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Mar 14, 2008



Best of luck to him in his new role. Maybe this sets the stage for a triumphant return to SL by Cory...


There's something slightly bizarre about hearing this on the same day I that finished the draft of my book on Linden Lab. Best of luck to Philip in his new role.


I bet there are CEO's just chomping at the bit to work for a company where the charimastic CEO is the chairman, and chief product strategist!

Why didn't they just hire a COO?


Oh common, we all know that Linden have no chance against the GoogleMMO.

Kind of a harsh title though, isn't it?


@Nicholas: Sorry if my title seems 'harsh,' though I really don't intend it to be negative. Rather, just a play on the old interregnum proclamation. I assume that Philip will have quite a bit of power at Linden Lab over the coming months, as the Chairman of the Board. Usually, the only reason a CoB is weak is because the CEO usurps the power (a problem Sarbanes-Oxley has taken steps to cure). It is hard to see that being a concern, given that Mitch Kapor has made it clear that Philip will have a strong say in who the CEO is (and, of course, there isn't a replacement yet). But maybe the harsh sound of the title is the reason almost no one has been willing to comment.

As far as Google's MMO goes, I say: show me the money. Or rather, show me the MMO. Big money *can* make lots of things, including an effective Second Life-destroyer. But I think that is easier said than done, and so far I see no evidence that Google has done it.


[Boilerplate caveat: My time at Linden Lab was throughout 2005 -- a while ago indeed.)

To me, the biggest question is how Philip will adjust to being in a position where the point is *not* to be in touch with everything that everyone in the company is doing. I'm not saying he fully succeeded in doing that, even back in 2005 (after all, who could?). But his management style was to me defined by an ongoing and even relentless effort to take in information from throughout the company (and from Second Life) in order better to make judgments about what Linden Lab should do next.

(This dilemma, which all companies face, is particularly challenging for Linden Lab. The way that Second Life's growth depends upon unanticipated uses by its users makes it very difficult to arrive at legitimate decisions about what to do next with the product).

It's frankly hard for me to imagine Philip at a remove from all of that, but on the other hand (and I know it seems to contradict the above) much of his running of the company was marked by a sustained effort to remove himself from the decision-making equation, in a way; he sought to find a way for the company to generate priorities via aggregate "collective wisdom" (made possible by coding software "tools"). Of course, that would mean that the next CEO would ideally be just as unnecessary ;-). It'll be interesting to see what happens next.


@Robert: On the matter of the GoogleMMO, to be entirely honest, I'm not even sure if there's been an official announcement yet. Though if you consider the techniques that Google applies in the development of its products, I think they could kill SL simply by refining the GUI.


At this point, quite frankly I'm not sure most people who actually use SL would care who's in charge, so long as they can fix the crippling problem of scalability.

Right now Linden Labs are in charge of less of a virtual world than an experiment in user patience testing. Every sim is now a complete lagfest rather than simply the popular ones, and despite many months of apparant promises of fixes and improvements the same issues still apply - lag, loss of inventory, crashing sims, all of these make a virtual world focused on creation and sociability, not to mention real money trading, far from fit for its purpose.

If I could transplant the friends I've made into any other virtual world, I would - I've given up the concept of being in SL because it's an interesting and enjoyable experience and come to terms with being in SL and continuing to sit through all the problems because of the friends I have made.

Linden Labs don't need a new Chairman so much as someone with the technical vision to throw out such archaic world architecture.

As to an SL killer, there's one simple thing I think that would win it - freedom - as SL proves, people will put up with poor stability for the chance to explore their interests and desires freely - no matter what they are. And I can't see Google or other big corporate tech companies admitting that and opening up MMOs that work the same way - after all, a large and lucrative proportion of SL is simply this: Sex sells.


Mitch Kapor, who is the current Chairman of the Board of Linden Lab, was in Second Life to give a keynote speech as part of UBM Think Service's Life 2.0 conference. That gave me a chance to ask the following during the Q&A session:

Do you have any comments on the change in Philip Rosedale's position, and your stepping down as Chairman of the Board of Directors? Along similar lines, what can you say about Linden Lab's short-term and long-term strategic plans?

Mitch's response was largely what you might expect. Here is my attempt at paraphrasing:

When the company started nine years ago (and I started seven years ago), we knew is was likely to be a long-term undertaking to realize the underlying vision Philip had. It is very unusual for the person who is the founder and visionary to remain the CEO forever. (Bill Gates is an exception). At some point the demands of running the ongoing business become a position very different from the that needs to be played by a visionary founder and spiritual heart of the company

That said, this is Philip’s life’s work, he intends to stay and contribute. Finding a CEO is a bit like a marriage…you want to find someone where there is trust and complementarity. I will no longer be Chairman of the Board, but I will remain just as actively involved as ever.

Mitch declined to comment on the short-term and long-term strategy of the firm, leaving that to Philip and the other members of the management team. However, he closed with this rather tantalizing comment:

Keep your seatbelts fastened, because it is going to be exciting!


He also left us with this gem:

A company like Linden Lab faces insurmountable opportunities.

NOTE: This comment is crossposted on Metanomics as a story.


Gallows-Bait>Linden Labs don't need a new Chairman so much as someone with the technical vision to throw out such archaic world architecture.

The only other major virtual world we have that employs a single-shard approach is EVE Online. They, too, had problems when too many players showed up in geographic proximity, so they decided to go with a supercomputer solution. This sort of thing would help SL out, too, if they're resolute about being single-shard.




I agree entirely, as a player of both, I would love to see SL adopt such an infrastructure and forward thinking vision, however with Second Life, while large numbers of users in a single "sim" is indeed a problem, for more frequently as a user I can be in an entirely deserted area with no other concurrent users and still find that the server is completely lagged and the environment unusable.

This is relating more heavily to their use of central inventory and chat servers that are incapable of managing the burden of so many concurrent users, no matter where in the game world they are. One of the symptoms of this that successive fixes and patches have failed to improve is that users all too often find their possessions lost from the inventory servers completely due to poor coding on the transfer of assets. More than a passing gripe when it relates to items users have paid real money for.

The issues I see as a user still therefore relate for more to the poor design around inventory than the need for separate sims and the issues with lag due to player concentrations.


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