Is Amazon Destined to Replace Marketplace and Buy SL?

Posted in Op/Ed, Real Life, RL, SecondLife®, SL® Business, Virtual Worlds with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 10, 2013 by Valiant Westland

For years I’ve been predicting that the next wave of Virtual World development would be driven by the inevitable competition of e-commerce, marketing and gaming heavyweights like Google, Amazon & Microsoft.  All of these players have a huge vested interest in capturing the annuity income produced by the rapidly expanding world of Virtual Products and services.

SL Now On AmazonSo imagine my “surprise” when I saw the Second Life Community announcement, about Linden Lab offering Start-up and Enhancement Kits on Amazon!   I believe this is a first step towards the eventual disbanding of the Standalone SL Marketplace, in favor of an Amazon-powered alternative.  If I’m right, SL itself could be an acquisition target for Amazon in the not too distant future.

The early failure of Google’s Lively Virtual 3D World and the lackluster performance of Sony’s PlayStation Home Virtual World offering, should not be used to throw out this line of speculation.  These earlier efforts have one thing in common that Amazon and even SL doesn’t, a lack of profitability.

In addition to an Alpha-level user interface, no realistic profit potential is the main reason Google pulled the plug on Lively.  Interestingly enough, Sony, in response to Microsoft’s hugely successful xbox.com webstore, has used this years CES show to announce it is bringing its own SEN (Sony Entertainment Network) store to the US and integrate it with the PlayStation Home experience.

Amazon Web ServicesSo why would Linden Lab give up running its own primary revenue source (Marketplace)?  Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) and a potential increase in Net Revenues by outsourcing e-commerce to an organization like Amazon.  Amazon has arguably the most cost-effective and efficient e-commerce platform in the world.  They also have something Linden Lab does not, more than “164 Million paying customers!”  This is a huge potential untapped market for Second Life, that would be almost impossible to reach, without this type of partnership.

Many people, not directly involved with Second Life’s back-end development, might be surprised to learn that since 2006 “Linden Lab has used Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) to store elements used in the Second Life world and to distribute the Second Life Viewer to end users.”  In fact, Amazon has featured Linden Lab in a Case Study, from which this quote was taken.

Every company reaches a point where one or more things happen.  They either fail, diversify with new products & markets to sustain growth, go public, acquire additional private capital or are acquired.  Linden Lab has thus far failed to expand its market.  Their attempts to diversify their product via their Enterprise product was, as reported by Hypergrid Business, “a costly mistake.”  Their more recent Time to Sell!Patterns and Creatorverse products seem unlikely to generate the type of revenue or market expansion required to have a measurable impact on their overall business.  Going public is an unlikely option and it is doubtful any more private capital would flow into a stagnant business model.  The only remaining choice for the original investors to cash out, sell Second Life!

Amazon’s Jeff Bezos has proven he is a fierce competitor who is willing to take risks and sacrifice margin to dominate an industry.  In fact, a Jan 8th, 2013 Bloomberg Businessweek story on Amazon was summarized like this: “As long as consumers are consuming and shareholders are buying what Bezos is selling, Amazon looks fairly unbeatable.”

Hang on to your virtual hats ladies and gentlemen, I think 2013 could shape up to be an interesting year.  My advice.  Buy Amazon (AMZN) stock and look forward to a Virtual e-Commerce SL Marketplace experience powered by Amazon in the near future!

Second Life ‘s “Cloudy” Future

Posted in Op/Ed, Real Life, RL, SecondLife®, SL® Advertising, SL® Business, SL® Education, SL® Fashion, Virtual Worlds with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 2, 2013 by Valiant Westland

2012 – The SL Future That Wasn’t

Before we look forward to what I believe is/should be SL’s “Cloudy” future, we might want to glance back at what 2012 brought us.  As we entered 2012, Linden Lab CEO Rodvik Humble told us we could look forward to:

  • A New Path-finding SystemMesh Avatar
  • Server side performance upgrades and bug fixes
  • More Premium benefits/features and content
  • New tools, like those used to develop Linden Realms
  • Stable tier pricing
  • Additional advanced features (Mesh!?)

Two of the most anticipated upgrades of 2012, Mesh and the new Path-finding System, are still not fully deployed.  I and many others have begun upgrading our inventory with Mesh creations, but the lack of a completed Mesh Deformer as part of the release viewer continues to generate wailing and gnashing of teeth for those with other than model-“perfect” forms.

