Yesterday, at VWBPE’s Second Life auditorium, Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg (Ebbe Linden in-world) gave the opening keynote. The auditorium was packed – at various points, there were up to 170 people in-world with their avatars. Mal Burns recorded the speech and uploaded it to his YouTube channel so that it can be watched even by those who were unable to attend. As had happened last year, Gentle Heron was hard at work transcribing Mr. Altberg’s speech, and there was an interesting Q&A afterwards, with people from the audience having a chance to ask questions directly; I must give Mr. Altberg kudos for handling this task with great aplomb, and for his relaxed, approachable attitude towards the users who came to the venue to listen to him and ask about things they were interested in, w.r.t. Second Life and the next-generation virtual world platform that Linden Lab is developing.
Below, I’m giving some of the main points that attracted my interest during Mr. Altberg’s speech – both from the main speech and the Q&A:
- More than 300 organisations are benefitting from discounts for educators and non-profits;
- The combined capabilities of 3D graphics, simulation, etc. that virtual worlds provide are a strong element for improving learning and and teaching;
- Educators have shared many success stories;
- There is no intention on behalf of Linden Lab to increase prices or remove the discount;
- On the contrary, LL seeks to make usage of SL for educational purposes more affordable.
It becomes clear that LL realise that the decision made during Mark Kingdon’s tenure to remove the educator and non-profit discount was a mistake, and that, if they want to maintain a leading position in the virtual world market for educators and non-profits, they must never repeat it.
- LL are looking to improve the new user experience, including what Mr. Altberg referred to as “entry points”;
- “SL is not going anywhere”;
- LL understands that it needs to continue working hard on Second Life if it wants to maintain a market leader position. References to technical improvements that are currently being worked on by the Lab were made, such as:
- Chat reliability;
- Performance and stability fixes;
- SLurl optimisation;
- Avatar-related improvements;
- Regarding the oft-discussed issue of tier, Mr. Altberg mentioned that LL charge for tier, but the “tax” they get from transactions (such as marketplace sales) is minimal – if they were to reduce “property tax” (tier), they’d have to increase “sales tax”;
- During 2014, LL paid out over 60 billion US dollars to people using SL for their commercial presence;
- They are looking to make cashing out faster for customers in “good standing”;
- LL is keen to keep money laundering completely out of its system;
- Regarding mentor programmes, Mr. Altberg’s position was that the Lab is not considering reviving them, because many mentors had their own agendas, and this caused serious problems.
Next-generation virtual world platform
- Internally, it is called “Next Generation Platform”, not SL 2.0, and it is highly unlikely that SL 2.0 will be adopted as a commercial name for it (n.b.: the name chosen, as we now all know, is Sansar);
- Progress on its development is going well;
- Over thirty developers are working on it;
- They want to surpass SL’s 1.1 million active user ceiling and have considered the reasons SL maxed out at that point;
- Mobile support is something the Lab wants to provide from the outset;
- They want to provide better scalability: Whereas in SL an event can fall apart when more than 30 avatars are in the region, the Lab seeks to provide the ability for users to host events for tens of thousands of participants;
- LSL will not be used in the next-generation platform: Instead, C# is the language of choice, thus making it easier for existing programmers to work on the new platform;
- In the beginning, they will invite people who are adept at using Autodesk’s 3D application Maya, which was chosen as an internal tool for initial content creation for its power;
- As the next-generation platform becomes ready to launch, more tools (like Blender) will be supported;
- The entry age limit will be lowered to 13 years, as “there is no legal difference between 13 and 16”;
- New avatars will be used;
- There are plans to support multiple identities under one account (like the master account proposal), diminishing the need for alts;
- It also seems that the Lab is planning to make SL a subset of the next-generation platform rather than ditch it: “I think of SL as a portion of the next gen platform. SL could be created on top of the platform we are creating. Less world, more platform”;
- Land will be much larger;
- Voice and 3D audio will be available;
- Physics for vehicles will be much more sophisticated, and the Lab is currently working with a third-party that will provide the engine.
In all, it was an extremely informative and useful speech, which confirms the Lab’s commitment to building upon the experience it has gained from developing and providing Second Life, does away with the FUD (Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt) concerning the future of SL once the next-generation platform is released, and also shows that the new platform will be a great improvement over SL.
- Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education
- VWBPE 2015 Keynote: Ebbe Altberg – on Mal Burns’ YouTube channel