“As Philip has mentioned, Linden Lab has discontinued the Second Life Enterprise development program,” Adam Nelson, Linden Lab’s Executive Director of Monetization, told Hypergrid Business. “We will continue to honor our beta customer commitments and contracts, but will not be accepting new customers for the beta product. Second Life remains a valuable tool for enterprise use, and by focusing our development on the Main Grid, we will improve the experience for all users, including enterprises.”
As part of Linden Lab’s new focus on basics, the company has discontinued its Second Life Enterprise platform.
“We are working to focus on core user experience that affects all users,” returning CEO Philip Rosedale told an in-world meeting July 30 that aired on Treet TV. “We are stopping work on things that don’t have immediate high impact on all users.”
When it comes to businesses using Second Life, they can still do work on the platform — as long as do it on the main Second Life grid, he said.
“We’re not going to do additional work on deploying Second Life behind fire wall,” he said. “We’re going to make it work better for business users using it to do work on the main grid.”
Blogger Prokofy Neva posted yesterday that Philip Rosedale confirmed that Second Life Enterprise is shut down. He spoke to her at last weekend’s Second Life Community Convention in Boston.
Second Life Enterprise is not hosted by Linden Lab — it runs on servers run and operated by corporate customers who spend around $50,000 each for the software and hardware package. As a result, Linden Lab can’t simply pull a plug and shut down the service, as it can with the Teen Grid, which will close at the end of the year.
According to an OpenSim developer close to Linden Lab, a letter went out to current Second Life Enterprise customers earlier this summer, informing them that there were going to be no more updates of the behind-the-firewall virtual world server software.
“They wanted to go quote-unquote ‘back to basics’ and they wanted to take the resources of SLE and allocate them back to in-grid projects,” she said.
There’s also an emphasis on making the company look attractive to buyers, she added.
“That’s why they were really focused on growing their subscriber base,” she said.
The problems with Second Life Enterprise started last summer, she said, when IBM walked away from the project and launched its own, competing, OpenSim-based Virtual Collaboration for Lotus Sametime.
The move to drop Second Life Enterprise parallels a recent decision to discontinue the educator-friendly Teen Grid.
“The trend is emerging: Second Life for residential use, OpenSim for academic or corporate use,” said commentator Gwyneth Llewelyn in a blog post today.
“We already knew that Linden Lab is turning back to where their core business always was: the residential market,” she said. “It shouldn’t come as a huge surprise that they would not only close down their enterprise division, but also drop all products related to business.”
According to Meadhbh Hamrick, a Linden staffer who wrote much of the Virtual World Region Agent Protocol, VWRAP, designed to help different virtual worlds relate to one another — and who was laid off earlier this year — Linden Lab is not sufficiently focused on business.
“Linden is known for having an ‘offbeat’ internal culture that sometimes places creativity over accountability,” she wrote yesterday.
Hamrick suggested that the moves to discontinue Teen Grid and Second Life Enterprise, and lay off large numbers of staff are not necessary indications that the company is doomed.
“These actions could also mean that Linden Lab is growing up and trying to make themselves look like a valid acquisition target — or even an IPO candidate,” she wrote.
Why IBM left Second Life Enterprise
When Linden Lab first created Second Life Enterprise it was composed of 16 regions that lived behind the firewall at IBM, IBM senior architect Peter Finn told Hypergrid Business — and IBM employees could teleport from their private world to the Second Life main grid and back.
“IBMers could take our avatars and inventory with us,” he said. “The solution was very successful and extremely popular for IBM employees. We could meet in public and when we were required to share private information we would simply teleport behind the firewall. If we purchased assets in world we could deploy them behind the firewall. This is how we envisioned the metaverse would evolve as corporations, government and educational institutions came on board.”
Teleportation back and forth was also possible to OpenSim worlds because of OGP — Open Grid Protocol — which later became VWRAP.
“We believed the successful evolution of Second Life and its survival was dependent on allowing people to traverse seamlessly from public Second Life to private Second Life to public Opensim to private Opensim,” he said. “A single seamless experience that did not require multiple avatars, inventories and logins.
In fact, the ability to take your Second Life avatar and teleport to your private grid with your inventory was the single most common request IBM had from its customers, Finn said.
However, Linden Lab cut off teleportation between the main grid and IBM’s private grid, and teleports between the main grid and the private grid were never even an option for other corporate customers.
“IBM was the only company ever allowed to connect to Second Life this way and when SLE was released as a standalone ‘walled garden,’ support for the prototype environment IBM was using was removed,” Finn said. Linden Lab also shut down work on the OpenSim interoperability efforts.
Finn admits that there are copyright issues at stake if content can move easily between grids.
“There are concerns that dishonest people will steal content,” he said. “But, just like the Internet, if people want to take your image, music or video you really can’t stop them. If people want to take your content from Second Life, there are a number of tools that dishonest people are using to do this. We can never stop piracy — but we should not allow the actions of a few dishonest people prohibit the evolution of the metaverse.”
Finn said that he’s looking forward to new OpenSim developments such as Second Life Viewer 2 support, new web-based clients, Mumble voice and the upcoming secure Hypergrid 2.0 protocol for inter-grid teleportation.
“My personal belief is if Linden Labs continues down the ‘walled garden’ path and does not allow people to own a private instance of Second Life that can connect seamlessly to the public Second Life or allow Opensim to connect to public Second Life then we will eventually see the demise of Linden Labs environment similar to AOL or Compuserve,” he said.
As of this writing, Linden Lab has not responded to requests for comment.