Mohammed comes to the Mountain

(reprinted from here)

Hi Everyone,

It’s been just over 3 weeks now since my return as CEO, and I think I’ve gotten up to speed enough to begin communicating with you in a useful way. This post is an update on what we are doing, and also to announce an in-world meeting where I’ll extend on the thoughts in this post, as well as answer as many question as possible. Beyond the contents of this message and meeting, I hope to revitalize a frank and timely exchange between the company and the Second Life community. You can expect additional posts from us in the coming weeks expanding these focus areas to more specific projects. This is a time of great change for us: a downsizing and restructuring of the company, a change in executive leadership, and big changes to our strategic planning and directions.

When I spoke at the seventh-birthday celebration, I said how we needed to ‘tear down the walls’ that broadly keep more people from getting into and using Second Life. We have created together (both Linden Lab and the many of you who create content and experiences) an amazing shared experience which at it’s best is a breathtaking social, creative, educational, and entrepreneurial platform. But we’ve gotten ahead of ourselves. We still have a lot of hard work to do to make this experience accessible to a majority of people. At a very high level, we’re slowing down work that we think we’ve started too early or in the wrong order, and refocusing our team and projects on improving the basic features which impact all users and which are essential to the operation of Second Life. Additionally we will focus on faster iteration with more input from the community, as well as greatly growing the virtual marketplace.

Here are some more details on the current state of that planning process:

Inside the Lab, we’ve been using the expression ‘back to basics’, to capture refocusing our efforts to re-examine, repair, and where necessary, re-design the basic experiences and systems that are at the core of the Second Life experience. First on the list should be a big attack on lag and crashes, clearly things that very negatively impact all users. We are looking at ‘lag’ broadly to encompass things like chat failures and delays, frame rates, and scene and object loading delays. Beyond performance and crashes, wherever possible we will make the basic user experiences (like getting clothes on, communicating, or your first few sessions as a new user) faster, easier, and more fun.

Next, we’ve been looking at how we need to more rapidly improve and innovate Second Life to re-capture and sustain the technology leadership position that got us to where we are today, and is vital to scaling the virtual world experience to maturity. In creating Second Life, we’ve solved some very hard problems across a number of different areas, and few people have been able to copy us. We need to get back to being the first to invent and deliver the solutions that evolve virtual worlds – we are still at the very beginning of a huge market. That’s a lot of different work, but in the short term you can expect to see greatly shortened release cycles across all our systems and a focus on rapid iteration with lots of community feedback as a first result of those efforts. The other key short term goal is to very rapidly make Viewer 2.x the best and most widely-used Second Life viewer. We are unifying efforts across the lab to make this viewer both the best-performing and the most functionally capable for all different users, as well as hopefully becoming the underlying codebase for lots of third party development.

We’ve also identified the virtual content (both goods and services) marketplace as a key longer-term area of focus as well as the key metric for our collective success. There are 10’s of thousands of entrepreneurs, creators, and merchants working together inside Second Life that have already created what is easily the world’s largest market for virtual items and experiences, with around $600M expected in total volume in 2010. We’re going to redirect efforts to improve and grow that market as quickly as possible. Making content and experience creators more successful is what ultimately drives the growth of Second Life. Optimizing from end-to-end the process of searching for, trying, buying, and using virtual goods will be our first focus here.

We will make every effort to deliver visible and continuous improvements in these three areas over the remainder of the year. The shift to shorter cycles with smaller deliverables should allow better community involvement and feedback. We will make our changes, develop code, and discuss plans in the open. Before the end of July, we will also hold an in-world gathering where we can talk more about these plans and take questions. More details about how we can best get a big group together and talking will be coming in another post.

As a final note, I would note that we are not planning to change Second Life to exclude any categories of users. Our restructuring messaging around ‘consumers’ and ‘web’ versions of Second Life seemed to mistakenly suggest to some that we plan to more narrowly focus the experience on a specific demographic or use model. We aren’t. We are reducing efforts across the board that in our opinion are being done in the wrong order, but those resources will re-focus on creating a single effective system that is better for all categories of user. We believe we first need to improve and complete the core experiences that drive Second Life, before we dive into how to customize it for different markets.

In closing, I’d like to thank the SL community, and in particular those people who sent me the many heart-warming email messages of support that I’ve received since returning. They have been both a direct contribution to these plans, and also a way to keep a smile on my face in these tough but exciting times. If you have thoughts about Second Life that you want to share with me, please keep those emails coming. I can’t say that I can read or respond to everything, but I have gotten great value from many of the well-written thoughts I’ve received.

Philip Linden

* Gwynneth !!!

Let me add

– try and make SL an attractive intermediary option between games and game companies, lettting SL act as intermediary between facebook, steam and a booth babe. Use SL as a ‘legba’ of virtual realities. Where facebook stays mired in text and flat and browser, postulate SL as the same as the 3D alternative. In few years years when a company comes out with something like Guild Wars 3 or Fallout4 or GTA4, these companies must be drooling over the synergistic benefits to create a sim in SL, introduce mesh content into SL, MAKE MONEY SELLING ITEMS HOLDING IP CONSTRAINTS THAT OTHERWISE WOULD CAUSE ENDLESS IP NIGHTMARES. Yes I’d want a BFG. Yes, I want ‘feeling the waters’ demo’s of upcoming games. Yes, I want to be able to buy and wow2 with Linden$. Seriously hellooooo synergy???

– SL in 2 years must allow for plugins. LL must attribute a ‘safety level’ to each plugin, and comments on interoperability between plugins. Let people write their own plugins (and plugin derivative clients).

– We need a far far far better inventory system. Simple ; close a deal with TheBrain software and integrate a Brain in Second Life, where I can drop and drop my own inventory structure (or cognitive map) as I see fit. And – then allow me to open brain (inventory nodes) allowing me to SEE the articles in a graphic window (or even as user, OR as store in SL) to one (or several) a distinctive icons to a product that show me better what is what in my 84.000 item inventory.