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I've avoided making "predictions" for some time now.  First, while Second Life has seriously declined both in region count and Premium users, they didn't actually self-destruct as I predicted in 2012.  I was partially right but mostly wrong; somehow they managed to hang in there. That's okay.  Predictions are always "iffy" at best... and SL customers have tolerated a lot more absurdity than I figured they would. 

Predictions are always a shot-in-the-dark, even when based on educated guesses.  Even predictions based on facts and trendlines are still just predictions; trendlines don't always pan out.  

Still... I can't resist this one.

SECOND LIFE 2

Linden Lab recently announced they plan to develop a system currently referred to as "Second Life 2".  They promise they're not going to close down the current Second Life (and we totally trust that, right?).  They hint this is going to be a totally new generation of virtual reality.

So... what is SL2 likely to be?   Let's see if we can make some educated guesses.  Why?  Mark it up to total masochism.  ; )

First, Second Life has a bad reputation.  There is no denying that.  Despite the fact that Linden Lab basically put VR on the map and developed the core concept that is used in both OpenSim and Inworldz... over the years the grid has gained bad press ranging all the way from being a badly-coded lag/crash system... to a virtual brothel and haven for pedophiles.  Sadly, these reputations were (at least at the time) pretty much warranted... and Second Life is widely perceived as a "not for smart computer users" game rather than a viable virtual society.  There's a good chance Linden Lab would like to eliminate such perceptions in their second try.

In addition the grid has been plagued by griefers and security issues.  It's simply not professional or secure.   That is something Linden Lab needs to correct as well.

A serious problem is that the majority of the company's profitability has been land-based.   That has always been an issue.  We have seen land prices devalue to near-worthlessness, we've seen Second Life undercut by systems such as Inworldz (which offers a far better product at 1/4 the price), we've seen SL's profitability plummet since 2008 as their region counts dropped and Premium user base cancelled their memberships, reportedly by the tens of thousands.  So it's become rather obvious that renting land and paid memberships is not going to be the wave of the VR future.

Second Life (and indeed all grids) has also been plagued by another less-obvious problem:  amateur and unprofessional merchants.  This takes several forms, ranging from poor-quality merchandise and badly-written scripts to outright fraud, copyright infringement and criminal activity.

So how does Linden Lab overcome these problems?  What are they planning?

A FEW PREDICTIONS REGARDING SECOND LIFE 2

So based on 10 years of personal VR history and examining the above issues, I decided to open up the prediction box and stick my foot in the water once again.  Here is what I would expect them to do with SL2:

* SL2 will likely not feature user-based creations.  No building tools, no scripting, no importing or exporting of any kind. 

* Instead, Linden Lab will make arrangements with established professional-level merchants to provide high-quality creations on an all-new SL2 Marketplace at which only licensed, authorized merchants will be allowed to display and sell.  Expect the SL2 marketplace to greatly decrease in number of offerings and greatly improve in overall quality of merchandise. 

* If LL is smart scripts will be required to adhere to stringent guidelines and testing protocols.

* Linden Lab will likely take a much larger cut of sales... 25 to 50 percent (considering who we're talking about here).  Why will merchants accept this?  Because their numbers will be limited and the competition far less intense.  Widespread freebies or cut-throat prices would be a thing of the past.  As only authorized merchants would be allowed to sell, they will sell a whole lot more... and will be more than happy to give Linden Lab a larger chunk of their sales for that privilege.

* SL2 will probably not have a membership fee; after all, they are most likely intending to compete directly with Facebook.   It will be designed to be a "3D virtual chat room".  Those who visit will be encouraged to improve their avatars (at a cost of course).  

* Users will possibly be provided small plots of land for free... which naturally will make them want to purchase homes, furniture, cars, swimming pools, small airports and airplanes, sailing ships to sail the oceans, etc.  Alternately, LL may decide to rent parcels of land.  That is the big if.  Impossible to predict that one.  We can expect no "land barons"; that would all be Linden Lab's venue.  Either way they do it, we can be guaranteed profit will be the #1 consideration.

* Likely SL2 will have a much stronger social structure.  Think Facebook on steroids.  Membership profile pages (along with actual paid advertising... something LL has avoided in the past), photo and video sections, advanced messaging, the works... a 2D Facebook-like system tied in directly to their 3D world.  Click an in-world profile... visit their 2D profile pages.  I believe Linden Lab would very much like to be the Facebook of the 3D world and perhaps in their wildest visionary dreams, imagines SL2 taking over Facebook's market entirely.

