On the other hand, they’re also (in)famous for failing at everything else but their core business. This is no bad per se; after all, we all know how Google catastrophically fails in pretty much everything they put their hands on, and even when they have a good idea once in a while (like Google Docs — which they have acquired, not developed in-house), they easily get outbeaten by their direct competition. The list of Google failures is miles long, but, alas, Google can be forgiven for all of them — since they have so much money from their core business that they can afford to fail. Linden Lab is not Google by about a factor of thousand, but they have the same stance: they make enough money from SL to be able to afford to explore alternative venues of getting an income, and, even if they fail, they will have learned something from the lesson, and eventually it will trickle down back into SL. Or eventually not. It matters little when you’re able to make investments without hurting the company — R&D is good, acquiring knowledge (even if it’s only about how to avoid failure in the future) is good too, failure is ok if you learn with your mistakes.
So, at a personal level, of course I wish LL a big success with Sansar — one that allows them, as a company, to step into a bright and stable future, keeping stakeholders and customers happy. While I only reluctantly admit that Sansar may turn a few heads here and there, catching the attention of a handful of developers, I still believe that the only people that will really be interested in Sansar, at the low end of content development, will be SL users. The rest of the mainstream world will most certainly continue to play Triple-A games from the top companies, not from a non-descript unknown company out of San Francisco. But it’s highly likely that LL gets a ‘big name’ to give Sansar a push in the right direction, allows them to pay off their investment into the new technology, and guarantees its further development in the near future. They are better positioned than anyone else at this moment to do exactly that (because they have a track record of success with a virtual world that nobody else has); and their closed-source, proprietary technology will appeal to those companies who frown upon the unknown dangers and pitfalls of open-source solutions. While on the other hand academics and freelancers and small companies wishing to test something ‘bright, new and shiny’ will very likely pick High Fidelity first, since it’s open source, reasonably well documented, and has a transparent development model — exactly the opposite of Sansar. Also, High Fidelity’s business model is not easily understandable at this point (Philip is still busy burning venture capital at this stage, it’s still too early to worry about making money), while Sansar, even if it has not been fully disclosed yet, points at a much more familiar model to what we have in Second Life, at least for the end-user — but it might be much better sold as licensed platform, in effect becoming what ‘Second Life Enterprise’ was supposed to be a decade ago: a virtual world that LL can shrink-wrap and place a price tag on it before shipping it to corporate customers.
In the mean time… it’s the end-user, we SL residents, which make LL a happy, profitable company, and LL is not forgetting us so easily. SL will always be the ‘fallback’ option for LL if Sansar also fails, like everything else that LL attempted to do. There is most certainly a lot of concepts, ideas, and even code that might be possible to adapt to SL, so that the past years of developing Sansar have never been a waste of time and money — sometimes you need a bit of detachment to think of novel ideas to deal with old problems. And certainly LL will rely on a happy crowd of SL residents to pay their tier, and therefore keep the company afloat, while they are busy pushing Sansar to new kinds of customers — or even eventually round up a few more investors to help to pay for further developments of Sansar (and potentially Second Life as well), although LL has been reluctant to do so in the past and has always preferred to do their R&D out of their pocket and avoid being ‘dependent’ on shifty venture capitalists eager to ‘make money fast’, often steering companies in a totally wrong direction just to get more bang for the buck. In a way, I feel more confident in LL when they spend their own money in whatever projects they are interested in investing: it’s risky, yes, but at least it’s their risk, and they can afford to lose money that way, since they will not have to pay it back to anyone else. That’s still the ‘old way’ of making careful business (an interesting anachronism for what is supposed to be a hippy, cool Californian tech company!) and one which has served well to quite a lot of huge megacorps that have been around for a hundred years; there is absolutely no shame in emulating those who have succeeded in the long term.| ← Previous | | | Next → |