Why Anyone Who Cares About the Metaverse Needs to Move Beyond Second Life; Now, Not Later

tl;dr:  If we want to see the metaverse happen in our lifetime, we need to invest our time, money, creativity, and resources into making it happen.  It isn’t going to come from Second Life or Linden Lab, and the metaverse can’t wait.

Five or six years ago, you could not have found a more enthusiastic and engaged supporter of the Second Life platform than me. Like many, I was inspired by the technology itself and especially by the vision of a company who promised us a new world built from our imaginations. Back then, the leadership of Second Life actually said things like “I’m not building a game. I’m building a new country.” (I love that Gwyn keeps that quote from Philip Rosedale in her sig line.) While I was always skeptical about that “new country” bit, I was completely and passionately in love with the idea that we were creating a new world – a new KIND of world – that exploded with possibilities and opportunities for those who were open to learning how to use them.

I’d read Snow Crash too, of course, and it wasn’t just the idea of Second Life itself that excited me, but rather the idea that Second Life was a seed, a prototype, a very rough but crucially important first step towards the creation of an open metaverse. Even back then, my imagination supplied me with a thrilling vision of what the metaverse could become. I could see it in my mind’s eye, this online incredibly complex 3D universe of people, places, and things, of not just one new world, but many new worlds, connected to one another, traversable with our digital bodies, varied and wonderful and full of commerce, educational opportunities, entertainment, creativity, and all the magical things that we could collectively unleash from our imaginations. The metaverse would be the next iteration of the net and the web, moving from flat, mostly static, two dimensional pages to dynamic, live, and action oriented 3D online places.

Most exciting to me, this digital variation of our physical universe would not be limited by so many things that constrain us in the physical world – lack of capital, limits on consumable resources, the difficulties of physical distance, and the incredibly stale and inflexible institutions and legal structures that are cracking and groaning and failing to adapt even to the exigencies of the real world, forget being able to address the digital world.  It wouldn’t take millions of dollars to build a company headquarters in the metaverse, no need for lumber and concrete either – pixels are limitless. And it wouldn’t matter if your colleagues lived in Dubai or Dublin or Dallas, you could still work together side by side in a virtual space and collaborate on a shared design in real time, in some ways better even than you could in the real world. And maybe, just maybe, all that plasticity and the ability to visualize things in new ways would help us discover new angles to solving intractable old real world problems, too.

I became absolutely convinced that those of us pioneering these new digital worlds would have the opportunity to do better in the virtual worlds we create than has been done in the real world we inherited, and that we could learn from our experiences in virtual worlds to make the real world a better place, too.

And in those early days, forget the technology or the company or the leadership at the helm, the most wonderful thing about Second Life back then is that I kept meeting people who were thinking the same thing. Logging into Second Life was like mainlining a drug, everywhere you teleported, you might just bump into someone brilliant, thoughtful, someone as excited about the possibilities as you were. Everywhere you looked were fascinating projects: scientists playing with visualizing data, artists creating experiences that were just not possible in real life, regular everyday people starting new businesses and finding financial success, professors and educators holding classes in the clouds and building a community of practice that made even the most isolated innovator in some corner of the physical world feel like they had finally found the colleagues and collaborators of their dreams.

Everywhere you looked was innovation.
Everyone you met was experimenting, trying new things, pushing new boundaries.
Anything seemed possible.  Maybe even probable.

I became so inspired, so excited by the possibilities that it quite literally changed my life. Trying to understand this prototype of the metaverse, and figuring out how to achieve those goals became the focus of my career.  I was travelling all over the US speaking about Second Life and the metaverse at conferences and lectures, and I was deeply engaged in my own projects in-world, too. Learning not just how to twist a pile of prims into something beautiful, but how that pile of prims could be used to facilitate a community like Chilbo, a classroom at my university, or bring people together for a conference like SLBPE or SLCC. The more I learned, the more sure I became that great things were possible because this rough little prototype of the metaverse had already enriched and changed my life for the better – I was quite certain it could change other people’s lives for the better, too.

I had a vision of the future and I worked very damned hard to help bring it to life, not in isolation, but with thousands of other people who were working hard to do the same thing. And the most wonderful part was that we had found each other, from all corners of the physical world, we discovered in each other a passion for making the metaverse a reality.

It was an exciting, heady time. I miss those days. And if you were one of those people, I bet you do, too.

That Was Then, This is Now

The road from there to here has been an interesting one. I was incredibly lucky that my personal circumstances and the university where I work gave me the space, time, and resources to dive deep into the topic. I spent the next several years fully engaged in the work, the space, the people, the projects, the platforms. I’ve read hundreds of academic articles, thousands of blog posts and news stories and editorials. I’ve had the opportunity to work on so many fantastically interesting projects, I’ve organized conferences and participated in scores of events to bring people who share this passion together in real life and virtually, and I’ve explored as many worlds and spaces as time has allowed to see what others are doing too.

And while there will always be someone more technically gifted than me, more knowledgeable, more connected.. I think it is fair to say I’ve developed some expertise in this topic, some genuine experience in understanding how and when a virtual world application makes sense and when it doesn’t, what the challenges and opportunities are, and some inklings of what the future may hold now that I’m not just wide-eyed with wonder, but seasoned by the trials and tribulations of not just starting projects in the fledgling metaverse, but leading them, staffing them, maintaining them, supporting them, marketing them, and finishing them. To be sure, some of my youthful naivete has departed, but I’d like to think it’s left some wisdom in its place, and here is what the view looks like to me now.

It would be fair to say that no single company or single platform could ever have lived up to the kinds of expectations that I described in the beginning of this post. Linden Lab and Second Life could never be all things to all people, and I give them credit for even trying to address the needs of so many diverse use cases and such a passionately vocal and creative userbase. And I do believe that they tried. For a very long time, I think they did try, sincerely and genuinely, to help bring the visions of Second Life’s residents to life. I personally worked with many folks from the Lab who were as passionate and committed as I was, and who tried their best to facilitate the projects and events that I worked on.

And while they were of course always working for Linden Lab and had to keep the company’s interests in mind, there were hints that some of the folks at Linden Lab also shared our passion for the metaverse itself, beyond Second Life. For a time, there seemed to be at least the possibility that Linden Lab might grow into a larger role, not just serving as a provider of a world called Second Life, but maybe they could become a steward of that burgeoning metaverse, sharing their technology with others in service of that broader goal in a “rising tide lifts all boats” kind of way. Before so many brilliant engineers and thinkers left the Lab, they took concrete steps in that direction, even – they open sourced the viewer code, they participated in research with IBM to test inter-world teleports, and when Philip spoke to us, the residents, he painted that kind of picture. This was not a game. This was about changing the world, real and virtual.

That was Linden Lab then. That is not Linden Lab now.

The Metaverse Will Not Come From Linden Lab or Second Life

I still see the Second Life platform as that first crucial step towards the metaverse, but anyone with two eyes in her head can see that it’s been many years and many changes in management since there was even a hope that Second Life itself would be anything but one world whose sole purpose is to make one company a profit. Linden Lab isn’t even a publicly traded company, for that matter, so we who have invested countless hours, poured thousands and thousands of dollars, staked our reputations and careers, and devoted our creativity and passions to the Second Life platform – we who made Second Life what it is – we can’t even see into the black box a tiny little bit. In truth, we don’t own even a tiny piece of this thing that we helped create.

It has always been that way, of course, even back in the beginning. But back then I also had some.. let’s call it faith, that the people in charge at Linden Lab shared at least some small part of the same vision that I had. Even if they went about it differently than I would do, or chose to prioritize different things than I would have chosen, I had some faith that both we the residents and Linden Lab the company were in some way working in concert with one another. At times it was discordant, and cacophonous, and certainly chaotic, but what complicated and pioneering endeavor isn’t?

And don’t forget, I was seeing these people, in person, at events and conferences all over the country.  I could look into their eyes and see my own passions reflected in them, and that sustained me even when I disagreed, sometimes vehemently, with their decisions and choices. They were good people making a good faith effort to do something good, and I was willing to endure all manner of inconveniences, indignities, and even embarrassingly horrible failures in the middle of important-to-my-career presentations, all because I felt that good faith effort deserved my patience and my loyalty.

I do not feel that way anymore. You shouldn’t either. It’s not because Linden Lab has become Evil or something silly like that (though I’ve long and often thought the dictionary definition of “mismanagement” should include their company logo), but simply because their priorities are no longer our priorities – not even close. If there was any question, the recent announcement about adding Second Life to Steam should put that doubt to rest. Linden Lab is pivoting, as they like to say in start-up land, and they’re pivoting to gamers. They’re no more interested in expanding or creating the metaverse than EA or Blizzard is, the only world changing thing they are aiming for now is better monetization of the entertainment and virtual goods sector.

