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Well, what's new anyway in the meantime in SL? 

  • Mono has been deployed to the whole grid. This means, that all LSL scripts now might run on this new engine, which makes computation of scripts up to 200 times faster than the former one. As a side effect, every script has now 64 KB of memory for data instead of 16 KB. But it seems that if you want to run Mono, you have to recompile the script for yourself. Old scripts are not going to be recompiled automatically, a thing, that perhaps might happen in the future, though, since it's for sure not going to happen that both engines are going to be supported parallel for long, meaning the old LSL engine is going to fade out slowly. If you want to compile your scripts on Mono, you need a viewer of the 1.21-series at least. 
  • The Lindens have a new communication policy for their blog, it is undergoing a big relaunch at the moment in the background. While some are happy, that now Torley Linden cannot put up his "pink-green neon glowing junk of happiness" on the homepage anymore, others wonder what happened there in general. They are planning to change their ways of communication, again, well so far we have to see what is going to happen in October. For the meantime we have to live with it like it is.
  • People are wondering which kind of product SLim is going to be and when it is going to be launched. So far, there are only rumors around despite the fact that Linden Lab recently applied for that trademark. Most agree, though, according to the application it is going to be some kind of messenger. This is exciting, because a new product is really something that might come in handy for Linden Lab to stand out against the less complex competition for an audience, for which Second Life is too complex, power hungry, whatever, in general not appealing enough. A first preview is expected though within the next couple of weeks. Makes me wonder... is this a project which has been initiated by Mark Kingdon aka M Linden or did the foundation for it already happen under Philip Rosedale's reign as CEO still?
  • The next big thing in the background might be the standarization of the protocol to build the intergrid, the thing at which they are working together with IBM.
  • Copybot is supposed to get support for cloning prim attachments of avatars. I wonder, if this is ever going to really happen.
  • Land prices still stay quite low. This is bad for land barons, who need to make money on sales, but good for the inhabitants and other content creators, too.
  • Oldtimer Gwyneth Llwellyn ran an essay named "No more limits", outlining some ways in which Second Life might develop in the future, for example more prims per sim (again), bigger or smaller sims than 256x256 meters, allowance of megaprims and getting rid of the limitations of LSL. Some of those might really happen sooner or later in the future.

There's still nothing more content creators in Second Life are fearing than the well known copybot. So still many vendors are using protection mechanisms, that worked with former versions of copybot by telling "!quit" in open chat, but those are not working anymore since aeons. 

But still many vendors don't seem to know or want to know and are getting on the nerves of their customers with that unnecessary noise...

There've been some new developments in SL lately which are worth mentioning:

  • IBM tested a transport of an avatar from the Second Life grid to their own grid, meaning it is now technically possible to teleport to an Opensim. Sounds quite good, but at the moment it's just moving an ruthed Avatar, since assets are not shared at all between those and are unlikely to be ever shared at all. Otherwise expect a revolt of content builders in Second Life, but we're getting closer to the Intergrid.
  • Second Life is growing bigger and bigger. This is of course good for the company and stabilizes their economic model. There's been a shift from premium users to land sales. If you don't really want to own land on the mainland (and who does that really...) has no need to get a premium account at all! Seems also that in world economy is now recovering slowly of the gambling ban. Well, the prices for many stuff are quite high now, higher than they used to be in about one year for example, looking good in Second Life becomes more and more expensive...

And also something funny I've found in another blog: "Entering chat range: Prokofy Neva." Quite a funny chat transcript about how to call things in Second Life and more...

When I started going online back in 1994 the world was quite small. There were some local BBS around, I had my analogue modem with fast 14.400 bit/s, that needed to run over my phone line, and that was it. There've been services around, which were like bigger BBSes, like Compuserve or AOL, which ruled most of the market.

Then out of nowhere the Internet emerged. Compuserve, AOL and others were proprietary systems only, and the established companies needed to decide what to do. Well, they even didn't notive the Internet and its potential first. Open standards, decentralized, not ruled by only one entity. This was something new and it wrecked their business models great lenghts. When the Internet started to became more and more important, the content of proprietary standards in AOL and Compuserve became less and less important and newsworthy since all this content drained into the Internet.

