features.
However, there were plenty of hints at new features as well, although most were solidly in the usability category.
He seemed to be saying he wouldn’t replicate the Google+ stink about their insistence on people using actual names when he said that in our modern life, we have to wear a lot of hats – we have to be different people at work and when we come home from work, and that has to happen. “We want to be able to choose who we share those various identities with,” he said.
Many of my Second Life friends who are on Google+ have been complaining that they are not permitted to use the same avatar name in the new social network. Some have been banned or their accounts curtailed; others still have their SL names. All feel passionately that they have a right to segment their lives and have each with a different identity or style. I don’t worry about people knowing that Sylectra Darwin is Sylvie Dale, but I support the desire of any of my friends to keep those things separate as they choose.
Humble also said that Linden Lab is about more than just Second Life, although Second Life is by far their more important creation. In anything they create, they want to bring forth the principles of shared creative spaces, privacy first, customer-created content, and shared and social environments. “It’s important for us to be as free as we can when it comes to content.”
The first half of the year was spent on creating the new Viewer 2 (with mixed levels of acclaim), making it easier to sign up as a new user, and making it easier for new users to get in-world and start interacting with others. The second half of the year and beyond will remain focused on bug fixes, improving usability, and improving the quality of customer service.
Among planned improvements Humble mentioned:
Usability:new viewer(?), search improved. Goal: Be able to give our family members a SL account and have them send that to any average intelligence computer user and have them be able to enjoy it and use it easily. Being able to move around the world, sign up, find things. Halfway through that project and ahead of schedule on some things (new viewer a big role?).
Lag: cache larger, region crossings improved
Service: Polish, bug fixes, ticket times bumped up, improve quality of customer service, make life unpleasant for griefers
Big initiatives coming out this year: gaming – no HUDS, hit one button for permission and have everything enabled. Premium members – more value coming, marketing and PR campaigns should bring in more users/customers for merchants. Engineers are looking at voice recognition and facial recognition at some point in the future.
Tablet and mobile devices: Massive threat to virtual world is the rise of tablet and mobile devices. We don’t now address mobile devices and you will see us participating in mobile devices with SL and with a new product coming out (!).
Pricing structure: he would not talk about or answer questions about pricing, though he said they have plans to further enrich the experience of premium members.
He acknowledged that Viewer 2 still has a lot of improvement to do. They don’t want to completely redo it because it took so long to get the new codebase; they really need to continue fixing the one they have instead. He’d like to get rid of the sidebar or at least change the way it works, but it’s unlikely to happen until maybe 2012.
Advertising: They might consider channel ads for in-world merchants, but they won’t be spamming us with Colgate banner ads in the viewers.
They’ve been removing barriers to signing up as new users, using the viewer in basic mode, and using the Destination Guide to meet people and socialize, but the next big step is helping people to buy and wear objects, build objects, and do some of those more advanced activities.
Monthly uniques – nice growth in new users in-world – 16,000 new signups per day on average; no other stats forthcoming (big decrease in tier payments??)
See the video courtesy of UStream on the Metaverse Journal article: http://www.metaversejournal.com/2011/08/15/linden-lab-ceo-were-growing-but-were-not-sure-why/