* EXTREMELY EASY-TO-USE INTERFACE.  That will be a core issue.  No building tools or menus.  Very easy-to-use avatar clothing and changing functions.   Easy-to-use rezzing and object movement functions (of course using only authorized items purchased on the SL2 Marketplace).   Learning time:  5-10 minutes tops, via real-time startup activity / tutorials... and a near zero learning curve.

* Laggy grid and poor performance, because they aren't likely to start with brand new, expensive, time-consuming code.  They'll be using their current platform and all new rules.

(If they were smart they'd be offering Inworldz some major $$$ to implement their upgrades, changes and scalability / performance boons.   Now that's a scarey thought.)

WHY SUCH EXTREME CHANGES?

Why do I believe Linden Lab would change their entire marketing plan?  Because they have made millions of dollars in fees from SL Marketplace... and their percentage there has been very low.  That market has been a consistently-increasing cash cow.  Imagine how much they would make in a market where they took a much larger percentage... and everyone bought from them?  

Could such a market finance and fuel an entire grid?  You bet it could.  And they'd still have the old SL on hand, still making a tidy profit ruling the "creative" sector of VR.  Linden Lab would be grabbing cash with both fists.

DE-SEXING THE SEX GRID?

Will sexual products and activity be prohibited on SL2?  Not likely.  Linden Lab has a history of openly promoting sexuality on their board.  Sex sells.  Unless their core viewpoints and policies are changing, that will continue.  But there would likely be changes.  Such would probably be relegated to an "adult" district or would they'd significantly limit the overt nature of such.  It's hard to predict what they would allow, what they wouldn't allow, or to what extent they would knowingly turn a blind eye.  One thing we can be pretty sure of:  sexuality will remain, because it means bottom-line profit.   Linden Lab has never ignored a source of profit.

Possibly the in-your-face sex marketing would be somewhat eliminated.   The "new SL" would more wisely limit such things to behind-closed-doors, in private clubs, in private homes and specified areas... but it will be there.   Goods will almost definitely be offered in an "adult" section of their marketplace, with signs warning people what's there so that no one can complain about being "offended".   The genre will still be very much alive... it just won't be quite so blatantly obvious as it is now.  Maybe.  On the other hand this is Linden Lab.  Maybe they'll totally fail to learn from past mistakes and sexuality will be as in-your-face as ever.   Difficult to say.

PROFESSIONALISM

Most of all, SL2 is likely to be presented in a more professional light.  Businesses and even education may be courted to present their companies and organizations on a 3D virtual chat world with a potential audience of hundreds of millions of regular users (or so they hope).  Only professionally-designed, quality merchandise will be available, from the best-of-the-best merchants.  The new VR would possibly be totally controlled, operated and regulated by Linden Lab, with no irate customers or merchants to deal with.  SL will most likely be a tourist grid as opposed to their current creator nature... and Linden Lab will be in complete control of every facet of operation (as much as they can manage, anyway).

IT'S STILL LINDEN LAB

A major issue to be considered is that this is still Linden Lab... a company with a repetitious history of blunder after severe blunder.  This is a company that evidences repeatedly putting profit ahead of customer welfare and interests.  Consider:  they put highly-supportive GOM out of business to start a monopolistic online market of their own.   They lost some 5,000 regions in the OpenSpace Sim fiasco before barely backtracking.  Elf Clan as an entire group left Second Life after seven years of continual frustration with self-serving company policies.

So the question of the day:  Has Linden Lab learned from past mistakes, or are they doomed to repeat them?

If I were to predict... I'd foresee additional bad decisions and blunders from the company, perhaps so severe it would undermine the project and sink it faster than the Bismark.  On the other hand maybe they've heavily examined where they went wrong and their new business plan is designed to be leaner, smarter and more attuned to what customers want and need-- at a significant profit, of course.

INWORLDZ PROBABLY  DOESN'T NEED TO WORRY

This is my big out-on-a-limb prediction.  I foresee the new SL as being a totally restructured product that will not appeal to creator-customers.  It will be designed to appeal directly to the social crowd... the exact opposite of Inworldz primary market. (Although such should be Inworldz market as well.) 

As such, while it may impact Inworldz future, potential market, it's not likely to harm their existing market-- and may unintentionally even through significant business Inworldz' direction.