So what's the lesson of it? A proprietary system is like an island. It might be nice for a while, but when something better becomes available, most of its content will shift definitely there, ruining your old business modell, forcing you to adapt. That's why in my opinion Linden Lab is working at an open standard at the moment, because they don't want to be the next Netscape. They still want to be in business in the next five years and this is definitely a way to achieve it.

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German magazine Focus Online has been running an interview with Mark Kingdon, new CEO of Linden Lab, about his goals with the company.

Seems M Linden is running around in a tux with headphones on his head. Why that? Because he feels that he's like a conductor of a big orchestra but he also wants harmony like a music mixer.

About his role Kingdon says, that Philip Rosedale brought innovations to the company and that he wants to bring business to the company.

One point on his agenda is to smoothen down the learning curve for newbies. The first hours should be made considerable easier and it should be easier to register for a new character. He also wants to establish in world tutors which are going to help the newbies during their first steps and this is going to happen this year.

He wants those also based on his own experience, because his first login in Second Life was quite challenging to him, way too much overstrained. He didn't know how to find his way around, how to move his avatar or how to dress it. It took him hours to understand the basic principles, but after that the WOW-effect took place and he began to be fascinated of this big world.

Kingdon also states that Linden Lab is making profit, even if many people are still not believing this. The main business area of the company is renting land at the moment, but he sees a shift from that to the trade of goods for the avatar. This is in Kingdon's opinion the financial base for the future.

Asked that one of the bigger investors plans to sell Linden Lab, Kingdon denies a comment on that (who wouldn't...), but tells that he wants to make a booming company out of Linden Lab and also going IPO might be an option for the future.

But first he thinks they need to work at the technic itself as foundation for their succes, meaning: not only should it become way easier to use Second Life at all, but it also needs to become more stable and reliable in the future as well.

He thinks that Second Life is still at the beginning if you take the number of users and their activities into account, but also a quite complex platform.

Kingdon also criticizes the media somewhat - he thinks Linden Lab is a pioneer with a very big thing going on. This project has been overhyped in the media world, leading to many people entering the world with expectations that Linden Lab was never be able to meet. He adds that even if it was not the intention of the media they somewhat damaged Linden Lab with it. Later he adds, that Linden Lab was also profiting of media coverage quite much, but the hype was too much for them and they were not able tho handle it, he calls it bad timing.

Being asked if he could recommend companies at the moment to use Second Life for their business he says: not really at the moment, better wait for the near future when things have turned out for the better. He's not telling them to stay away at all though, if they want to try out things and such, like IBM does or universities.

Being asked about how is it possible to bring commercial and private interests of users under one hat, he says they're thinking about it, there's no universal platform for all and everyone in his opinion. He thinks, that in the future Second Life is going to have to entrypoints/logins for users: one for private users and one for business people.

My opinion on this interview is: he's trying to be honest and I hope he's going to be able to achieve his goals of getting a lower learning curve at the beginning, easier usage and of a more stable platform after all. Those are quite important points to have if you want more users.

He's also holding the hopes down for business at the moment, knowing that a bad experience might lead to business leaving quite fast, so better first stabilize it and then take on other things again. Wise choice.

In terms of making more profit, well, we are going to see how those ideas might work or not. At the moment it is just land sales, quite simple. And beside that, I guess, we are going to see a balkanization in the platform in the near future, like we already have with the Teen grid: we are going to have an Adult grid for all the nice, nitty, gritty stuff, but for business there's also going to be an own Business grid in the near future with no mature content at all. If he really wants to target companies more again this is something that might help the growth of Second Life big lengths and not necesarrily a bad thing.

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Well, it's the mid of May, and if I remember the old posts correctly, M Linden should have started to work now. I wonder how he is going to shape Linden Lab in the future and which kind of impulses he is going to bring to the platform. We should wish him all best, of course...

