Saturday, April 18, 2009

General: The future of Second Life

I have just read an interesting post by ArminasX Saiman on the latest departures of staff from Second Life.
While it is possible that these are due to the company transitioning from small start-up to large-scale operation, my skeptical mind has another opinion.

The thing about SL (Second Life) is that it is its own showcase, in other words 'what you see is what you get' a world where the user is free to create content to bend the virtual world to their own ends.
Given this, it makes sense that it is in their own best interest to make SL as high-performing a platform as possible. What we see however is a platform crippled whenever serious numbers of people are present in the whole system, and downright unusable if any significant number are gathered in one place for an event. This latter limitation is critical if SL is ever to become a virtual world to be used by business for large-scale events.
ArminasX makes note of the ability of the platform to now support 88,000+ concurrent users, but I see this advance as nothing more than the expected improvement due to the progression of hardware performance.
In short, the lack of real satisfactory performance on a platform which is its own major sales tool strongly implies to me that this implementation has hit a wall, that is there is some inescapable, insurmountable problem.
I, personally, suspect that the problem is the huge asset database rather than a network bandwidth problem and I was therefore less than surprised to see that the impending Blue Mars VR intends that 'many thousands of users will be able to simultaneously log into a single “city.”' (where a 'city' seems equivalent to an SL 'sim') but does not support user-created content, thus limiting the assets database whilst presumably requiring considerable bandwidth.
Blue Mars also does not have contiguous sims (cities) with seamless travel over boundaries, each one is discrete, which I assume means that a sims servers asset cache (I think that this exists from personal experience) will not need to import a users assets as they enter it.

Still, whatever the technical limit, back to the reasonable supposition that there must be one since the main sellling tool, the actual experience, is clearly limited.
The shareholders would obviously like a return on their investment and a big IPO would be their best bet. In order to do this they would need it to be seen by both businesses and Joe Public as a viable platform with room for growth in size, performance and stability.
If one knew that the platform as is wouldn't deliver and the shareholders want those who profess belief otherwise while they get an IPO together then, ethically, one might have to think about leaving.

Of course, they could easily prove me wrong, just fix the performance issues to prove it can be done.