Second Life, the Metaverse & Everything

Uccie↑ (hugs) reminded me about the Great Wall of China↑ and it seemed like a reasonable backdrop for today’s musings (with apologies to Douglas Adams↑). I reverted to my older format of photos and so, if you click on them to see the full size, just ignore any irritating black lines from the tiling bug. There are only so many battles an Intrepid Explorer can fight in one day.

My mind was full of the discussion Fleep↑ has re-ignited about the metaverse and the future of Second Life. This is far too large a topic for my brief posts but I’ll try and address my own frustrations.

Programmers and publicly held companies have something in common (apart from getting their new ‘product’ out there). They worry about today. In the case of coders it’s the progress they’ve made on their task. For the company it’s today’s stock price. Their horizons are limited by the way in which they are measured and in both cases those measurements involve the immediate bottom line.

If there isn’t a “bigger picture”, a future goal which involves a larger (I hate to use the word) “vision”, then nothing that is being done has a context apart from the immediate. If you were a large corporation which made its profit on camera film, and focused on that without having a strategy to deal with the “future”, you’d wind up failing↑.

If you are a group of excellent technical minds which focuses on the next tiny iteration to a whiz bang anything, you can find yourselves coding something that has lost its relevance.

If I wanted to go to Montreal from Halifax, and decided to drive there (6,122 km or 3,804 miles), I could use a TripTik↑. This would be a huge project so to make it manageable my days would be planned but, if I followed all of the individual maps, I would eventually arrive at my destination. However, along the way I’d only be able to see that day’s objective. The entire point of the details would be to arrive at my intended destination. I could keep my head down and focus on the minutiae but I would eventually achieve the bigger goal.

If I changed my mind in mid-trip, and decided Florida was preferred, I could change course – but then my maps would also change. I could measure my progress but, again, it would be measuring individual achievements within a greater context.

According to Wikipedia↑ the Metaverse is “our collective online shared space …..  including the sum of all virtual worlds, augmented reality, and the internet.” Before I can decide that Second Life should be either clung to or abandoned I want to know its intended future. What is the planned role for SL in the greater Metaverse.

I got incredibly frustrated a while back with a group of brilliant technical minds working on issues related to moving between worlds. The discussions were always at the bits & bytes level and there was no articulation of “the goal”. What would the virtual space look like – how would it work – how would all the elements relate to each other? How the hell do you know if what you’re doing moves you in the right direction if you don’t know where you’re going?

I get really annoyed every time I read that the “solution” is point & click, or removing god powers, or mesh. Nothing is a “solution” if there is no context. Today’s concurrency numbers are not context.

Somewhere, somebody in Linden Lab must know the greater plan – one which extends beyond next month or the next iteration of a fast track development process. That’s what I want to see – and until I do I have no way of making decisions about my own place in this world. If it doesn’t exist then, yes, we’re screwed.

Second Life, the Metaverse and we residents deserve a future – but don’t tell me that a little bit of your favourite code or a new distribution channel is the answer. Show me the bigger picture and how your solution, whatever it is, moves us in that direction.

Leave a comment


  1. Xi

     /  August 25, 2012

    I thinkthink you nailed it perfectly. Once upon a time the lab seemed to look forwards.. not to next week. Not to next month, not even to next year… but slowly the minutia of running something likke SL slowly gathered momentium and inertia and pulled their vision back to what lay within reach.

    Sometimes I wonder if we, the clients of SL, forced them to do that with our demands that things get done NOW. Far too many people do not have the patience to look beyond the immediate.. and as a fatal illness, it is very contagious. What is affecting the lab is affecting us all… it is not top down or bottem up.. it is all persuasive

    • It’s true that our demands and bitching are focused on the things we want done or changed now. But it’s up to somebody somewhere to be worrying about the big picture. Linden Lab will (they hope) have a role in the future metaverse. The metaverse should be imagined and that role defined so that they are working towards it. The part that Second Life will play in that future is what all these little projects should be supporting. IMHO :p

  2. Botgirl Questi

     /  August 25, 2012

    Nice post! The long vs. short-term question you brought up is very interesting. As someone who’s been a principal in a technology business over the last ten years, my experience is that planning for the future gets very hazy more than a year or so out. Markets and technology change so rapidly that you really have to be agile and open to changing your best laid plans.