The only things I've seen so far in the last weeks before him are some redesigns of the homepage, the grid status blog moved to another dedicated URL without any comments at all and the web site backend got translated into some more languages. Not bad, but also not really breathtaking either.

Seems the next thing in the pipeline, of course, it going to be the release of the 1.20-line of the viewer and after that the rolling out of Mono and Havok 4 on the grid.

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Gentle reader,

today I want to talk a little about the realXtend project which came upon my radar recently and impressed me great lengths. Their goal is, put in simple terms, to develop the InterGrid about which Gwyneth Llewellyn spoke recently in one of her own blog posts. Well, she even mentions the project in her post.

The InterGrid, put in simple terms again, is the ability to make your own region/regions/grid and take your avatar on grid A, B or C and also take the inventory of it with you. This means your avatar becomes quite more flexible, it can travel around the different grids if done correctly, but also there's quite much work to do until that goal is going to be achieved. This project is using OpenSim as their platform for serving regions, they've already enhanced it with quite much advanced and sophisticated features and also forked the Second Life viewer into an own thing, although this can still connect to the Second Life grid in a compatibility mode.

The realXtend project is backed up by two Finnish companies and around 20 people working on it, programmers, content creators and graphic designers, so a good size but still small compared to the staff of Linden Lab.

Contrary to the culture of Linden Lab, though, they've got a roadmap, and since they're contributing to OpenSim, parts of it overlap with the roadmap of that project, too. Having a roadmap never hurts, on the contrary, it is always nice to have and a good thing for all participating people.

In a recent interview one of the driving forces behind realXtend, the CEO of one of the companies backing it up named Tony Manninen, gave us a very interesting peace of his mind and his over all vision for the project:

Me: And how will the work you have done on the avatar server alleviate this problem unless SL, WoW and other cooperate on interoperability?

Tony: Think of it more like the 3d web. realXtend/OpenSim is like the Apache of virtual worlds, rexViewer is the Mozilla or Firefox of whatever. When "surfing" the web, you are not constantly required to prove and change your identity when loading different pages.

And this line is quite interesting for all of us. Apache is today the work horse of most web servers on the planet, its market share is around 51% in April 2008. But what many people don't know is how Apache started and how it became the king of the hill. In former times, when Apache was non existant, there's been another 800 pound gorilla of webserving software called NCSA httpd. This was back then the leading webserver under an opensource license. Apache just started as a patchset (Apache was just the nickname for "a patch" first only or more precise "a patchy server") way back then for NCSA httpd, adding features many people wanted but the maintainers of NCSA httpd were unable or unwilling to include. So over the time the patch set became more and more important, popular and turned into an own piece of software, winning big grounds against its father until NCSA httpd became obsolete and went into insignificance.

So, what does that mean when talking about Second Life? Simply: realXtend could be the nail into the coffin of Second Life.

So, what's in realXtend viewer and OpenSim already, that would be nice to have in Second Life, but isn't there (yet)? Among already implemented features those biggies:

  • the ability to host your own region somewhere on a server of your choice and to connect it to the grid (many would like that since the tiers you've got to pay for Linden Lab are quite expensive),
  • the use of a more advanced opensource renderer named OGRE, which also is going to support DirectX rendering on Windows platforms,
  • coming with this renderer real time lights and shadows of objects,
  • web on a prim,
  • builtin VNC viewer for desktop sharing,
  • VOIP client and 3d audio rendernig,
  • meshes instead of prims - this means you can build far more advanced structures, also build stuff in normal programs instead of the client and import them, which adds to a good graphics experience quite much, but also means a slightly longer loading time perhaps, but still many would applaud them in SL and with right,
  • quite more sophisticated avatar meshes, everything can be an avatar, e.g. also mushrooms (this example is included) or a bad snowman,
  • Python scripting,
  • teleports between realXtend and Secondlife,
  • script controlled teleports,
  • centralised avatar storage to move the avatar between different grids,
  • multiple streaming URLs per parcel,
  • and others,

but those are the real biggies. If you also take into account that it just took realXtend to implement those features around four (!) months of time you'll really have to wonder why Linden Lab hasn't done that themselfes already!