Now don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with gaming – I am a gamer myself, and unlike Prokofy, I don’t think all gamers are idiots or griefers. I have a Steam account and play lots of games on there, and right this moment, I’m anxiously anticipating this weekend’s release of Guild Wars 2 like I haven’t looked forward to a new game in a long time (I’m going to start a guild if I can’t find one, come join me!). And a bit ironically given my last professional experience with Linden Lab, I actually like what I’ve seen of Rod Humble the person; he seems genuine and thoughtful and deeply knowledgeable about the game industry. I look forward to seeing what the newly re-focused Linden Lab comes up with, and I hope it is entertaining and interesting and successful. I’ll even hope that it continues to push the envelope technologically.

But game worlds are not the metaverse. They don’t want to be the metaverse, or participate in the metaverse, or have anything to do with an online universe where people can travel freely, create freely, start their own companies, or do their own thing. Game worlds are about sucking us into someone else’s world, where they endeavor to create an entertainment experience that is so enthralling that we willingly fork over cash to keep experiencing it. Which is great, sometimes really great, and fun and addicting and all that good stuff. But any game experience, no matter how thrilling, pales in comparison to what we who have lived in the fledgling metaverse know is possible, what we know could be possible if the kinds of resources, talent, technology, and effort that currently gets invested in game worlds were to be invested in the metaverse instead.

The thing is, once you’ve made your own world, you can never go back to being satisfied only playing in other people’s worlds. Or at least that’s the way it is for me.

Now someone out there is going to argue that it’s not like Linden Lab is going to turn Second Life into WoW or something, that they are at least trying to pivot to something of a hybrid between game worlds and virtual worlds. That seems to be what Gwyn thinks, and I’ll agree that there’s truth to that, but it’s important to remember that virtual worlds are not the metaverse either. Virtual worlds are some step before the metaverse, before we figure out how to connect everything up. It’s another intermediary step, and while we’re working on learning how do that, we can’t lose sight of the bigger picture. Whatever hybrid Linden Lab intends to make, they’ve signaled very strongly that they are simply not interested in having their virtual world participate in any of this metaverse stuff at all.

Which means for those of us who want to see the metaverse become a reality in our lifetimes, their goals are not our goals. Their priorities are not our priorities. The metaverse is not going to grow out of Linden Lab or Second Life, it’s that simple.

But I Can’t Leave My Inventory!  And My Friends!  And My Awesome Builds!

Does this mean you have to leave Second Life? No of course not, even I haven’t done that. I still have projects for work in Second Life and though Chilbo has changed to a mostly private landowner model, we’re still there and I still have a strong connection to my friends, colleagues, and communities in Second Life.

But I have tiered down, way down, and I have begun to invest my time and money largely elsewhere – in Opensim, in Unity, in exploring other nascent platforms and technologies that might be a step in the metaverse direction. I think if you care at all about making the metaverse a reality, that’s what you should do, too, and there are several reasons why:

The first reason is that Second Life is not a safe place or a good place to store your work. At some point, maybe not this year, maybe not even next year, but at some point you will have the epiphany that you have poured your creativity into a very, very fragile jar that is held by someone who does not give one hoot that they hold your most precious efforts in their hands. Worse, you will also realize that you have paid a ridiculously high price to have your creativity held in a jar owned by someone else. Worse still, it will break your heart when they drop the jar and all your effort shatters into a million pieces that you can’t easily pick up, if at all. (Ask the educational community, they will tell you.)

Imagine you are writing that novel you’ve always dreamed of writing, the novel that will change the world. And it’s early on in the development of software for writing novels, so there are only one or two platforms that allow you to even do it. One of the downsides of these early platforms is, you can only ever work on your novel on their servers, and the only copy that exists of your novel only exists on their servers. But hey, there aren’t any other good options out there, so you dive in, pouring your heart and soul into writing the best novel you can.

The more you add to your novel, as the years pass, the more attached you become, until one day something terrible happens. You lose your job, or you get sick, or the stock market crashes, whatever the reason, suddenly you can’t afford to pay for access to your novel. And just like that, all that work, all that effort, gone in a blink. Or one day the company changes its mind and decides it doesn’t even want to host novels anymore, novels are not their target market now, who needs these novel writing people! And just like that, all that work, all that effort, gone in a blink.

How many writers would choose to write their novel on a platform like that? None. NO ONE. Only someone insane would choose to do that. Only someone deluded would choose to do that and pay through the nose for the privilege once there were other options available.

Unfortunately, you sometimes pay a really high price for being an early adopter. Back then, Second Life was the only virtual world game in town, and you didn’t have any choices. That is no longer the case.  Linden Lab should allow you to make a copy of your work, but they don’t. And to continue the analogy, they don’t want to give you a copy of your novel because they need you to keep paying the hostage fees to access it.

My advice is: Stop being a hostage. Or at least stop being blind to it. And think about what it means for Linden Lab to decide for you, for us, whether we can have a copy of our own stories.

The second reason you need to shift your focus elsewhere is because other platforms need your passion and your creativity and your help. We all benefit when there are choices, when there are options, and when there is a healthy ecosystem of competition. Five years ago I would have guessed there would be many platform choices by now, but there aren’t, and it’s my fault. And your fault. We’ve remained so focused on one platform that we’ve allowed the virtual world ecosystem to atrophy to the point where you could hardly even say there is an ecosystem at all. And that’s bad – for businesses, for educators, for artists, it’s bad for virtual worlds, and it’s bad for the metaverse to come.

We need there to be a million laboratories and experiments happening, we need to have different options for different use cases, and we need to continue to grow the virtual worlds and metaverse “space” even if it isn’t the hot media darling it once was. In fact, we need to do it especially because it is not the hot media darling it once was. All those VCs and angel investors looking to drop a few million bucks on the hot new thing are so wrapped up in mobile and tablets and whatnot that the metaverse doesn’t stand a chance in hell of getting attention from anyone but the people who passionately believe in it. That’s us.

And what we lack in monetary capital we make up for in intellectual capital and the patience and perseverance to click through fifty bazillion checkboxes if that’s what it takes to figure out how to do something. We are not deterred by horrible user interfaces and inconvenient re-starts, by constant patching and broken viewers. We have put up with more trials and tribulations to make our visions a reality in Second Life than obviously most sane people were willing to do – so what is holding us back from moving beyond Second Life to continue to grow the space? I can’t believe it’s because it’s too hard, SECOND LIFE IS TOO HARD, for god’s sake.  Still!  After all these years, it still takes a ridiculous amount of effort to do anything in Second Life. So I don’t buy the difficulty argument, or the lack of features argument. That’s baloney.

No, other things are holding us back, and mostly I think it is that we’ve forgotten the vision. Well, remember it. Think back, remember what you hoped for, and let that sustain you as you move beyond Second Life to explore and help create new worlds that desperately need people like us to invest our time and talents into growing the virtual worlds and metaverse of tomorrow.

My advice: The single easiest thing for you to do is to begin with Opensim. Forget what you’ve heard or read about Opensim, forget all the frothing over content theft and copybots, and forget whatever experience you had with Opensim a few years ago. Opensim (and by extension OSGrid)  is the closest thing to what Second Life should have become, could have become if the Cory Ondrejka’s of the Lab hadn’t left. The only thing it doesn’t have is the monetary capital that Linden Lab has squandered in bad management and bad decisions, and the intellectual capital required to hit that tipping point of adoption necessary for there to be “enough” people using it to find the collaborators, content, and creativity that you need for your projects.

I’ll save a big treatise on Opensim for another day. It isn’t perfect, and it has its own set of issues, but it is actually more stable and more feature rich than Second Life in many ways, and any excuses that it’s too hard or too confusing fall upon my deaf ears. It isn’t. Stop making excuses. If you care about virtual worlds and the metaverse, you need to be taking at least some portion of your time, money, and efforts from Second Life and investing it in Opensim instead. You’ll be able to put all the years you’ve spent learning Second Life to good use, since it’s not like learning a completely different platform from the ground up, and you’ll be contributing to a community of people who deeply care about the future of the metaverse. Heck, you need to get into Opensim if for no other reason than you will learn more about Second Life than you ever have in all your years on the main grid.

Most importantly, Opensim’s whole raison d’etre is about growing the virtual worlds and metaverse space. Unlike Linden Lab, who have chosen to keep their one world for their profit, Opensim is all about your world, your imagination – quite literally, you can run your own world. (And you should, even as just a learning exercise. I’ll help you personally if you want to try, and if you haven’t, go visit my little personal world FleepGrid.)  I think you might be amazed at what you find, especially in the open hypergrid personal worlds rather than the InWorldz and SpotOn3D closed worlds, who, just like Second Life, want to be one world for their own profit*. Skip those and seek out the smaller grids and open grids and find your passion for the metaverse rekindled.

