A Little Less Scary, for Second Life

Yesterday I posted a link to Gwyneth Llewelyn’s April Fool’s Joke. Today Gwyneth posts that she was in fact joking. See: Yes, yes, it was a prank! She includes more material for our nightmares. But, this time she is putting things in some perspective. I think this article reveals some of the real possibilities ahead and good reasons for them.

Image by: Lelani-Carve, Flickr

Image by: Lelani-Carver, Flickr

For one thing, she points out that Kitely might be a better choice for acquisition. And she points out that Facebook might be better off using OpenSim, as Kitely does, and adding in Intel’s DSG framework, which allows a region to handle thousands of concurrent users. The mix of large crowd handling and run-on-demand-scaling is certainly something I imagine the Facebook managers would like. 

Gwyneth does miss one point. She thinks Kitely/Facebook would need to develop a Oculus Viewer. That is not the case. CtrlAltStudio and Firestorm have an Oculus Rift almost ready viewer in open source. The only missing part is a polished user interface. Remember. CtrlAltStudio’s David Rowe is helping the Firestorm team now. This only shifts some of Gwyneth’s points. But, I think it shows the use of open source software more likely for Facebook.

If Facebook sees the Virtual Worlds like the Internet and itself as some type of hosting company or service provider, FB may decide selling the virtual-world-making software is not where the money is. Selling the people to see YOUR virtual world is where the money is. Finding ways to attract people is what FB is about.

In Second Life we hear complaints about the high cost of tier. But, SL is not selling land. They have eyes, people, and that is what they sell.

If FB see it the same way, they may inject cash into OpenSim for development or write code and donate it. FB may become a real estate broker similar to Kitely. Cheap regions and free starter regions along with something like the mainland we have in Second Life. The viewers we have now, those will be for the builders. They will be sort of like Dreamweaver is for web designers. FB will make a simple to use free viewer much like Firefox, Chrome, or… ugh… Internet Explorer. Or they just may make an interface that uses existing Internet browsers, sort of a Cloud Party thing.

While this scenario eliminates the buyout of Second Life it leaves us with serious competition. What does SL have that other worlds won’t have? Well, the big thing, no pun intended, is sex. But, sex might not be that big an advantage. However, sex in other MMO’s is pretty lame compared to sex in SL. So, I think the level of sex in SL is far ahead of most other MMO’s.

It will be interesting to see which way FB goes. The original idea for FB, as I hear it, was to help college students hookup. But, to what level does one go with blatant sex? Does one keep it behind closed doors as IMVU tries to? Or allow it to find its own place like SL does? SL took more of RL approach to sex, in some ways. In RL you have red light districts. SL is the same. No sex in the streets like San Francisco. There are places for sex and places where it can get you in trouble with the authorities. Which would FB choose?

Big money is in advertising and sales. Virtual Reality is going to be a big step up in presenting products on the web. We have seen companies trying to move their RL stores to the web. A 2D web just doesn’t do it. One of the automotive sites I built used images from a service company that photographs every new vehicle made and renders a 3D virtual image you can side around, sit in, and examine in detail. I expect the company to jump on virtual reality in a big way and provide a similar service, using VR, to the big car manufacturers.

Is FB going to try and get there first? I doubt they will go to the effort to photograph and build in all the products that could be sold more effectively with VR. But, they could well provide the place where it is easy to display products and expose them to millions of eyes.

This all boils down to what will entice us to come look at things for sale. That is the free market driving technology. To a large extent VR has languished because there is no commercial incentive to invest. In a stagnating economy there is nothing in VR to gain politicians votes, so there is no investment of tax dollars. But, if you can sell a game and that creates technology that can sell products, suddenly billions of dollars flow into the system. None of which were taken by coercion. Freedom.

We have no way to KNOW what FB is thinking or will do, other than basically whatever it wants. But, the forces that will shape FB’s actions are shaping up. That should give us some ideas as to what we should be doing and what to expect.

Take some time to read Gwyneth’s latest. It has more considerations than I touched on.

