Illustrating just how powerful the Second Life reality distortion field is, Second Life’s CEO and founder, Phillip Rosedale, garnered the top keynote slot at Gartner’s April Symposium. I am in the pessimistic camp when it come to Second Life. My first post about Second Life will give you some idea as to why. However, that being said, I was impressed with Phillip Rosedale’s presentation. He freely admitted that Second Life as it represents the 3D web is in its infancy. “We’re where the web was in 1994.” What impressed me about his presentation is that although they don’t have all the answers to the questions about the 3D web in general or the eveolution of Second Life in particular, he and his staff at Linden Labs seem to have the critical issues on their radar. In particular, I was thinking, if Second Life is our best hope for the 3D web, it needs to be liek the 2D web–it needs to be open. See, right now, anyone can get a webserver and drop it on the Internet and bam you have a presence on the web. It is not proprietary and it has virtually unlimited potential for growth. However, as Second Life stands right now, though the client is open source, the servers are proprietary. However, Rosedale indicated that their plan was to open it up to third party providers/hosts. This should drive down the prices of getting on the 3D web. Right now costs over $1,500 US to get in on your own island plus $295 per month maintenance. That is pretty steep for a casual user and even for a business that is a considerable investment on an unproven technology. I have to get back into Second Life and see what it would cost to get in on some pr0perty on the main island. The average sale price of property in SL at the time of this writing was $10 USD per square meter. Anyhow, opening up Second Life is a major step in the right direction for moving Second Life from a niche application to something with mass appeal and wide adoption.
The second major bit of good news was their plan not just to add voice chat to SL, but ther vision of how to implement it. Instead of dialing as you do with Skype or MSM and other voice and video chat services, their plan is to try to simulate the way voice works in the real world. Distant conversations cannot be heard but as you pass by people who are talking their conversations would come into range. It sounded pretty cool to me. As I was talking to my wife about it, she was asking why this would be any better than a conference call in Skype or anywhere else. I’m not sure it is, but I think the visual cues of seeing everyone in the conference room is kinda cool. Rather than spending a bunch of time with “hey, is so and so on yet…” you would just quickly scan the room and when you have enough people to start, you just start. Depending how the voice implementation works out, the prospects for collaboration are intriguing. Rosedale kinda indicated that they were already trying out the voice in some kinda beta version and it sounds promising.
I’m not a convert yet, but Second Life is something to keep an eye on.