(* I can already hear Prokofy’s rebuttal ringing in my ears. I am not saying that for-profit projects or motivations are bad, in fact I think they can be good, and they are definitely necessary. I’m merely pointing out that some people are motivated by things other than profit, and I’m primarily addressing the audience of readers who, like me, are in that group. Call us naive do-gooders, or copyleft crazies, but we also contribute many good and meaningful things to the space and have a right to seek out like-minded projects and people.)

The third, and most important reason, you need to move beyond Second Life is because we’re getting old, and the metaverse can’t wait. Some time ago I came across an interview with Philip Rosedale where he said something about how he’d spent his 30’s doing Second Life and it was time to move on. It struck me because, while I’m a little younger than he is, I’ve now spent the majority of my 30’s working in this space, too, and in that time I’ve developed both a better understanding of just how long it can take for a technology to mature and just how intractable some of the technical and social barriers we face are.  Making the Metaverse might not be rocket science, but it isn’t easy either, and we still have a ton of work to do.  We have a lot of technical problems to solve, for sure, but we also have a lot of cultural work to do, and in my opinion, the cultural and social stuff is actually harder.  I can teach anyone how to click through a menu, it’s much more difficult to teach them why they should want to.

It’s going on 20 years since I discovered this thing called the internet, and from those very early days, I’ve always felt my personal talents lie in the ability to bridge gaps between different groups of technology users – to play the role of a translator.  Back in the 90’s when my role was primarily tech-support, I translated programmers’ intentions to end-users, and end-users’ needs to programmers.  Then in the early 2000’s when I was teaching workshops about using technology in education, I translated Gen-X/Y students’ behaviors for Baby Boomer faculty, and vice-versa.  These days, I find myself trying to translate to those living with today’s technology what we who have lived with tomorrow’s technology have learned, and at times it’s an immensely frustrating experience.  But equally frustrating is the stagnation I see even among those I admire and respect, who seem to have lost a little bit of that edge, that desire, to see more, much more, than mesh, and pathfinding, and whatever new shiny thing Linden Lab has bolted onto the same old broken chassis.

When I think back to where I started, I would have predicted we’d be much, much further along the road to the metaverse today than we actually are.  I’d have expected not just incremental improvements in tools, but whole new revolutions in how we translate our visions into pixels.  That hasn’t happened as much as I’d have liked.  I’d have thought that culturally, more people would be able to see and appreciate the benefits that virtual reality provides and would have embraced the opportunity to take advantage of it.  Surprisingly, people’s imaginations are more limited than I’d have guessed (including my own), and while we have seen things like Facebook and Twitter adopted more broadly, those are still flat, largely textual pages, not places to explore and experience together.  They are just iterations of the first webpage I saw back in the early 90s, not the revolution that Second Life once was, not the revolution that the metaverse needs to be.

Which brings me back to the whole game thing.  Back when Philip ran the Lab, Second Life was not a game. Under Rod’s leadership, a game is exactly what he’s trying to turn it into.

My advice is:  If you want to see the metaverse we imagined, then stop playing the perpetual hoping and waiting game that Second Life is.  Because if there’s one thing I’m sure of, it’s that the metaverse won’t spring forth from hoping and waiting.


Update:  I had a super busy week at work, so I’m still stewing and thinking about all of the comments.  In the meantime, I wanted to add links to the various responses and side discussions that were posted elsewhere both for myself and for other interested readers.  Many thanks to all for the food for thought!  (Please let me know if I missed any, too!)


  1. Thanks for one of the most lucid posts I’ve ever read marrying the concrete and aspirational aspects of the virtual world. Once upon a time, I too was . . .

    “. . . absolutely convinced that those of us pioneering these new digital worlds would have the opportunity to do better in the virtual worlds we create than has been done in the real world we inherited, and that we could learn from our experiences in virtual worlds to make the real world a better place, too.”

    My own disillusionment didn’t stem from anything Linden Lab did or did not do, mostly because I came in late enough to never develop much of an illusion where they were concerned. My fall from grace was realizing that our utopian dreams were proving to be untenable. Although we could set-aside many of our human foibles for a short time, the same patterns almost always emerged. People left. Communities fragmented. Enthusiasm wained.

    Another reason I’m less enthusiastic about the potential for virtual worlds to move into the mainstream, is that the paradigm is pretty much in direct opposition to the rest of our networked lives. Modern society is moving in the opposite direction from fully focused immersion within a single place (virtual or otherwise.) We experience our 2D virtual lives in thousands of bite sized chunks on multiple devices and platforms, often simultaneously.

    No one would have predicted thirty years ago that text would be the dominant form of teen communication in a future where voice and video were almost universally available. But although my kids and their friends have smart phones that can run Skype, they almost never choose video and seldom voice, even for extended conversations. It’s because texting allows them to control their attention and split it between conversations and whatever else they’re doing. For better or worse, that’s the current environment.

    I do think there are niche areas where virtual world use will continue to grow such as education and machinima. But although I would love the type of Metaverse you describe, I’m very skeptical about it catching on to the wider public.

    That said, I agree with you that it doesn’t make sense to keep our virtual eggs all in one basket and that the type of idealism you describe will eventually shift away from Second Life to communities of pioneers on OpenSim and other emerging platforms.

  2. Thank you for this post. I came to Second Life later but had been part of the VR crowd for a long time previous. We all felt the same, through Alpha (now Active Worlds), Cybertown, BlackSun & other worlds. When that all slipped off the radar of the Oo-Ah vulture capitalists and crashed, I went to MMO gameworlds because I could build there (mechs, spaceships, levels).

    I came to SL with the excitement and awe that I held for 14 years. I found a few interesting people so I stayed… but at the same time I was registering for any grid that was open. I went through the “deciding not to host your novel” period with VRML and it hurt BAD (I learned to program ao I could write a joystick interface with VRML). I lost literally hundreds of hours worth of work in that crash.

    Like you, I see SL as a single company/platform. I am puzzled and irritated at the factional lines drawn (grid wars, people dissing “gamers” without the understanding that games have ALWAYS been on the forefront of computer 3D tech), etc. It’s closed minds & tediously boring. Except for a handful of artists pushing at the envelope and engaging the actual worldspace, most stuff looks pedestrian & settled.

    [Ask an artist sometime about how their beautiful scripts or particles deal with the server/time limits & you’ll see how much they think about the ecosystem]

    That’s fine also; it is just not what motivated me for over 25 yrs in being a netizen (and making “virtual worlds” on MUD/MOO/MUSH about the time of ‘Neuromancer’ or Vernor Vinge’s ‘True Names’, both of which predated ‘Snow Crash’ by a long shot).

    The Metaverse isn’t supposed to be one company, one platform, one world or one view. I’m in it for the long haul; early adopter of something I believe is world-changing. The more (grids) the merrier; the platforms must multiply to avoid monoculture vulnerability. I’ve seen these universes crash before & I don’t plan to invest all my working-time in an ephemeral mayfly environment unless there’s an answering response (which this post illustrates beautifully).

    See you in the [future] Meta/Multiverse!

  3. Very interesting post, Fleep. LIke you, I’m a keen gamer but I think that virtual worlds (or shared environments which is the term currently fashionable in my brain) are rather different things. I think they will definitely contain game elements but those will be part of the environment rather than the whole environment in itself.

    People have many different motivations for contributing to OpenSimulator and I think that’s healthy and essential – one wants to draw from the widest interest base possible. But like you, I wouldn’t do this if I didn’t think there was some greater possibility out there – some new way for human beings to communicate with each other.

    And I think for that to flourish the base has to be flexible and part of the public commons. To me, that means it has to be open-source – as you point out, a proprietary company is always ultimately a single point of control and run for the primary benefit of its shareholders or owners. And whilst those owners may be working for the public good, ultimately any single point of control can always be turned to something else.

    Open-source, on the other hand, can always be forked or bent into some other shape – with the right licensing model nobody is in ultimate control. That does mean a very different and sometimes challenging environment – how do we go forward if nobody can enforce an agenda, how can people be funded to work on it if there aren’t paying gamers? These are questions we have largely yet to work out, I feel, assuming that they can be worked out.

    But an open ecosystem has worked extremely well for the web – and I think ultimately it will prevail for shared and virtual environments, even if there are many bumps on the way.

  4. About fucking time.

  5. It’s a sad day isn’t it. During the time I’ve been involved with SL, SL and the name Fleep went hand in hand. With all of your tireless efforts, you were one of the movers and shakers that convinced me that my beliefs in a 3D metaverse were not just the ravings of one person. There were in fact many like you that believed in this vision and I associated with as many as I could. Like you, I have tiered down to the point where all I am left with is my little free 512 plot on the water. I still listen to a number of SL musicians and that is really the only reason I stay at all.