Among the roadmapped features you'll find those things:

  • Direct3D rendering on windows platforms,
  • support for OGG Vorbis,
  • support for video codecs beside Quicktime,
  • Weather support,
  • inverse kinematics,
  • avatar face/head animation based on live video camera data,
  • lip sync for VOIP,
  • cloth physics,
  • vehicle support,
  • the ability to hold more than 100 avatars at the same time in one region by splitting up the region on several hosts and letting them do their work,
  • and others.

So what we'll have here is a real ambitious project to build the InterGrid with nice goals, but they're not only having a roadmap, seems they've already been able so far to deliver their planned features and are going to be in the future, too, in many parts they're already ahead of Second Life quite much.

To put it short: what we've got here is a major competitor emerging for Second Life and even more so on a very rapid speed! Linden Lab is still ahead of its competition somewhat, but realXtend is gaining ground and its gaining it quickly so that Linden Lab should really be make up its mind now what they're planning with the platform in the future, otherwise it is quite possible that they are going to face the same fate as NCSA httpd or Netscape: the technic will remain, but innovations are coming from other sources and the people behind the initial project are loosing the grip on it.

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Today has been a rough day for Dreamland. Four long running Dreamland Angels have announced on the group "Dreamland citizens" that they are going to quite their jobs soon.

Sahirah Hauptmann wrote:

Dear Dreamland Citizens,

It has been my pleasure working for you the past 2 years helping you all to the best of my abilities, but I'm sad to say that will no longer be the case. I've chosen to tender my resgination I'll be leaving the company on April 30th.

I wish you all the best.


Sahirah Hauptmann

Former Dreamland Angel

MadMarkus Miles wrote:

following a few of my colleagues I herewith need to inform you, that today has been my last day as Dreamland Angel.

PLease enjoy your second life and many many thanks for your patience, your kindness and your love, given to me.

Best regards,

MadMarkus Miles

Sal Salubrius wrote:

I have only been here a short time I know, but I have grown to love you all. There are irreconcilable differences between me and the management and I feel that I need to move on. I am still available to tie up any loose ends for you all in any way I can untill the end of the month.

Regards, Sal Salubrius

At least one another popular angel, Master Quatro, has been rumored to leaving, too. So at least three angels told that they left or are going to leave on one day. This leaves us to the question: what's in the bush?

Seems they are going to charge their customers in the future money for things that are right now still available for free, like restarting a sim, according to MadMarkus Miles. Also planned is that you get a tier rebate after a buy first in the next month, not in the actual month and for sure there are more things in the pipeline.

What does that mean? Since you cannot make a living on selling land alone anymore big landowners are now going to install other schemes of making money in world, that's it and it seems not all angels agreed on this plan of action and this is why they left. Quite simple actually.

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Founder Philip Rosedale has announced today that after about one month the search for a new CEO is over - it is going to be Mark Kingdon, in world name M Linden.

He's going to start May 15th, has a background in arts, business and economics and has been working at bigger companies. His main focus? Better in world stability, user experience and reliability. He's also got quite much experience in international companies, which might help Lindenlab too, since they have an international audience.

Sounds like very good news to me, seems it's easier for Lindenlab to find a new CEO than a new CTO, though, but perhaps since this one is settled a new CTO will follow shortly...

A more in depth portrait of Mark Kingdon can be found here.

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Some days ago there's been the news that IBM is going to build their own server farm with the Second Life server side on it.

Well, frankly said, I can understand them. That convoluted mess that Second Life today is is all but a worthwile investment if you're a company. If you want to have a good experience with it, better stay away from the main grid and build your own farm, your own island.

If you're thinking about investing in SL, better do it when the grid has more stabilized. At the moment this would just be a great waste of money in my opinion given the bad performance all inhabitants of Second Life have been experiencing since months now.

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