    My guess is that Linden Lab’s vision has shifted pretty radically at least a few times over the last five years. They went after commercial and enterprise customers for a while and then bailed out. They reached out to the educational market for a while and then killed all the incentives. Today, it looks like they’re going after the gaming market. I agree that it would be nice to know what their vision is, but I don’t think it’s something we could depend upon.

    • Oh I agree things would change. My thinking is that you “define” the what separate from the how. Don’t “steampunk” the strategy for the future by defining it based on today’s technology. Where do you want to get, e.g., if this is how you see all the metaversal components relating in 10 years (a solar system,a molecule, some other analogy) what parts of it would LL like to own/create/be part of. Within that how do you position yourself – is SL something that in some version would be there. In the shorter term you build plans which have to rely on the current and foreseeable technical options. As they change your tactics change – but the end goal would remain as the lode star (until progress makes changes to that inevitable and then the supporting tactical plans change as well).

      What I’m trying to say is that the leaders need to be the ones with a more distant planning horizon. This constant focus on tiny techie bits is self-defeating if there is no larger context. I assume there is a “vision”. I just don’t know what it is and so it’s hard to see past the grumbling about button position to get a sense of where we’re heading. Without some goal it feels like thousands of vocal chickens running around. We might argue about the details but it would be nice if we were all heading in the same direction. :p

  3. I would love to believe that LL have a vision but I doubt very much that they do. I totally agree that it would be a sort of binding/connecting incentive for us longterm users if they did. I would personally love to ‘work towards’ something rather than see LL continually shipwrecked on rocks of their own making.
    One trouble with 3D currently is that we need faster broadband, better hardware and, thus, better graphics. HDTV is here and Retina phones/iPads but VWs are still in their infancy.

    • One of the things I’d love to see considered is that all the various components – social networking, virtual worlds etc., – might in the not too distant future become one. Locations might differ (different vw’s perhaps or different platforms) but functionality would be mirrored. Is the internet a separate entity? or is it the medium? All this stuff is exciting and it’s being created ad hoc. Yes technology has to advance to achieve what we wish for – but that shouldn’t stop us from aiming for something.
      I would just like to get some eyes off the next ten minutes and looking out at a greater distance. :)

    • If there is one thing that having an iPad and an iPod Touch has told me is that many, many people are willing to look at smaller images. Most folks who have looked at the ultra-high resolution images from NASA’s Mars rover Curiosity looked at them on the small screen. The most successful games in the computing world today are not really that graphics intensive. Clearly, folks will be willing to settle. If Cloud Party can run in a browser (albeit, only Chrome for now), I’m sure The Lab could easily figure out a simple interface for mobile devices that would allow basic functions such as chat/IM, movement, and inventory maintenance, all with the graphical quality we know as “Medium” in our desktop viewer (maybe better). There would be no need for higher functions though they could eventually evolve as the technology does.

      As long as Second Life remains tied to the desktop and has primitive, hard-to-use social tools such as MySecondLife, then the future is rather dim.

  4. It is up to each and every user to determine what their own Vision is.

    If your vision includes a greater metaverse, then you should have a Second LifeBoat in some other world(s) or platform(s).

    If your vision is to be an involuntary devalued asset of a private company, then just stay in Second Life and grind your way along.

  5. Earth as a platform is also a bit of a disappointment, and I sometimes feel devalued as a citizen of my country, can you imagine that? I am not planning on moving though anytime soon. For what SL is to me, it is a home of course and one I have great freedom and happiness in, it suits me. I don’t feel I have to defend myself anymore to outworlders who dont understand virtual worlds (I don’t insult them though, I accept they don’t want to log in right now)

    Defending SL from people who have alternate agendas in bashing SL is unfortunate in a different way. Where else are people going to recruit for their sims? They come to SL and create bad feeling and say its free its “not SL” Oh Puh-lease! I can’t champion one thing by putting something else down, I just can’t. I love blue but I don’t tell those who prefer red they are crazy or misinformed. And I would NEVER say….”I love blue its the best color ever its great it respects me – red hates you – how can you possibly like red?’