    ToolsJam was always one of my favorite groups and when Jenn had to relinquish control due to other business commitments, I took it over, with her blessing, and suggested to the group that we hold our meetings in different virtual environments every month to explore Opensim, Unity, etc. I began by holding the meetings at my place in Opensim, but I had very little buy in and ultimately dropped it. That was disappointing since I felt then that SL was a lost cause and Opensim and others had a bright future and we owed it to ourselves to explore.

    I also realized that this industry would experience massive changes over the next few years, so I started a business to help companies choose the right platform for their needs and as such spend a great deal of time monitoring what’s going on. My last client, The University of California, asked for my assistance to help them pick an environment and I didn’t even remotely consider SL or any of the other closed environments.

    So, the bottom line Fleep is that I completely agree with you and if you ever need an ally, just let me know. And your blog post was excellent.

    David Cranmer (Eraldo Carlucci SL)

  6. Hi Chris

    Good article and a lot of food for thought.

    I agree people should stop hoping and waiting for the Open Metaverse to become more like Second Life and take a small chance on what it is now. You are right, no one need make a total all or nothing commitment and I think OSgrid is the best place to start the journey of exploration.

    I think a lot of the problem with getting people interested in the Open Metaverse is some built-in fear of isolation they have. SL has a fair amount of traffic still even if it appears to be declining slowly and, physiologically, I suspect that plays on their mind especially if they rely to some extent on selling content perhaps to off-set the cost of their expensive SL land. Of course, it don’t hurt to just explore and get a feel for other grids and the way the open Metaverse works but I constantly hear that story about “not many people” or “I can’t use my inventory there.” Mind you, I don’t usually get so many complaints about crashing or lag these days. Opensim is a lot more stable now at least.

    The number of standalones and small grids is on the increase with some 200 on Hypergrid Business listings and I suspect there are probably a lot more yet. The thing is every new grid that opens probably brings one or two new people into the Metaverse and, over time, they will certainly be talking to others, their friends, colleagues and family and that spreads the word and will bring more. The more that arrive and travel via HG, the more alive the Metaverse will become. I’m sure people will be amazed just how diverse it already is.

    There is still more work that will improve Opensim, physics and Hypergrid 2 but I think we might be close to the tipping point now when the trickling brook becomes a flowing river. I’ve been with it a good few years now plugging away promoting and investing and I even still have sims in Second Life. And I know a whole lot of people are doing the same.

  7. […] In Response To: http://www.fleeptuque.com/blog/2012/08/why-anyone-who-cares-about-the-metaverse-needs-to-move-beyond… […]

  8. Thx for your great article.
    I read a lot of great idea. I use SL since 5 years oga and i see a bad mutation. I have explore OSgrid at creation. This time i etablish my sim on osgrid since one year. And i meet a fabulos contact. I build since one month my hypergrid. It’s a very great work (thx diva) and a lot of eploration purpose. I think with you it’s a futur for a simulator of life and a great pont to metavers.

    And thx to open a new vision about metavers definition 😉


  9. “It was an exciting, heady time. I miss those days. And if you were one of those people, I bet you do, too.”


    Your analogy with a hypothetical platform for writing novels is interesting, because something like that *is* happening right now. If you want to write a digital interactive children’s book for the iPad, you’re pretty much stuck with making an app. You can’t use a standard, open format because there isn’t one yet. (EPUB3 may work in the near future, but support for it isn’t yet widespread.)

    The key for widespread adoption is for there to be open standards: file formats and communications protocols that everyone agrees upon. The software that interacts with those files and speaks those protocols doesn’t have to be open source. The web (made up of open standards) does just fine with a mix of proprietary and open source software. (For example, Microsoft IIS web servers are proprietary, but Linux/Apache web servers are open source. Internet Explorer is proprietary but Firefox is open source.)

    So the future Metaverse will have to be based on open standards.

    How? One possibility is that the set of web standards (e.g. HTML, CSS, JavaScript, SVG, MATHML, etc.) and web protocols (e.g. HTTP) will grow to the point where the web itself will be able to implement the metaverse. Indeed, things like Cloud Party are showing how close we’re getting to being there already.

  10. This is the single BEST article regarding this subject I’ve ever read. You hit every point perfectly!! Thank You!

  11. Magnificent article. This is what I’ve been trying to get across to the friends I left behind in SL when I jumped ship and went to OSgrid. One day, maybe sooner than you think, the SL you knew will be gone. Don’t be caught unprepared.

  12. Thank you for this article, very well written and interesting to read.

    I use to love SL but now I make my home on OSgrid…to me OS is FREEDOM and control over what I make and own.

    I try and bring my friends from SL to OS but they are still under SL control..I just hope at one point they realise what they actually lose by waiting too long to leave SL.

  13. Good article,

    I still occasionally visit SL but I really take to heart what you said about your work being in a jar held by someone else. One of my SL names I used for a few years is now just a “holder” – has zero inventory……

    I used this avatar a lot back in the day and I had started using another one because my circumstances had changed and well, it made sense. I was still using and paying for the original one though. At some stage I found myself with LL trying to bill me twice or something like that (cant remember the details) and after some battling I decided to just give in and pay them – I wanted my content back! This wasn’t even so easy, with bugs on their pages and them being unwilling to help me even work out how to pay the amount they said I owed. Eventually (over a year later) I managed to find a way to pay them and I found…. a ruthed avatar and empty inventory. Oh and they automatically billed me for the next month’s tier as I couldn’t tier down without resetting my account and the second I reset it – they charged it… NICE!

    I had changed my account to a free account at the same time, so when I contacted their support all I was told is “you aren’t entitled to support. upgrade your account and then we will start looking at what you are asking us. Until you upgrade your account we will not even look”.

    So yes, SL still has some life in it, some use… but I wouldn’t TRUST it now any further than I could throw it.

  14. 100% correct.

    I find myself saying “We are the Lords Of The Last Days” frequently when seeing each move by LL to circle their wagons and hoard customer assets tighter.

    All of these new tools, rolled out to an ever-decreasing reseller-base willing to take on the risk of peddling their product/service.

    And yet, so few want to take on the risk of establishing the beachhead of content and social tools elsewhere.

    At some point, the boulder will roll down the hill and gain momentum. Likely from the Lab pushing it over the top. It’s inevitable.


  15. I have no words other than .. WOW! Oh, and YES! Thank you Fleep for putting into words grander and truer than anything I’ve yet read on the Vision and the Dream that made me fall in love with Second Life. Thank you for blowing off the dust and bringing BACK into focus what had slowly and without my realization drifted into wisps of a memory.
    Now it’s time to add a few more things to my “stuff I absolutely must do” list. *smiles*

  16. […] to the early days, the vitality and diversity and wonder of Second Life. In her post titled “Why Anyone Who Cares About the Metaverse Needs to Move Beyond Second Life; Now, Not Later“, Fleep captures in most elegant words the wonder and why-for that caused a lot of us to fall […]

  17. I’ve been looking forward to virtual worlds for a long time — since MUDs, Ultima Online, etc… But that excitement you talk about in your post only arrived for me when I discovered OpenSim in 2009 — the ability to create your own world, the way you wanted it, and link it to others was exactly the metaverse that I was looking for.

    It’s not perfect. We need a better viewer. And I can’t wait for HG 2.0 and its improved security.

    But the functionality we already have is amazing and awe-inspiring. We could spend decades just building out using the tools we have now — except of course the tools are going to keep getting better, and faster (and cheaper).

    We already have more than 200 public grids. More than 100 (that I know of) on the hypergrid. And an unknowable number of private and behind-the-firewall deployments, some counting hundreds of thousands of users.

    I believe that this is the future of collaboration, the future of learning, the future of work, the future of socializing and will transform the world even more dramatically than the Web has.

    And I’m sad that Second Life — which helped get the ball in motion — seems to be writing itself out of that future.

  18. I hear you clearly, Fleep. I think you’ve articulated the dilema beautifully and in great detail. I’m stuck though at your advice for leaving.

    It’s the “But I Can’t Leave My Inventory! And My Friends! And My Awesome Builds!” thing I can’t get past. It’s my Blake Sea and my Painter house. And my Belleza skin and the shape it’s taken me years to create. I realize how fragile all these things are but they are mine and i live in a beautiful region with wonderful friends.

    It is the kind of decision that took you a very long time to come to grips with. And even though I feel the strength of your aruments, it will take me a much more time.