Despite the longer-than-expected progress of Inworldz, the truth is the grid is progressing.  It may have been on the slow-track to completion, but that may also mean Inworldz will be far more stable than SL ever achieved.  The time may actually come that SL2 benefits Inworldz more than harms it... as SL merchants realize that a growing Inworldz platform at 1/4 the cost of SL might be a smart move.

Those who are creative individuals who enjoy making their own worlds likely won't be much interested in SL2.  Linden Lab likely intends to tap two markets:  those on SL who couldn't care less about creating (they're just there for the social aspects)-- and markets currently held by Facebook and IMVU.  In fact, what we may be seeing is Linden Lab making a direct grab at the popular and lucrative IMVU market.

Therefore on second examination (since my previous blog listing SL2 as serious potential competition), Inworldz probably doesn't really have to worry much about this one.  If anything, SL2 may benefit migration to the Inworldz platform.  However, it is very possible that Linden Lab could interfere with future Inworldz markets... taking over a social VR platform that would otherwise be potential Inworldz customers.  That will undoubtedly be the case if SL2 actually comes into existence (and there is every reason to believe it will).

Or I may be totally wrong and SL2 could work so well it completely corners the market.  We'll just have to wait to see what happens.* 

THAT'S IT

I could write a lot more, but I think that will suffice for early-guess no-data predictions.   Linden Lab has said very little at all about the new system.  About the only thing they've published at all is that they don't intend to "replace" the current Second Life (maybe they're right, but I wouldn't bet my bank account on that)... and that SL2 will be the next generation of a vastly improved VR.  They're naturally being secretive and playing this very close-to-the-vest.  What actually comes about is anyone's guess... which is all I'm really doing here.

I wonder how close these predictions will prove out when / if the new grid appears... and how long it will be before this latest announcement actually transpires?

We will see.

--o--

* Honestly though... I seriously doubt SL2 will corner the market.  It could, but this is Linden Lab we're discussing here.  Historically they tend to be somewhat self-destructive.

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Comment by eekee eebus on July 7, 2014 at 6:51pm

Well, it looks like SL2 will be close to zero interest to me personally, but a thought kept occurring to me as I read, and I do love speculating. Once it's up and running, where will they recruit new creators from? SL1 (naming the existing grid that way for brevity,) may very well go into a steep decline as non-creators find a better place to be, thus rendering people who want to create things for money unwilling to create there. Creators who didn't get onto SL2's privilege list will of course find that with most of their friends and social life gone to SL2, they might as well go somewhere with vastly cheaper sims. We can expect Linden Labs recruiters in InWorldz, covertly of course, but I don't think that will do any harm. It's just funny to think of Linden Labs dependent on InWorldz and Opensim. I think SL2 will be almost entirely dependent on other grids for innovation, and... well, I'm laughing at the possibility SL1 will survive, if SL2 takes off.

If. As I wrote the previous paragraph I realised I was depending on some very big assumptions. Wayfinder, you wrote, Widespread freebies or cut-throat prices would be a thing of the past. Freebie-hunting is an extremely popular sport in SL1. I say "sport" deliberately; it's exciting, it's good clean fun, and it's sweet how you can involve your friends cooperatively rather than competitively. Less positively, it can even be addictive, and trying too hard to involve your friends can turn you into a spammer, but it makes little difference to my point. Without freebies, SL2 is not going to get much of SL1's population at all.

What about the Facebook crowd? They already have a social environment where they don't even need to think about dressing up their avatar, never mind pay for the privilege. Many may not even want anything else SL2 offers. I wouldn't be surprised if most Facebook users use it only to keep up with family and with friends they've made through other channels. Others use it for real-life events they're interested in. For instance I use it to learn about upcoming steampunk events. Another use is for uploading or viewing a regular stream of exciting, intriguing, or otherwise entertaining images. I can do all this on Facebook for no ongoing investment at all. My Facebook avatar, already far easier to set up than a SL avatar, doesn't require any further investment to keep up with changing fashions or standards. I've invested a little by giving up a teeny bit of my privacy in joining Facebook in the first place, but Facebook thinks I live in Vulcan, Alberta, and work for UFP Starfleet. Seriously, I get all Canadian adverts! :D You'd think they'd see I only select British events to go to but no, they give my stated location directly to advertisers. Maybe I'll change it to Swaziland next...