    The SL user base has had so many harsh words for Linden Lab. It has been embarrassing and detrimental to it’s growth and to all of us. Kind of hoisted it’s own petard there . I am suspect of those who trash SL in efforts to build up their OS Grids.
    The other girds and virtual worlds have IP rights that aren’t conducive to what I need to do nor the assets, nor the friends. I stay in SL because this is my home, which I love.

    Please don’t tell me I have no vision, it simply isn’t true. This is my choice, do you really have to tell me I am wrong?
    I have great respect for those who can talk about why & what they are doing is positive.

    Second Life is my home, I do love it, could it be improved? Probably.

    Is it also the most advanced virtual world around? Yes indeed!

    • Here, Here! :)
      Those who choose to go to open sim have reasons that work for them. It doesn’t mean my presence in SL is an indicator of some mental defect. In fact, my presence in SL has absolutely nothing to do with them.
      I know I wouldn’t make a decision to leave based on something as small as a viewer change or pricing policy. It would take something much larger and important in the long term.
      In the meantime I’ll work to make my part of the grid as positive as I can. I’m nosy though – so I’d still like to see the longterm plan. :P

  6. On the wonderful issue of The Greater Metaverse.

    Right now, many are content to see “the metaverse” only as the sum of all the 3d internet gaming and interacting systems out there… such as MMOGs, virtual world simulators, grids, and playful building worlds.

    This finite myopic vision of the Metaverse simply as a hodgepodge of un-connected “worlds”, is a similar viewpoint to the old days of BBS (Bulletin Board Systems) in the days of dial-up single server systems… before everything was interconnected with ISPs, Internet and Web… but we thought of it then as an “online community” even though we had to hang up the modem’s telephone line and dial it again to get into the other BBS server where another circle of friends or colleagues “lived”.

    The Greater Metaverse is really much more than just a bunch of unconnected worlds!

    The Greater Metaverse is an INTEROPERABLE INTERCONNECTED 3d virtual universe, greater than the sum of its parts.

    Connectivity, Interoperability, Teleport, Virtual-Borders, are the Big Issues facing the Greater Metaverse’s future.

    The technical issues of Interoperability can be solved with an “Open Source Virtual World 3d Browser” or some type of “mainframe” equivalent.

    Teleport or movement across Virtual Borders (issues of territorial nature) will be solved eventually, through some kind of Virtual Passport; replete with Virtual Immigration and Virtual Customs/Taxation/Duty, etc.

    Although many of these issues can be solved technologically via software, there needs to be a path toward a Virtual World Diplomacy. The best example of such would be Open Source Standards.

    Fundamentally, unifying The Greater Metaverse is not going to be as simple as just solving the technical issues of digital interoperability between virtual worlds.

    Let face it, there are issues in Metaverse Unification that affect the business plans and success/failure of corporations, and livelihood of real people.

    Eventually, entrepreneurs with greater vision will see the potential for huge profits that come from the interconnectivity of a Greater Metaverse. That’s when we will probably see some change in the metaverse landscape. It may start with a simple pathway between a couple of commercial walled garden 3d worlds… eventually bud into an alliance… other commercial entities will see the benefits of it, and build their own bridges… perhaps a 2 camps or bridging systems with competing mini-metaverses will emerge. Perhaps a war like Mac vs PC.

    This may eventually blossom into a huge Greater Metaverse.

  7. Its up to the company to listen and if reasonable to address, if not to ignore or deny!
    Its up to Me to be still a customer or move away!
    that’s the rule that guides me in all i spent money and sign for!
    But when I feel i’m part of more then a mere game or tool, but some that could be the sign of a change in human behavior that would reflect in our real life identities and behavior as well i can’t stop trying to make those that lead and made the tool for a new way of the World to remember that History is made of failures and success in equal parts but only the ones that succeed in making a real change will be remembered!

  1. Second Life, the Metaverse & Everything | Happenings - Virtual Worlds |
  2. Second Life, the Metaverse & Everything | Musings on the Metaverse |
  3. Collection of Views on Participation in Second Life & the Metaverse | Virtual Vision 2020
  4. Why Anyone Who Cares About the Metaverse Needs to Move Beyond Second Life; Now, Not Later | Fleep's Deep Thoughts

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