Why Google Lively is good for Second Life

Google’s announcement of Lively, a 3d virtual room product, generated a few “So long Second Life” blog headlines. I’m going to take the contrarian view and claim Lively is actually GOOD for Second Life (SL’s own usability issues aside).

Why good? Because it’s all about training wheels. Power-user products such as Second Life feed off of consumers who are familiar with similar experiences and hungering for “what next.” Second Life’s original user base was trained by VRML, The Sims Online, Photoshop, Maya, etc. Basically users who are developing skills or hitting limits in other applications and looking for a place to evolve into.

So Lively can succeed on its own merits by attracting millions of users hungry to get into more immersive chat and expression, and Linden Lab benefits by a % of those users eventually graduating into Second Life, which is likely to be more freeform and open than Lively. And I bet those users are more likely to understand Second Life than folks who are completely new to virutal social environments.

[my bias here is that i work at google – although i had nothing to do with Lively – and was previously an early Second Life team member – so i’ve managed to dream up a scenario where both win. Of course, if Lively causes some company to want to buy Second Life, that’s cool with me too :)]

Iron Man: The Avatar

How many brands are willing to give up total control of a key asset to their fans? [crickets] Well, Marvel did something incredibly cool as part of the Iron Man marketing strategy. They released a fully modifiable Iron Man avatar skin into Second Life and the output has been tens of thousands of people running around dressed up as the superhero. Oh yeah, and some pretty neat machinima. [via New World Notes]

Jury Duty 2.0

Overheard by a friend at a recent San Francisco jury pool.

Judge: Have any of you ever evicted someone?
Potential Juror (PJ): I have but it was virtual land
Judge: What?
PJ explains Second Life
Judge: But there was no money involved, right?
PJ explains that there was money, but it was virtual, but it can be converted back to real dollars
Judge: Ok, whatever, you’re on the jury

Wanna be a furry, barbie or yourself?

Some interesting insight into how people want to represent themselves in virtual environments. Only 15% said they want to be dramatically different than their real world selves (closer to 20% when you remove and normalize for the “i don’t know” response). As avatars go more mainstream it should be expected that people want to look like themselves or fantasized versions (cooler, more muscular, bustier, etc). I think though, and other research suggests, that kids are more malleable with regards to identity and will do more role playing of altered appearance.

My Second Life story

Just received a galley from James Au of his new book on the making of Second Life (out in Feb; pre-order now).

James interviewed me (and the other original SL’ers) for this so i can’t wait to check it out and see how it unfolds.

If you are interested in technology, user generated spaces, virtual worlds, sociology, etc I bet you’ll like it.

Second Life CTO departs

CTO Cory Ondrejka will be leaving Second Life over differences with CEO Philip Rosedale, the most visible departure from Second Life, well, ever (most of the early team has been there ~7 years). Cory, Philip and I spent much of the early days together brainstorming and debating what Second Life should be. We all brought very different perspectives which resulted in a better product and ambitious goals.

Although we haven’t kept in touch very much since I left SL in 2003 (i do see Philip a few times a year), Cory left a lasting impression on me. He was the gruff guy with a heart of gold, and someone who was a great colleague.

I first met him during my interview process in late 2000. One day i was on the top floor of 333 Linden talking to Philip when Cory popped his head in and asked Philip to stop by his desk when we were done. After the conversation wrapped up, i headed downstairs and noticed that a small mindbender on the landing had been completed (it was not yet solved as i was walking up the stairs earlier). It was clear that, while taking a break from coding to walk upstairs, Cory had quickly solved the puzzle and then returned to work. It immediately struck me that this was the place I wanted to be – that we actually had a shot at building this incredibly complex vision because we were filled with some early engineers who were committed to solving hard problems, even in their spare time.

I look forward to seeing what Cory does next and the evolution of Second Life.