    You’ve obvioulsy written an important paper, Fleep. I hope everyone at Linden Lab will read this post. That management has a horrible track record and they need to understand that their long history of bad decisions is catching up. I will defend the good decsions and there are many, but I beleive you have a better understanding of their mistakes than they do.

  19. Fleep, I understand your frustration. In many ways, I share it.

    The problem with OSGrid is exactly one you glossed over, though: There’s no protection for content creators. NONE. Yeah, there are lots of folks who are willing to contribute content for free. There are many more who aren’t.

    I’m a tigress inworld, and have more than a few outfits. I can’t even find a decent tigress avatar on OSGrid, and don’t come close to having the skills to make my own. Never mind the hundreds of outfits that go into making me who I am in this universe. Yes, I could copybot the stuff I have in SL, more or less (there are scripts in it I can’t easily steal), but that’s *stealing*. I refuse, on general principles.

    My friends are all on SL, and are even less interested in leaving than I might be. I’m on SL because of them as much as or more than the metaverse aspects of it.

    I can say that the Firestorm team will continue to make sure that Firestorm works well on OpenSim. You might even find me over there occasionally. But I’m not going to shift significant efforts to OpenSim, in any flavor, simply because it can’t give me what I get as the entire reason I’m on SL.

  20. […] Fleep Tuque – Why Anyone Who Cares About the Metaverse Needs to Move Beyond Second Life; Now, … […]

  21. […] mind was full of the discussion Fleep↑ has re-ignited about the metaverse and the future of Second Life. This is far too large a topic […]

  22. Well said, Fleep. You’ve now inspired me to work even harder at advancing ReactionGrid’s Jibe platform and to keep tinkering with OpenSim on my own Pathlandia grid. 🙂

    And speaking of new tech to spur the growth of the metaverse, have you seen this?


    I’m going to be getting my hands on the developer hardware and software in December. It has native support for Unity3d, so getting it to work with ReactionGrid’s Jibe platform should be pretty straightforward.

  23. Posting again to subscribe to comments. 😉

  24. Thadicus Caligari

    I totally agree with this post but I think it hits the developer/builder types closer than the come to just socialize types.

    Socializers are only there for the friends or the musicians, or the shopping. We need them to venture out and make the leaps to something beyond but I am not sure how we really get them to do it. Without them we don’t have big economies in the metaverse to drive content creators hard in creating content.

    Lastly the biggest hurtle in a real metaverse is the lacking of good security in the other relms. I relise much of them have been developed by researchers who didn’t care about security as much as function. To make the next leap we need serious password and account encryption and even maybe flow encryption to be basic standards of the easy to setup platforms. Just there and working without extra knowlege. They may used self assigned keys but it needs encryption.

    The security problem is not unique to one platform but I will used Opensim as an example. Root user passwords by default are stored in plain text text files. That is a big security hole that no serious computing platform does anymore.

    How do we get the code developers to adress even these basic issues so people feel truly secure in using the other worlds? I know content developers who still see this stuff and are afraid to port their work into the other VWs.

    Anyway. We need to be leaping I think, but I am still seeing cars missing bumpers and fenders for VWs out there yet.

  25. Thadicus Caligari

    Yes, I am an engineer by trade not a wordsmith. Sorry about that.

  26. Thadicus Caligari

    As is common an idea hit me after I posted. What the Metaverse needs is a Meta-Banking System. A way to have trusted and secure asset servers and authendication servers. Something along the line of what Incommon is doing with Internet2 sites (https://incommon.org/). That way grid owners would be responsible for the users stuff, users could hop around grids and their stuff would just be available, and content creators could trust that their content is kept secure.

    I am not suggesting that it be a money banking system though although I suppose it could.

    Hypergridding is a cool hack but it requires too much chance if you want to allow full inventory to show up. There isn’t enough trust in the system when it comes to assets.

    Ideally there would be multiple Meta-Banks with maybe different levels of price/trust but all would work together in a meta banking system. Only negative I can see is working out how they are paid for.

    Meta-Banks could also be tied to content shops directly helping squelch many of the concerns of creators and recouping some of the costs.

    I had hopes back in the earlier days of Second Life that LL would have been something like a Meta-Bank. We all know that concept is gone now.

  27. Peri(Lucy on OSGrid) Afarensis

    Why am I still in Second life paying month after month for an island server when I have also created and maintained up to 20 Opensim servers, standalone and on Osgrid for much, much less?


    The Haiku Speedbuild and Photohunt, I partipated in these group contests when I first joined SL and enjoyed the people and found the discipline of creating something to a theme within a limited time a valuable experience. I no longer participate but I have given space for these contests at my SL sim, Afar.

    Misprint Thursday entertaining and talking to people from a large monitor at an RL gallery opening. She danced, created things, set off virtual fireworks, sprouted wings. She introduced many to many the magic of a performer as an avatar.

    An internet cafe on the west bank of the Nile in Luxor, Egypt- logging into SL to see what had been built in the previous session of Haiku speedbuild. Patrons looked at my avatar, smoked sheesha and drank tea while camels walked by on the road by the river.

    I was to have no computer and internet for several weeks so I left the build permissions on in Afar for the Haiku Speedbuild. When I returned I found at 3800 meters, a black stone castle surounded by mountains made with a 1024×256 prim built by role players from Novosybirsk. I spent the morning searching SL and the internet for a prim that size. When I found one I made more mountains.

    Practical reasons-

    Numbers- Thousands have visited Afar in the last year while probably less than 50 have visited my sims open on the hypergrid and Osgrid. Oddly enough, while many have visited Afar for the contests and the galleries, the most popular area is the ground level where I keep open land. It is presently a valley with a river running through it with mountains surrounding it.

    Technical reasons- While the magic may be rapidly evaporating from SL it is still the source most of the technical innovations in this flavor of the metaverse and is the one setting the direction of that innovation.

    People reasons- I have been building outside SL since 2009 and in that time I have had only one friend from SL visit. I have told my friends from Novosybirsk that they could build empires made of tens of sims on Osgrid but no, they prefer to build their castles in the attic regions of islands owned by people who never check who is building prims on their land. I do not know the answer to this resistance and I am afraid that we are a niche within a niche.

    Despite all of the above negativity I really hope things go in the direction you are suggesting.

  28. A good article. I still use and love Second Life, but people also need to be reminded that valuable content is under someone else’s control there, and that that someone else is a private company with a spotty record of communication, at the very least.

    I really like Opensim, but whenever I read a positive piece on it I go and try some public Grid again, I find it’s still laggy and crashy and vehicles don’t work and scripts are frustratingly buggy,and…

    So what Opensim grid should I try this time, to give it a fair shake? 🙂

  29. Spinoza Quinnell

    Thanks Fleep for sharing and helping to foster deeper reflection on the journey. The vision inspired by Neal Stephenson’s introduction of the metaverse in Snow Crash has fueled many of us over the years.

    Reading your post I was reminded about reading of the hard grind undertaken by William Smith for the Somerset Coal Canal Company to survey the excavations across England’s landscape. He was abruptly and unceremoniously fired in 1799 but not before he took notice of the lithology and stratigraphical order of the rocks across the landscape…pointing in one direction.

    He thought it was so very strange.

    Smith discerned that geology was a science requiring observations in three dimensions. He realized that nearly anyone could survey the upper surface with ease. But…to see below the surface, to observe or extrapolate the imaginable third dimension below the surface…that was a new skill.

    Thank you Fleep for helping us to see below the surface…take heart… and continue with helping us to chart the metaverse for changing the world.

  30. > My advice is: Stop being a hostage. Or at least stop being blind to it.

    This, like the whole article, can be stated of any proprietary software.

  31. Dale, you should avoid the regions running on home PC’s. Unfortunately, OSgrid a quite a few of those but many others are run on top grade servers with ample commercial grade connections. Linden Labs pushes quite a load on it’s servers and I suspect they will push even more in the newer versions if they are to ever drop prices. I have a virtual server to run my few sims on OSgrid and a small standalone on HG with 16 gig ram available which mean very little lag,,, ever!

    It’s not the software its the servers people run. LL is a big company with many servers but still the lag in SL can be debilitating quite often.

    Opensim is run and supported by odinary people and some make mistakes but, hell, the cost difference is well worth the trouble. As for content security when Hypergrid 2 arrives that might see improvement when content makers can decide if their goods can leave the grid. Vehicles I grant are still not working as well as in SL but again, depends really, I have working sailing boats that use wind physics and even a rather cool airship. But, whatever, at the end of the day atleast we can say Opensim can be many things to many people and you make of it what you will. I promise though it wont break your bank account to dabble.

  32. Beautiful, Fleep.

  33. I think it is important to remember the vast majority of Second Life users are what Thad called “socializers.” They are people who like to chat with friends, dress their avatar selves, take in some music and then go home to chat on their virtual porches.

