Some days ago SL announced they were firing 100 people. They said it was because a restructuration of their business. Some said that this has to do with their strategy, some time announced, to integrate with social sites like Facebook and integrate SL inside web pages. The companies asserts that this has nothing to do with economical problems.
At the same time, they have lowered the exchange value of the Linden Dollar. This can have a double meaning: it can be a sign of weakness, or a wise move to reduce their vulnerability.
I decided to publish this some days later because at this time everybody knows this, and to have more time to think about it.
The immediate reaction is thinking that if they don't have problems, why do they fire 100 people? Well, let's accept they don't have them, and that people that lost their job have been well compensated. Then, it may be a wise move.
When I first knew about SL years ago, and heard all those news in the TV and radio, I had a very bad concept of SL, that was the unreal hype the media spread about them. I even was upset, because they image of virtual worlds that was being projected was that all in virtual worlds were a mad orgy (you know what I mean).
Later, inworld, I saw that all was just exaggeration, that SL was just like any other virtual world, even better that the majority. The application was not hard to use at all, the worlds were so many... There is an enormous creativity and beauty inside Second Life, and lots of creative people, that make music, movies, build worlds, create avatars... much more than in any other virtual world. You only find the negative side if you are looking for it, if you aren't, you don't even see it, just like in Google or the Internet in general. The good and bad is inside you, just like in this first life.
Photo by rafeejewell
I said long time ago that SL has a pyramidal structure, based on their hype. Now that the hype has ceased, they need to decrease their size, become smaller. Their costs must approach zero, because they don't charge their members to belong to SL, like Active Worlds does from the beginning.
Funding through advertising is hard, because people tend to be more blind to ads as time passes and they become used to them.
It's difficult for virtual worlds that don't charge a monthly or yearly fee (or have stopped charging) to start or return to charge for membership. They usually loose most of their members. Specially if it the difference between paid accounts and free accounts doesn't exist, or is minimal.
Another critical aspect is that SL charges big quantities of money to people that own land based on that they have an huge traffic and influence on people and in the media. If SL becomes smaller, this influence, hype, and traffic will be smaller too, and may not have this effect.
Virtual money. It was the base of part of that hype. Some virtual worlds try to get real money that they need in exchange for virtual goods. Piracy and excess of free content are the enemies of this politics. Limit the amount of free content uses to be unpopular, but maybe is just a matter of controlling what is genuine free content, and not pirated content or content of unknown sources.
Worlds that are not big enough, or didn't generate much hype, live from the fees that their members pay. If there are free accounts, there must be premium accounts that provide attractive features that make people embrace them. SL should create or restrict these features and accounts.
The problem with restriction is that make people angry because what was free now isn't, and no one likes that. On the other side, free accounts in SL are so full of features that no one in the world would want to pay for anything else.
Photo by rafeejewell
One solution may be to popularize building. Instead of having to pay a high fee for land and building privileges, make building more affordable even for those with less resources, give them more for less. The counterpart is that crappy content that make the whole virtual world look ugly may proliferate more. In addition, the fee for builder accounts must be high enough to pay the storage and generated costs of what is built.
To summarize, SL may be trying to be smaller, and this is good to survive. They may be trying to stop being a dinosaur, and start being a small sized predator, to avoid being a prey.
To avoid this, they are facing the same old decisions and alternatives as every virtual world, some things that every virtual world should decide before even starting their activity.
Their virtual citizens must understand that it's better changing than dying, and we've seen many virtual worlds die in the last times. Some of them we had suspected (There.com).
Second Life, as many other big Intenet businesses and even persons, are coming to the point of realizing that "everything for free" is not sustainable. But we will talk about this another day.
© 2008 by Jordi R. Cardona. Link to this post without copying the text.If you liked this post, get updates of Hiperia3D News for FREE