There is an ancient Chinese curse:
"May you live in interesting times."
Lately we are seeing "interesting times" at Linden Lab. Thought we'd take a look at a few of them.
During a time when years-old showstopper bugs are still around... when lag is bad enough to stop an elephant... when the asset servers are sputtering and textures are still-- after almost 7 years-- loading at a snail pace (or not loading at all)... Linden Lab still finds time to work on new toys.
Voice morphing is the newest gimmick from LL. In itself, it probably falls into the category of other toys-- it's interesting but not essential. But this toy is a little different in one significant way:
Linden Lab is charging L$750 a month for it.
Yes, instead of this being a new feature that might actually benefit the grid (and try to get people to stay on the grid)... Linden Lab is introducing the first of what I expect to be a long line of "for-pay features". Yes folks, this one is totally for the profit.
L$750 a month (the equivalent of about US$3.oo). That's not exactly cheap. Now the question is this: what exactly are they going to do with that L$750? Are they going to sink it and remove those L$750 from the market? Or are they going to try to sell those L$750 on the Lindex... a system that is already flooded with excess L$? (Some claim largely due to Linden Lab already flooding the Lindex with their own sales).
An interesting question. Which brings us to the second item of interest...
Yesterday the Lindex hiked from L$260 per US$1 to L$269 per US$1.
Now to most people, they would think, "Yaaaay! More L$ for less money!" And they'd be right. However, there is a very dark side to that. You see, while the customer is getting more for their buck... the merchants and land owners aren't. They're having to accept less US$ in payment for their services. The downside there is that it's primarily the merchants and landowners that pay for Second Life.
Would you like YOUR paycheck to drop by 3.5%?
The cautionary thing about this is that there is no one and nothing in place to stop the L$ from devaluing even further. Is this current devaluation a temporary market glitch... or a long term trend of general economic collapse? While we try not to be pessimistic in such things, the honest truth is there is no way of telling. The way Linden Lab has been running things the last two years... any indication of failure could be THE indication.
The last two years on Second Life have been a nightmare for its customers. That Linden Lab seems totally unaware of that fact is just astounding. Look at the things we have had to deal with over that period:
* OpenSpace / Homestead sim bait-and-switch ludicrous price hike that destroyed over 5,200 sims
* Release of an incredibly bad Viewer 2
* Change in TOS regarding third-party viewers that prevents us from backing up our own builds
* Mono-based lag that drags sims to a standstill
* Stop-dead, extensive lag every time someone ports in or out
* Stacking sims 8 to a server-- when sims are already lagging each other to excessive levels.
* Total failure to control CopyBot intrusion on SL-- resulting in the theft of tens of thousands of merchant creations-- and subsequent failure to handle CopyBot abusers as the criminals they are
* Two (count them, two) Federal Class-Action lawsuits against Linden Lab in two different areas of improper business
* XstreetSL policy changes and attack upon XSL merchants and freebie listings
* Continuing critical-level and showstopper bugs
... and that's just the tip of the iceberg. All of this has resulted in zero and even negative growth figures for Second Life. These things are not promising.
Now they're charging for features? What are these people thinking? One can only suck so much in "taxes" out of the people... until there is no more to give. Then it becomes revolt time. Linden Lab could stand to learn the lessons of history.
Several acquaintances have commented the last few months that Second Life is becoming "less fun"... some that it's not fun at all. Merchant friends have told me they don't even "do" SL any more... they just sell stuff and spend their free time elsewhere.
When it gets to that point... Linden Lab is in trouble. They've been running the company in a very poor manner, with a self-focused management method that is leaving their customers cold. All indicators are that this is a trend that is increasing... not improving.
Yes, I do believe Second Life has become an environment of "interesting times". Whether it survives those times or not is anyone's guess.