There are at least four significant changes at Linden Lab that, while seemingly independent, may be related:

  • The introduction of the 2.x viewer.
  • The closure of the teen grid.
  • The introduction of user ids and display names.

and a fourth, which may also be related:

  • The return of Philip Linden. 

Resident-Hostile Decisions – Holding Firm

Considered one at a time, the first three seem to be merely be “poor” decisions by Linden Lab, and contrary to what would seem to be the majority of the residents of Second Life.  What stands out as strangely common between all three of these is the steadfast brick wall refusal by the Lindens to alter the course on any of these.

Regarding the 2.x viewer, Oz Linden wrote:
Don't waste everyones time suggesting that we throw away Viewer 2, or that we revert the UI to Viewer 1. It is absolutely not going to happen, and any suggestion to that effect will be ignored. 

My understanding is that the teen grid is being destroyed, with no regard to the loss of content, the loss of businesses, or the tremendous loss of time and effort placed into it.  This is the decision that really set my alarms off; you would think that such a dramatic and terminal move would only be made as a last resort, or as part of some other much larger news, or both.

Then came user ids and display names, and again a tremendous backlash from residents.  Again, lip service paid to concerns, but now with a test viewer available, it seems a total disregard for those residents’ concerns, and a completely impenetrable forcefield around the idea of straying from their plan.

This leads me to ask: what exactly is their plan?

The Master Plan

We are missing Something Big here.  News that is not yet publicly available.  Perhaps it will never come, and this is just posturing, for the possibility of it coming.  I’m not sure exactly what it might be, but from my perspective, the signs above are pretty huge — stay tuned for Something Big.  Perhaps Linden Lab is on the brink of being sold to new ownership.  Perhaps it is fighting for its final breaths before it goes under.  Perhaps there is a deal coming to tightly integrate Second Life with Twitter, Facebook or some other social media, or some communications platform such as Skype or Yahoo IM.  Imagine opening an IM to skype.philiplinden and chatting with someone who is not actually running Second Life (or even heard of it)?  Or going to one of thousands of new “Yahoo Islands” and chatting in local chat with various Yahoo groups.  Or walking around Farmville 3D and inspecting your farm, petting your new kittens, in a virtual world.  Something is coming…or being worked on, positioned.  I am not sure what… but something is coming.

What if there was Something Big coming to Second Life?  Something that was directly enabled by the use of Viewer 2.x, user ids and display names?  Something where those significant changes above were needed only as the first step?  And what if that Something Big… already supported users 16 years or older?  (So it could not happen in Second Life unless 16 and 17 year old teens were allowed on the main grid?)

Now read back those three points at the start of this article… not as individual changes, but as building ingredients in Something Big?

Let’s look at the fourth point above, the return of Philip Linden. Does that strengthen the possibility that Something Big is on the horizon?  If there was, would it make sense for it to be guided by the original founder of Second Life?  Or do you think he just might want back in?  To oversee it first-hand?  I think the answer is a clear yes, it’s “his baby”.  And that applies both in the positive case (big merger or deal with a third party) and possibly also in the negative case (Linden Lab/Second Life sale to a third party, or the end of Second Life in general). 

An finally, a fifth event: 30% layoffs.  I’d say that throws another log on the fire of acquisition by a third party.  Certainly would make them a bit more tasty.  Perhaps there is no specific corporate sugardaddy in mind, but maybe part of Philip’s plan is simply to make Linden Lab and Second Life more attractive to someone else.  It also throws a log on the fire of possible Linden Lab meltdown, and Philip is back to try to save his baby and prevent that from happening.

Also don’t write off the possibility that those layoffs were Philip’s.  While they happened prior to his return, it is common practice for outgoing leaders to do the dirty work of then incoming ones.  In US politics, that is partly what Presidential pardons are all about, and why they typically happen at the end of the term of a president.

Concerns

My concerns are mostly regarding the flagrant disregard for residents’ concerns, virtual assets, the time, money, energy and effort put into content and businesses.  If they can just close the teen grid, they can do the same to the main grid.  I believe Linden Lab no longer sees Second Life as a world, a place to go to escape and live your dreams, but rather as a service, much like a telephone.  They see it as a way for people to meet and socialize.  The difference of course is that your phone line is portable, in the sense that if one phone company closes down or cuts off your service, you can always just pay a different one to provide the same service.  Unfortunately, with the closed system that is Second Life, if they cut off your service, it is effectively a total loss.  You cannot just start paying a different service provider and continue on like it was never cut off.

But I don’t really believe the Master Plan is to end service.  So why would they continue on with all three of these major initiatives in spite of a huge outcry on all three from the residents?  Something bigger.  Something even bigger than the people who make Second Life what it is.  (Or so the Lindens may think.)

When it comes out, to make up for what they’ve been doing, it damn well better be hoooooge.  And it damn well better be worth it to existing residents too.