    Socializers never bought in to the idea that the virtual world was going to change their lives. Instead, they thought SL was a fun place to hang out, meet people from all over the world and maybe do a little shopping. They do not ponder the future of the Metaverse and are not too concerned about it.

    As Thad says, people who are interested in crafting the Metaverse have to be concerned about getting the “Socializers” to leave Second Life. But, why should they leave? SL is where their friends are and it is where the greatest concentration of shopping and entertainment activity is housed.

    OSgrid may be better than SL for a million reasons and we all probably should move away from the product LL sells. I will not dispute that in any way. However, most of us we are not going anywhere and its not just because of our inventories.

    People will stay in Second Life until another platform provides enough incentive to leave or until LL pulls the plug. Most people are consumers, not creators. The promise of building a world from the ground up is daunting not exciting — which may be one reason why we don’t see people flocking to Open Sim in huge numbers.

  34. I haven’t chimed in on an vw conversation in a few years. I thought I would because I respect your commitment and work Fleep. My history with VWs started with an SL account in 2005. I don’t game, although I get gaming. I also get the paradigm of user-created 3D virtual worlds. I’ve spent the bulk of my meteverse thinking on it.

    I studied it http://tinyurl.com/yjojsu3, and published on it, several times. http://saurilio.blogspot.com/p/publications-and-presentations.html

    Here’s a direct link to “Where are the high-tech women? Findings from an educational study of a virtual world.”

    That study led to developing this initiative where I work. It’s all about world-building in academically-meaningful ways http://sdsu-aztlan.wikispaces.com/ I’ll be publishing and presenting on it next year in the international community.

    So I’m with you on the raison d’être of the metaverse, 110%.

    Our SL Island, the initiative above, is going dark in a few days. I convened a group of about 10 colleagues who over the years have been interested in vws. I wanted to get consensus on what to do with the island, and a reading on their thoughts about the future of the technologies. I hadn’t been paying attention SL/LL, so the info and your insights Fleep are much appreciated. I can’t help but smile at the timing of our local shift with larger ones. I’m too shifting my focus from immersive environments to mobile for the time being. I’ll be back, though :). PS. Forgive my shameless self-promotion, I wanted to share what I’ve learned.

  35. @Dale Innis

    For fun you could try running your own Opensim grid on your desktop computer. It’s pretty easy to do. See http://simonastick.com

    If you’re looking for existing grids where you can register an account and log in, I suggest http://osgrid.org and http://jokaydiagrid.com.

    And once you’re on the Hypergrid, feel free to visit my own tiny Opensim grid running on my desktop – http://bit.ly/pathlandia

  36. Anyone on SL who hasn’t yet created a presence on any of the Open Sim platforms is clearly over the hill (and probably living in denial). I don’t think Open Sims are the new Metaverse however. (“Metaverse” is so 2007. I think a better word is “Omniverse.”) I think there is a *new thing* out there somewhere and that it hasn’t happened yet. I don’t think it is Cloud Party or Unity. Gamers don’t like SL because it’s not as slick as what they are used to. It’s lame to them, in the same way that Open Sim will be construed by them to be lame. The new thing won’t be lame.

  37. This was such an excellent article, and I found myself nodding in agreement all the way through. I remember when Rosedale once commented that he loved the Metaverse Messenger because it made Second Life more real…. this was when businesses were celebrated and supported, before LL started looking at those that were profitable with an eye for taking over. I do understand the situation LL found themselves in — SL grew quickly, and in order to keep up with the growth, the company has to make a profit. But now, it seems there is little room for anything other than making money. Second Life has become -just- another game. Pity.

  38. […] Why Anyone Who Cares About the Metaverse Needs to Move Beyond Second Life; Now, Not Later | Fleep&#8… […]

  39. Thadicus Caligari

    I have had sims in OSgrid. Have my own set of (many) Simonastick sims, have run a small full grid. Have accounts in Avanation, Jokiagrid, and Inworldz. Probably the fullest featured at this time are Avanation, Jokiagrid, and Inworldz. Jokiagrid is more educator oriented. Inworldz when seems to be better populated. OSgrid is really a VW hackers grid, not something I would compare to being something the Socilizer types would visit.

    Gut reaction would be if someone wants to just visit a Opensim based grid would be Inworldz.

    Many of you know I am still very active in SL. I would be hard pressed to leave my friends there totally.

  40. What makes OSgrid special is that it has a lot of people that hang out at welcome areas like Lbs Plaza who are knowledgeable and helpful to new comers and people setting up their own regions and standalone mini grids. OSgrid welcomes people to connect to their grid or treat OSgrid as the HUB of the Hypergrid and just travel and explore. There are a number of regions serving as hypergrid destination HUBs too.

    The commercial grids like Inworldz, Avination and others have content security, granted – that is the crude security of a walled garden just like Second Life. Copybot and hackers break walled garden security anyway but, whatever. Hypergrid 2 when it arrives will give the content creators the ability to control what leaves the grid thus making all Opensim grids semi-walled gardens for what it is worth.

    I have role play regions in SL, OSgrid and Hypergrid Standalone regions and my friends and role players visit them all while the bulk of activity is still in SL. I don’t see any reason to limit my Metaverse activity to just one propitiatory grid that is ridiculously over priced when I have the opportunity at a fraction of the price to expand my horizons and create far better, and bigger, role play worlds. We work with and develop storylines that exceed the borders of one grid. More prim’s are available and with good servers and bandwidth lag is not a problem.

    My historical ships sail just fine in Opensim for our needs. My Steampunk airships fly just fine too. I make role play themed clothes and my combat meter can pick up data from the http server sharing all that is taking place for the avatars right across all worlds. Or there is an open source combat meter – Myriad. LSL scripting in OS is different in particular ways but not in general. Something have to be done different that is all but any scripter worth his salt can get by.

    I guess though it’s pointless making comparisons anyway really and those who dis Opensim, well, most of them have a vested interest in Second Life so no point in arguing with them really. Not all but many of them are in SL to make money first and foremost while others are forced to make and sell stuff to pay Linden Labs it’s extortionate fees. I have been in SL and OS for many years and enjoy the best of all they produce but I am not willing to keep all my eggs in one basket. The open Metaverse affords me a huge freedom to be both creative and enjoy my hobby on a truly epic scale.

    I like my friends in all worlds but the bottom line is Second Life is far too expensive and limited for what it is. Well, it might not be expensive for the freeloaders who happily let other pay for the sims while they do as they please in other people’s property and delight in griefing. But that aside, Second Life is full of spammers and in decline, and it has lost 3000 sims in the last 2 years while the traffic is down 30% and falling.

    I am so glad I got into the open Metaverse and I can’t thank the developers enough for their hard dedicated work and vision.

  41. […] focus her involvement in a different virtual community or platform. (You can read her article here: Why Anyone Who Cares. . ..) And based on the comments she received and what I have read online, her experience seems to be […]

  42. What happens to collectives? Collectives like Chilbo, as magical as they seem, in fact are the work of only a few people who pay most of the tier. When they get tired of paying that tier, then the collective has to privatize. Who will tier the town hall? Individuals? Philanthropists? Collectives really aren’t workable models for society precisely because they disguise the fact that individuals bear the burdens, and individual accountability and collaboration — which is different than collectivism — is needed.

    Who really runs Open Sim? Sure, it’s “open source” and “anyone” could just load it up on their own private server and live in their own Private Idaho or make it a shared collective Idaho if they wish. But who runs it? And what happens when they get tired?

    Linden Lab, for all its faults, has value as a corporation in a market economy — as loathsome as all that might sound to all of your copyleftists and collectivists. So when they run out of steam, or run to Steam, or whatever it is that they do, they will sell out, and then there will be a new owner. The value won’t be scattered. There aren’t any millions of pieces.

    This notion that your content is “locked up” is really tiresome in this day and age, Fleep. You know full well there are all kinds of devices that enable you to copybot entire builds and plunk them down on open sims. If you are copying your own content, you need not worry if these aren’t entirely legalized. So what REALLY is the problem?!

    Any script can be copied. Any texture can be copied — you would have made it on your own in Photoshop or adapted it from Internet-purloined textures anyway!

    So really, all you are fussing about is the grid location of prims coated with textures, or sculpties coated with textures. I just happened to have to re-do a mall that had to change its group, and I had build perms and therefore copy perms for the builder who couldn’t come to re-do the group. So I had to copy and replace each item. Nightmare? No, it took 20 minutes, with the typing of grid position numbers.

    Truly, that’s all it’s about.

    Sounds like it’s not interesting *enough* in your open sim if you have to have this urgent, frantic call for other intellectuals to come and join you in utopia.