3 thoughts on “A Little Less Scary, for Second Life

  1. 1) Heh. Sorry about the prank.
    2) Thanks for the mention!
    3) *Awesome* picture!
    4) Kudos to Inara Pey; she’s the one proposing that Kitely’s a better choice for Facebook to buy. I have mixed feelings about it, but I can agree it’s a good choice. I’m sure that Ilan Tochner wouldn’t mind a few hundreds of millions of dollars, either 🙂
    5) I think my bad English might have made my message unclear. Aye, I’m aware that there are SL/OpenSim viewers that work rather well with the Oculus Rift. My point is that Facebook, if they do NOT buy LL, won’t be using those viewers — because it would make the situation awkward, i.e. LL would be contributing software towards a company who would crush them, using LL’s own technology. One might say that LL, by open-sourcing the viewer, cannot \go back\… but I’m sure that if the fight is against Facebook, they will have some (legal) ways… on the other hand, it would be even stranger for Facebook to use software and know-how from a company they do NOT own to power their own virtual world!

    It would be like, say, Apple using MS-DOS, because MS-DOS is now open source, and so Apple can legally use it… awkward!

    So, no, either FB buys LL (and eventually Kitely), and then they have no qualms about using their software, or they buy HiFi, and there is some \magic\ way of getting the HiFi viewer to work with OpenSim (or Kitely) — as far as I know, this won’t work straight out of the box, though — or, well, they will have to create a completely different VW, incompatible with SL/OpenSim/HiFi, etc., and start from scratch with no content and no users.

    That was the point I was making. I wasn’t saying that the SL/OS viewers didn’t work with the Oculus Rift! They certainly do, and, from the videos I’ve seen, they work rather well, even though at this stage the interface is clumsy. But LL has also been experimenting with the Leap. Once they get a viewer with Rift + Leap, all UI problems will be gone — and that might come much sooner than expected. In fact, I predict that it will happen even before the Rift is on sale on shelves, and before FB announces their VW, whatever it might be 🙂

    6) I still think that we can read a lot of meaning in Zuckerberg’s own words… \a virtual world where virtual goods get sold… and, yes, a few ads too\. What this means is that Zuckerberg views virtual worlds as an environment which will be mostly free except for content, and FB will get percentage from the proceedings. Like eBay. Like Amazon. Like, in fact, the Second Life (or Kitely’s) Marketplace. And, of course, there will be room for \premium services\, e.g. get a small virtual world for you and your friends for free, but if you wish to host a multi-million-avatar event, that will cost premium. That’s doable — that’s also what Skype is doing: basic service is free, but if you wish to get extra quality, video chat with 10-25 people, calling landlines/mobile phones, your own phone number… that costs premium. Facebook cannot charge \premium\ for their services — except ads and \page boosts\ and similar things — but they can do it in a virtual world, because, unlike Facebook itself, a virtual world is made of virtual goods which can be created and sold 🙂
    7) So, yes, I also think that if Facebook plays their cards right, and does NOT buy SL/Kitely/HiFi, they will become a massive competitor to them, and possibly put them all out of business in a few years. On the other hand, they COULD buy SL/HiFi, get some way to let HiFi talk to OpenSim, absorb all content, federate their VW with SL and any willing HG-enabled OpenSim grid, and… the mind boggles with what would happen then!
    8) Oh yes, FB is all about sex. Or, rather, dating. It is THE major dating site — because it’s free and gives access to one billion profiles. And thanks to Skype-embedded-into-Facebook, you can even have virtual sex that way. Most people — and that includes marketeers, social media experts, journalists, and caring parents — have absolutely no idea how much FB is about sex (SL pales in comparison… because it has so much less people around). I know because I’ve tried it out by creating a FB account with a RL pic for a while 🙂 (and, of course, I have been in touch with a few dozens of people who only use FB to get sex — real or virtual — and nothing else). So, mmh, I can agree that SL sex is \better than in any other MMO\ but it certainly pales in comparison to what Facebook is able to offer.

    Obviously the social media experts and the like do not wish the mainstream to know about that — publicly. The bad news for FB is that people are not willing to pay them anything for using FB as a dating site — not even paying for a few ads. On the other hand, if FB has a VW, one that requires acquiring virtual goods to, uh, have sex with, then they might earn some revenue that way 🙂

    Was that what Zuckerberg and Philip have talked about recently? I doubt it, but one thing I’m sure about: Zuckerberg has launched FB to be in the dating business, and he knows everything that is to know about that business 🙂 His cleverness is being able to present Facebook as a \clean\ and \safe\ environment, while allowing all that goes deep beneath… so long as people play by the rules. And those who use FB as a \dating engine\ definitely abide by those rules to make sure they remain around — and find interesting partners.

  2. Thank you for the picture credit! The occasion was a wedding, the build was created for the event, and the builder is TotalLunar Eclipse, owner of the Steelhead sims.

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