New World Note’s James Wagner Au reported Tuesday that Second Life creator Philip Rosedale is looking for builders for the alpha version of his new virtual world High Fidelity. Normally news of a new virtual world would get me amped up. I can’t tell you how long I’ve been waiting for someone to enter into the market with some vision and finally give Second Life a run for its money. But I never thought it would actually be from Philip himself, whose departure as Linden Lab CEO the second time, may seemed to have been exhausted by Second Life and Virtual Worlds.
Rosedale creating the competitor to Second Life verifies a few things for me. If you’ve followed my blog, you know I have many basic theories as to where Second Life went wrong. Don’t misconstrue — Second Life is indeed a successful business, and I will never knock the impact it’s had on a lot of people, including myself. However, there are many people like me who thought it could be much more than what it strives to be. There’s a real future here, and I’ve argued so many times in the past that Linden Lab, the company behind Second Life, can only see the end of the next accounting quarter. These things don’t mix. Philip, I believe, felt the same way. It could have been more.
So what happened? Investors, corporate greed, mistakes, and success before it was ready. Philip Rosedale had to play the game just like all other startups. He needed investors, he needed people to fund the vision he had. Once that happened, Philip gave up 100% control, as most do in his situation. Sometimes it works out, and sometimes it doesn’t. Second Life saw immense success in 2007 and 2008, much sooner than it was ready for. Profit became the main focus, making money became the main focus; you never know what goes on behind the scenes. I’ve always had the impression that Philip’s vision and power got compromised. You could almost hear it in his voice, the second time around. His departure, and now reappearance with a new virtual world vision, separate from Linden Lab, makes me feel even more that this was the case.
So great, now we have Philip, untethered by his previous weights, with the retrospect on what possibly went wrong with Second Life, ready to give this thing another go. This is exciting, I have to admit, but Philip needs to, in my opinion, acknowledge the previous errors and also address the future. Many people believed in Second Life, not just for what Second Life was at that moment in time, but because they believed in Philip. They believed in his vision and where Second Life could go. They invested their hearts, their soul, and more importantly their money, and like I said, perhaps it was inevitable and Philip fought it tooth or nail, but Linden Lab became greedy and lacked vision. If Rosedale wants to succeed, and if he wants the people that believed in him the first time, to do it again, he needs to explain himself frankly.
Is High Fidelity, his new vision, going to be like Second Life, where only the rich can afford to have a space, or is it going to be the internet of the future, for the people? Is it going to be a closed wall where only the owners of High Fidelity have intellectual rights over all the content (which isn’t created by them)? Second Life never had a road map to the future and people still invested in it, but fool me once — you will not fool me again. I need to see a road map. I need to know where this is going, I need to know you acknowledge the mistakes that were made in Second Life and have learned from them. I cannot invest, nor have the desire to invest, time, money, and passion into another venture that is going to be corporately hijacked and is only concerned with tomorrow’s profits. A future Metaverse cannot be obsessed with profit. No one is interested in creating this new world, this new internet, if it’s going to be business-as-usual in corporate Silicon Valley. I think Rosedale would agree with me, and I may not be alone in wanting to hear it from him personally, before I venture off and dedicate more time to his vision.