Where was I? Oh yes: to use Facebook, I barely have to invest anything into dressing up how I appear on there. For SL2 without freebies, I'd have to pay to look like anything other than just another one fresh out of the cookie-cutter, wouldn't I? This is my overall point, I don't really have to invest anything to use Facebook. Now it's true I didn't have to pay to start playing SL1, and by 6 months time I was paying quite a lot, but you can't expect everyone to follow that path. I'm a very very special case; my burrow in Elf Haven was the first place of any kind which really felt like my home. How many people can say any virtual world is worth that much to them? Some idiots might follow my spending path, but sensible people won't. Even my spending dropped off sharply after about 9 months. What are they hoping for, a regular influx of idiots? That seems to be a common plan for online businesses these days. It might work. The thing is, even I wouldn't have stayed in SL for long enough to start paying if I'd had to pay to look decent early on; I would have been ashamed to hang around Elf Clan if many didn't look about like me. Incidentally, I appreciated the Elf Clan eldar of the time lagging behind the general rush to get skins, prim hair etc, but I still didn't want my look to lag too far behind everyone else. If SL hadn't been a really good thing for me by virtue of its very nature (which included building), I could easily have said, "This game's no good, you have to pay to look acceptable," and walked away.

There's one thing I'd really like to know, but it's cost me a lot to write this much with my attention deficiency, so I can't just go look it up. Did that "no freebies" line come from Linden Labs, or is it an assumption? If it came from LL then I'd be fairly sure it's a politician's promise; it's there to get content creators hooked, and I don't think they have any intention of keeping it. I've long suspected LL's management never believed any of the hype that even people like Torley Linden bought into.

How would SL2 compare to Facebook in other ways?

For family activities, SL2 would offer a small advantage in that it offers a kind of "together time" which Facebook can't quite reach, although their chat service (like any other instant messaging) will come very close. Actually, I'm not sure SL2 would have any advantage over webcam chat services (which I've never used on account of hearing and speech issues). Families could engage in group activities in SL, but again I've no idea how it compares to Facebook games which I've never played. The lack of building cuts out one activity, at least.

Following image streams in Facebook is comparable to exploring in any virtual world, but the real world offers variety in excess. Whether you're following a stream of landscape images or fancy wrought iron, there is no end to the variety. How much variety will there be without user-made builds? I'm half-expecting SL2 to stagnate altogether, after the initial surge.

What about mobile users? iPads and other tablets are even more popular than desktops and laptops, but there's no hope of running SL1 properly on a tablet. I can use Facebook on my phone for crying out loud! There's a phone client for SL1, but can you explore with it? Is it worth going to a club and dancing with it? What about SL2?

Comment by eekee eebus on July 7, 2014 at 6:56pm

Haha! My biggest surprise of all is my comment is the first. Normally there would have been at least 5 other comments by the time I was half-way through writing my 3rd paragraph, a fact of which I was well aware while writing it, but I had to take my time anyway. I couldn't marshal my thoughts any better than that.

Has everyone looked at it and thought, 'Can't build? Nothing for me here"?

Comment by Wayfinder Wishbringer on July 7, 2014 at 8:32pm

All of my blog above is assumptions.  Assumptions based on long experience... but assumptions nonetheless.  I just basically looked at the current SL and thought, "What would I do if I were Linden Lab?"  (Which btw is difficult, because it's hard to think that goofy.)

Kidding aside (well, not really kidding... no, just kidding)... what Linden Lab will likely be going for is the Facebook crowd mentality (social context rather than builder context) but of course, won't attract the majority of those who use Facebook because not everyone likes VR as a concept.

Regarding freebies... they will of course offer free avatars, probably very nice looking ones.  But there will be a limited number (say, a dozen of each gender plus some off-the walls like robots and super heroes and such).  They will be awesome to show off the grid's abilities, but everyone will have those so people will be looking for their own unique look.  That's where the Market and $$$ will come in.

There will probably be standard freebies-- and maybe even a very limited freebie section on the Market, but not enough to compete with their creator/merchants... which has been a problem in the past.

The fun part about writing this blog is of course seeing how much of it actually proves true or alternately, how much of the mark I miss.  Trying to predict Linden Lab is like throwing a rock at a housefly.  I may be in the right vicinity but it's unlikely I'll smack it on the noggin. ;D

Comment by Wayfinder Wishbringer on July 19, 2014 at 5:58am

In truth a TOS is nothing but a statement of company policy.  The company can still be sued if that TOS is found to conflict with Law.  And especially in the case of Linden Lab, every TOS after the first has pretty much zero legal ground since as you pointed out... they coerce their users into accepting it (or they block you from access to your assets).  A coerced agreement is legally void.