    But I, like you, am really rethinking utopia. I’ve had time to do that in the 12 years I’ve been in online worlds, starting with the Sims Online. I want the next sort of thing like this I join something where the GOVERNANCE is decided first. Where I don’t have to join and subject myself to griefing and harassment by others who think ANARCHY and COMMUNISM should be the order (disorder) of the day. And once you start thinking about how you’d rather decide governance before code or prims FIRST, you then start thinking, but why *these* people? Or why random strangers? Or what is it I’m hoping to accomplish here?

    For real-life work collaboration, there’s Google Docs and Skype. They really are good enough, you know? Why fuss with a virtual world? Do I need to wear wings and have feathers on my head?

    If I want to socialize, there’s Facebook. If I want to argue with hateful strangers about politics, there’s G+ or Twitter. What am I using a virtual world for again?

    And the answer is first of all — serendipity and exploration. There are 30,000 sims in SL and an enormous number of different lifestyles and designs and people from all over the world. Nothing compares to that. Nothing. Nothing at all. That’s what I want in a virtual world: exploration with unknown horizons and far-away vistas. I don’t want to bump into Pathfinder in commune-land and hear the same old tired technocommunist mantras I’ve heard from this bunch in SL for nearly a decade. It’s old. It’s unworkable. It’s unattractive.

    And the second thing I want is business. Business is a good thing. Profit isn’t about greed, but about rewarding hard work and sustaining innovation. I want to have the validation that occurs when I make something and sell it, or arrange a piece of property nicely and rent it. And judging from the numbers, that’s what most people want and why the numbers are much thinner in open sim — because the framers of open sim had a shrill ideological knife and and amputed out money, markets, copyright, etc. in unnatural ways. That’s not what most people want when they make communities.

    What’s amazing about Second Life is that even when Governor Linden devalues land and continually communizes it by putting it to $1/, some Japanese woman or Brazilian man will come along, decorate it, market it, and flip it for $3 and sell it. You cannot stop people from creating value and gaining reward from it and countering the “distribution” of value which is coercion.

    Then there’s your “friends”, those airy strangers who you might have nothing to do with in real life. I still think a virtual world is a good way to have a disembodied intellectual conversation with people about ideas, without the distractions of gender, nationality, ethnicity, etc. These things often manifest anyway, but I think virtual worlds just grease the wheels a bit more for communion with other souls than in the real world.

    I’m sure these things are all available in some form in your open sims, or they aren’t important to you. But your notion of the Metaverse is cramped. The Metaverse is all of the things you’ve described, despite your readiness to downgrade or delegitimize parts of it, like games. The reason Steam even has any steam is because people form friendships and carry them from game to game, and that *is* a world.

    Remember Prokofy’s definition for what makes a virtual world:

    a) has a sense of place
    b) has drama

  43. You got to love it when Prokofy gets on the subject of ANARCHY & COMMUNISM then starts to rattle about copyleftists and collectivists while singing the virtues of capitalism. I don’t know where Prokofy has been but the open Metaverse is teaming with people trying to make a buck ranging from hosting business to makeplace web sites and in-world trading on grids like Inworldz and Avination. And, most people in the open Metaverse are not communists by any stretch of the imagination. That is so ridiculous it doesn’t bare thinking about.

    And this quote from Prokofy really bites the biscuit…

    “And the answer is first of all serendipity and exploration. There are 30,000 sims in SL and an enormous number of different lifestyles and designs and people from all over the world. Nothing compares to that. Nothing. Nothing at all. That’s what I want in a virtual world: exploration with unknown horizons and far-away vistas. I don’t want to bump into Pathfinder in commune-land and hear the same old tired technocommunist mantras I’ve heard from this bunch in SL for nearly a decade. It’s old. It’s unworkable. It’s unattractive.”

    30,000 sims is it? Is that 30,000 sims with people on them? No, absolutely not. Most of Second Life is empty for much of the time. Granted some places are full enough but even then you have to discount the huge number of bots, campers and Alts being worked by a single person gaming the search results. Fact is though, most sims are empty most of the time and all those little green dots on the map that make SL look so full are actually misleading when you consider how many sims they are spread over.

    The open Metaverse in contrast is largly hidden. There is no single grid manager to collect the traffic data and display metrics under one roof like Second Life but the number of regions spread across all grids is almost certainly greater than Second Life now but where do you get to see all the green dots in the vastness of the Metaverse?

    And if Prokofy wants exploration well he should come out of the closet and trouble to take a journey of discovery in a growing Metaverse that will very soon start to dwarf Second Life. It’s like this you see; People are discovering they can, at a fraction of the cost build their dream homes, play grounds, role play environments, business, schools, collages, art galleries, and pretty much anything they have had in Second Life. A lot are already doing it and more discover the rich diversity of the open Metaverse every day.

    The open Metaverse is growing like it or not. Second Life is doing the opposite!

  44. Gaga, you fail to make the distinction between sim rustlers re-renting out sims to various customers, and the creation of a marketplace of goods on those sims. That’s the problem with open sim — it encourages the former, and not the latter, and that isn’t capitalism, it’s merely a kind of communism, especially because the sims are sold/rented at prices really not reflecting their value, deliberately lower, or even free.

    I don’t know what “makeplace” websites are, but again, this isn’t an *open* market where anyone can jump in, it sounds more like a medieval guild, where only some skilled craftsmen get a perch in the controlled marketplace.

    You can’t invoke Inworldz, as that is a world which has consciously made an economy and embraced capitalism where Open Sim’s founders and pioneers most decidedly have not. And note how quickly Fleep writes off Inworldz — it just doesn’t fit in her communitarian and collectivist utopia and she dismisses it as unimportant.

    You don’t need to have every single one of the 30,000 sims “having people on them” if those people have designed something others can enjoy in their absence. There isn’t a model that makes all the sims disappear when they aren’t there, or gets people to rent only what they use when they log on (Unity). The contiguous world is *there*.

    It doesn’t matter if there is technically more sims and girds than in SL “across the metaverse”. You would think this was some vasty outerspace of richness and variety. But it’s barren. It’s deserted far more than SL. It’s a clutch of people clinging to an ideology. It doesn’t attract people precisely because it is closed-minded. It’s not the “open” thing you imagine because in fact that “open” is not what protects value and in fact creates genuine openness.

    There’s this really belligerent utopianism that can’t tell the truth about its emptiness when you crow feverishly about people who “at a fraction of the cost build their dream homes, play grounds, role play environments, business, schools, collages, art galleries, and pretty much anything they have had in Second Life. ”

    Oh, stop. There’s nothing like that. The reason Fleep is so frantically summoning us all there is that there is no there there. The small hardy groups of pioneers are trying to make it seem more than it is but they can’t jump over their own knees.

    I never understand what people mean when they say Second Life is flatlining or not growing. Every day, I get several brand-new customers. Many of them are newbies of a few weeks or months. I don’t exaggerate the traits of SLs, nonetheless. But I don’t needlessly disparage it to chase an even more ephemeral dream of cheap virtuality with “dream homes and play grounds”.

  45. […] around in my brain, synthesizing what would eventually become this post, a fellow SL’er named Fleep Tuque posted on her blog an essay with essentially the same central point; that the Second Life platform is stuck in the past and we […]

  46. This is really an excellent post, in all aspects. It’s not that I agree with all of it, but rather that it says things that have needed to be said for a very long time.

    Second Life is a wonderful experiment gone bad. It’s extremely expensive, very limited in scope, what I’ve referred to in my blogs as an “Iron Curtain” grid. Linden Lab’s primary failure was making money their #1 priority rather than the customers. They totally failed to realize that making the customer the priority is what brings in the money. They sacrificed the concept of the metaverse for the concept of full bank accounts. They over-priced their product– soaking the customer for as much as they thought they could get– then exacerbated the issue by increasing those prices and destroying thousands of sims in the process.

    A company that destroys the works of its customers for no other reason but greed has a limited future. We’ve seen this in the fact that SL hasn’t grown in four years. No matter what gimmicks, trinkets and toys they pull out of their toolbox… that will not be forgotten, ever.

    I agree that people should try OpenSim, however I don’t agree that is the solution. There are several valid reasons why.

    * I have tried OpenSim over and over, checking on its progress. What I continually find is a clunky, laggy, bug-ridden system that has failed to significantly progress in the last three years.

    * Coder infighting and drama prevents OpenSim from making real progress.

    * Failure to back up: my friend and I have repeatedly tried exporting works from OpenSim. We consistently fail on sculpty-based items, apparently due to a serious sculptmap retrieval problem in the OpenSim code. That failure does not exist on SL or Inworldz.

    * Poor scripting platform. Opensim has an extremely laggy and crash-prone scripting system that works worse than SL, and considerably worse than the wonderful Phlox on Inworldz.

