Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Differing Perspectives

There's a basic disconnect between the people involved in SecondLife.

The people who work for and own Lind Labs want Secondlife to be a company, that provides a profit, a salary, benefits and retirement.  The people who use Secondlife want it to be a community, even a proto on-line nation, if you will.

This difference in goals and intentions often collide and conflict.

As a company offering social software, Linden Labs has been far more profitable and lasted longer than nearly all of their competitors and predecessors.  As a community, SecondLife users are similar to their competators and predicessors, but much larger and more cohesive than most.

I've noticed a tendency lately for people to depict Phillip Linden, former head of Linden Labs, as some sort of hippie version of Moses, and M Liden, the current head of Linden Labs, as an electronic version of George Bush.  If you look at old blog posts though, when Phillip was still Linden #1, people considered him just another suit determined to ruin their fun.  I guess nostalgia does that to you.

There's a tendency for the larger more successful online communities to survive the companies that spawned them.  Should anything happen to Linden Labs, there's already a pretty good framework in place with the open-sim concept for the SecondLife community to find new homes.  It's even possible Linden Labs could survive as a hosting provider for open-sim rather than trying to run the whole show by themselves.

Something like that might even be an elegant solution to the problem.  The community can survive without having to depend on people running servers from their basements and Linden Labs can operate as a profitable venture without the pressure and uncertainty of having to act both as a technical provider and a de facto government for the community.

Electronic communities didn't start with and won't end with SecondLife.  Secondlife did make several major contributions to the concept and continues to be the leader in the concept.  Unlike Facebook, who provides communication tools for communities outside of Facebook, SecondLife is the platform for its own unique community, in the tradition of CB Simulator and The Palace. 

I believe (and have believed for some time) that virtual communities will eventually become more cogent and more common among certain classes of people world-wide than the physical communities we have always known, because they are built not on our physical or economic proximity, but on our values, beliefs and interests.  As a concept, I believe they will far outlive platforms like Facebook, and far outgrow and outlast companies like Linden Labs.

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