Comment by Wayfinder Wishbringer on July 19, 2014 at 11:01pm

Linden Lab's TOS is designed to serve Linden Lab.   People have been irate with their one-sided policies for years.   That TOS is one reason we left SL.  I haven't looked back.  (Except to use them in VR analysis articles.)

Comment by Wayfinder Wishbringer on July 20, 2014 at 2:24pm

Thing to remember is to have fun at whatever you do and just ignore the rest as best as possible.  It's the "as best as possible" that's the trick. :D

I am sure there will be a mer HUD in Inworldz eventually.  Until then I suggest one of two things:

1) Choose another role, one you enjoy as much (or almost as much) until that happens or

2) Be a mer on SL, don't pay anyone there a dime so you don't throw good money after bad... and then come here to build and create. : )

Comment by Wayfinder Wishbringer on July 27, 2014 at 8:18pm

Actually, I'm not all that crazy about sculpties; never have been.  They are limited in function (only one texture can be applied), take forever to load and rez and tend to vanish at a distance.  Bad idea, badly implemented.

In contrast, mesh rezzes immediately can have multiple textures and retains form at a distance.  It has no disadvantage I'm aware of, as both sculpties and mesh must be created outside the grid (unless one has a special merchant tool.   Interestingly in Inworldz, a primmed item can be converted to mesh within the viewer itself so... better than sculpties imo.

Comment by Wayfinder Wishbringer on July 28, 2014 at 6:05am

The demo you saw at Brewer's probably took a pre-built prim item and converted it to mesh within the viewer... which indeed has very little (if anything) in the way of advantage.  It will usually look less-detailed and increase the prim count.  I actually don't really know why people do that.

That said, I would love to have a basic polygonal prim in-world that has a bit more versatility to it than cubes and spheres.  I think that was one of SL's failures from the beginning-- not including a polygonal prim from the start.   And I think it's one of VR's failures since then, after all this time, to not create such a prim.  It could be one of the most useful building tools since removing link limits.

However, you CAN change sculpties to mesh as well, which has a real advantage.

A good mesh can have incredibly low prim count.  For example I saw a bridge made in Google Sketchup which although detailed with many surfaces and textures, had a land count of ONE.  There are tutorials one can find which explains how to do this... and that makes mesh very useful.

Blender is far more difficult to use.  Terribly high learning curve, but there is no doubt that once it's learned it is very powerful in creating mesh items.  Me... after 14+ years on VR I simply don't want to go to all that trouble.  I have other things to do. But... I'll probably wind up learning it eventually anyway.  ;D

Sculpties:  one texture, loads slowly (and sometimes not at all), has difficulty rezzing, looses detail when viewed from a distance.

Mesh: Can have multiple surface textures, loads quickly, maintains visibility at a distance, if made correctly very low prim count.

Comment by Wayfinder Wishbringer on July 28, 2014 at 8:23pm

If you Google "Sketchup" you'll find it.

Yes, it is possible (either using Inworldz viewer or Firestorm, I forget which) to export a full-perm object in Collada format (mesh).  And yes, it tends to increase the prim count.  Why would someone use such a function?  Sculpted objects take ages to rez.  But when they're exported and brought back in as mesh... they rez almost instantly.  That's one of the main advantages of mesh over sculpties.  In addition, mesh has multiple surfaces, thus multiple textures are possible.

If the teacher used Blender to make the demo car and it increased land impact count, chances are she either didn't use or was not aware of the "tricks" necessary in Blender to reduce prims.  As with all aspects of building and scripting, there are always tricks available that are known by experienced users and not by the inexperienced.  That's how any aspect of VR goes. Those who know more can do more, and better.

Which btw, is one of the problems of VR-as-we-know-it:  high learning curve.

Comment by Wayfinder Wishbringer on July 29, 2014 at 4:59am

* Sculpties are prims.  Just funny-shaped ones. ; )

* If you xfer a single-textured sculpt to mesh, it will (for all intents and purposes) remain single-textured.  But even then yes, you may have to re-texture it because of texturing import bugs in the viewer.  It's still worth it for the faster rezzing.

Everything has pros and cons.

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