    * Copybotting *is* a real problem on OSgird. I’ve seen stolen avatars marched right through log-in central– by the copybotters themselves– with no one taking steps to curb such activity. OpenSim is largely unmoderated and without security. (Of course private grids such as the OP speaks of here can have as much security as the ethics of the grid owner prescribes).

    Like the OP I don’t thing closed grids like Inworldz are the answer to the metaverse… but I’m not sure they need to be. The OP claims they “want to be one world for their own profit.” If profit was their primary motive they wouldn’t be charging 1/4 the price of Second Life and offering three times more.

    In order for a company to do professional dev work, they have to hire professional coders. In order to provide a secure, professional grid, they have to have quite a bit more security than a home-owned micro-grid. All that costs money. So yes, some money is involved there, and reasonable profit is warranted (after all, these people have to eat too). I don’t think anyone at Inworldz is a multimillionaire at this time.

    But being a for-profit grid, they are able to pay professional devs and they have the money to accomplish the things they need to accomplish– such as hosting with a professional server company that has lightning-fast servers, redundant backups and a secure facility. They’re able to pay their coders and as a result– Inworldz has some of the most stable code on the planet. They plan to enable physics this year– good physics– something that’s been pretty much of a pipe dream for OpenSim. Because they are a profit-earning company, by the end of this year Inworldz should be the most powerful grid on the planet– exceeding even the technical prowess of Second Life. It’s already far more stable than SL, their Phlox scripting engine leaving SL’s
    Mono behind in the dust.

    Inworldz isn’t perfect. I’m fairly upset with their lack of professional backup procedure (failing to make permanent archives of regions when requested, failure to back up avatar inventories). In this they are not alone; Second Life has the same issues. All grid companies need to wake up to backup protocols that have been in existence for decades. Users put too much time and effort and money into these worlds to have them vanish because the user has to go on vacation and close their region down for a few months. In my opinion– failure to archive is the inexcusable sin. In this area Inworldz needs to pull its socks up. So no disagreement there.

    But I don’t think the “metaverse” is much of an issue here, for two reasons:

    * When / if the metaverse does come, it won’t be based on SL-type technology. That technology and concept is far too complex and too problem-laden to meet the needs of the metaverse. Bottom line: it was badly designed from the start.

    * I’m not sure the metaverse isn’t a pipe dream. The very concept of a 3D metaverse, while a nice vision, has numerous reality-based problems that prohibit its reality… not the least of which is logistics. It simply takes more time to walk around and conduct business in a 3D world than it does on the world wide web. The Web itself is slow enough without adding a 3D bandwidth nightmare to every home in the world (the Internet is already super-clogged with video streaming alone).

    So an excellent article… but I’m not sure it really reaches to the heart of the matter. Imho, the heart of the issue isn’t whether or not Second Life or Inworldz or OpenSim accomplishes the METAVERSE… but rather which meets the needs of users now. In that aspect:

    * Second Life is far to expensive, Linden Lab is far to oppressive, and like the author states– it’s like trusting your prized novel to a company likely to change its mind at the drop of a hat. It’s just not wise.

    * Inworldz is an excellent alternative, offering far more building power and more stability than Second Life and triple the prim count at 1/4 the price.

    * Opensim / OSgrid is terrific if one needs a near-zero cost world and is willing to put up with the extensive technical problems there. However it is by far the least secure of any system.

    We have to remember too, “You cannot serve two masters.” Most people simply don’t have the time to do Second Life and OpenSim at the same time. I am stationed on Inworldz. Every once in a while I’ll go to SL if friends are having a special party or something, otherwise I pretty much ignore SL these days. I visit OpenSim only when a friend wants me to come see her work she’s doing on her micro-grid there (which is why I’m acquainted with how OpenSim works and how it compares to Inworldz and SL).

    But for most of us, our time is limited. It’s not a matter of “You can do both!”. Reality is more restrictive than that. Second Life is the high-maintenance dinosaur. Inworldz is the low-cost future. OpenSim is the Chaotic-but-cheap contender. All three have their place. What we as users must do is figure out where we belong.

    Because at this time, let’s be frank: we’re not going to see the metaverse in our lifetimes. This entire industry is still in pioneering stage. One does not go from covered wagons to paved roads and skyscrapers overnight. This is all going to take time– and lots of it.

    — Wayfinder

  47. We have a few “next generation” virtual world users in our family. They favour the games where you can earn credits by in game activities to buy furnishings, clothing and other acoutrements.

    I ‘think’ the concept of spending real world dollars for something you will never own has worn thin. There is a culture of “freebie-ism” among new users. I listen to them and smile. I was so eager to plunk down my bank card to buy lindens and spend… spend… spend. They simply aren’t.

    “Spend my REAL money on THIS game? Erm.. no.” I hear it frequently. Consequently the majority of new users at hubs aren’t interested in creating a utopian society. They just want to play house, decorate it, buy shoes and go to night clubs or strip clubs and explore. There is no “big picture” for them. Just like there is no “big picture” for someone that removes an Xbox game from the console.

    They have their fun, they spend little to nothing, and they leave. Their need for exposure or digital celebrity is well fed by social media. The Facebook community of Second Life is delightful and very active, but most of them admit to rarely logging. But most of them are oldbies that are beyond the novelty of it.

    The new users are full of energy and excited when you talk to them. I wish more of THEM would blog (but they have no real knowledge of SL bloggers to be honest with you). But it’s refreshing to hear about people using the place for entertainment, creativity and socializing without the need to “prove” something or meet utopian benchmarks.

    They are still having fun. They just aren’t parting with their dollars for virtual entertainment. And if LL closed tomorrow they wouldn’t care; with their minimal investment they can leave it all behind without remorse and head to the next place where folks are gathering.

    It’s interesting to watch.


  48. @Wayfinder

    Maybe I will be lucky since I am not too old and I will see the Metaverse in my lifetime. I think Wayfinder is wrong on that account where is may well be right in other matters. I think the Metaverse is already here!

    Yes, it is but not all the pieces have been brought adequatly together yet. I can travel via hypergrid from my server to someone elses server and their platform will know me and reder my avatar. There you are. It is already happening. It might not be happening for commercial grids like Inworldz because they don’t see it as secure yet. But, they have not rulled it out and there are Inworldz residents who do want it to happen. It will happen for Avination and Kitely too once HG2 arrives and has been evaluated.

    But what is it? I mean what is this 3D Metaverse Wayfinder thinks wont happen. He talks of it like some 2D web page as if people would want to use the Metaverse as web pages. No, that is not what the Metaverse is about. Basically, it is a growing community of people sharing time together in multiple virtual environments, many of wich have been beautifully crafted. Even now the software that gives function to the largest part of the open Metaverse works ok for most things. No perfect but then nothing ever is and it is being worked on all the time. Inworldz devs have done great things and so too has Kitely and Avination and the core developers of Opensim.

    Our community be they in commercial grids or open grids is growing and the old dinasaw Second Life is declining for one basic reason in my view. Opensim is simply affordable for the masses and Second Life is not.

    The Metaverse is not meant to replace the 2D web it offers the promise of virtual interaction where one day we might even see the miricle of haptics and holograms. Then we will be walking in our virtual worlds, touching and feeling it. Even that will happen in my life time I do believe.

    But then I’m a believer!

  49. Well said, Fleep. bravo! I first suspected LLs mismanaged intentions back when I first bought into them in 2006. As an adjunct prof teaching learning module development, partly in SL (the only game in town, then) I was hoping that SL could-and should- offer something to learners on the “other side” of the digital divide where this Kind of collaborative interaction is as needed as it is crucial for today’s connected learner. I was very soon to become disappointed by LLs broken promises toward education. But I was hopeful enough to perseve until, when EA got involved and I saw the writing on the wall, and dropped out while I could. I don’t even know hat was in my inventory or even if it still exists, or SL for that matter (it may as well not in the minds off many educators). LL immediately forgot about us educators by charging exhorbinent fees for next to nothing in return, which reeked somewhere close to extortion.

    As for me… I see the pendulum swinging back toward the middle in the understanding of what MUVEs can offer. Open sim or not …we are not nearly there yet as we still struggle with Web 2 and the growing debacle with Facebook as it is and as a metaphor of open communication where the lunatics are running the asylum. So, partly due to the shell game linen labs has played with us, I’m going back to basics, as are many colleges who once had Ed-tech departments (sad, but true), So, I’m reluctanly back to the beginning: printed textbooks (though I do use Moodle — who “gets it”), and my old Smith Corona, which I had sense enough to hold onto. There’s a weird sort of comfort in being a Luddite.

    Thanks, again, Fleep

    Dave Robbins (SL: “Evad Slade”– If I still even exist there!)