Redgrave, one of Second Life’s most respected and innovative brands has refused to wait and introduced their own “Liquid Mesh (TM)” solution, that automatically adjusts their Liquid Mesh clothing designs to most avatar shapes.  It remains to be seen whether this bold move will result in a net gain in market share or cause confusion and ultimately frustration, when the lab finally releases built-in deformer technology.

Path-finding is another “almost here,” enhancement that can’t seem to make it to prime time.  The promise of enhanced path-finding is vehicles, BOTs and other objects being able to move more smoothly, including over sim boundaries, with less lag.  The reality for most users, who know nothing of these enhancements, is a strange new symbol and accompanying message appearing in their viewer.

Second Life URL Bar with Pending Changes Icon

Navmesh has pending changes The region has pending changes that have not yet been baked into the navmesh.

My primary SL property is a mainland region that is bisected by a Linden Road.  I have yet to see any path-finding benefits.  The same vintage automated 2005 vehicles continue to bounce and bumble up and down the road, in the same herky jerky manner, typically stalling, sinking sideways or even sling-shotting violently over the SIM border crossing near my home.

Why “Clouds” Matter

Disclaimer:  For those who are not aware, I make my RL living as a Consultant, helping companies develop and implement Technology and Online-media Marketing Plans that align with their strategic business goals.  I always urge my clients to be unabashedly “market-driven” and “surf” the technology waves whenever possible, rather than trying to fight them or create their own.  In 2013, I’ll be publishing a book on “Technology Planning In/For The Cloud.”

Cloud PartyWhile Linden Lab was busy trying to roll out in-world enhancements like Mesh, obviously designed to boost its revenues, through upgrade and new item sales revenues, the greater (Real) and virtual worlds continued their headlong flight to cloud-based computing.  In the Virtual World space, two cloud computing-based offerings, Kitely and Cloud Party saw significant user growth.  Many SL developers are eagerly porting content, in the hopes of establishing themselves as brand/solution leaders on these new cloud-based platforms.

Meanwhile the Google Apps cloud-based office productivity suite and Google Drive continue to steal market share from Microsoft’s venerable Office solution offerings, despite Microsoft offering their own cloud-based Office 365 solution.  There has been an explosion of Smart Phone and Tablet use.  In fact, tablets are now out-seLumiya Viewerlling laptops!  Unfortunately, with the exception of a couple of txt-only clients and one limited graphical viewer for Android devices called Lumiya, there is no way to access Second Life or even my.secondlife.com, from a Linden Lab official Smart Phone or Tablet client.

Although Linden Lab dabbled with a browser-based client over a year ago, there is no official timeline for the release of a full-featured cloud-based offering that I’m aware of.  Worse still, the primary user experiences in SL are still tied to antiquated 1960’s-era plain text NoteCards and graphics formats that 99% of the world doesn’t use!

Now Is NOT Time To Listen To Your Mother!
(Translation:  Get Your Head In The Clouds!)

If Second Life is going to survive, I believe they must aggressively move towards cloud-based offerings.  The longer the Lab waits to make their move to the cloud, the more regions, developers and regular users they will see opting for other platforms.

A 2013 Wish List For LL/SL

What follows is my personal 2013 wish list of SL enhancements, that I believe would go a long way towards slowing or even reversing SL’s slow downward spiral into irrelevance and make a majority of SL users happier and more productive! (Listed in no particular order)

  1. Deploy SL in a current-content-compatible cloud-based platform, similar to Kitely’s, with a pay-as-you-go option.
  2. Give us TRUE, persistent, Universal Status Indicator, that appears next to each persons name.  Allow status to be set prior to login!
  3. Consolidate login, account maintenance and inventory among “Alt”ernate accounts.
  4. Bring back user selectable Last Names!
  5. Provide automatic synchronization & watermarking of Pictures/Textures with users choice of Picasa, Flickr, etc.
  6. Replace the antiquated NoteCard system with integrated Google Docs / Drive functionality
  7. Upgrade My my.secondlife.com so that it’s mobile friendly and supports bi-directional web<>in-world messaging!
    Better yet, how about replacing the messaging engine with Google Chat!
  8. Deploy a C# application development/scripting environment and enhanced APIs for bi-directional object/data manipulation

Last but not least…   Please consider creating a true Reseller/Partner Network for the next generation of Second Life.  I continue to believe there are thousands of small businesses, franchises and vertical markets that could benefit from Virtual World solutions.  This market can ONLY be effectively tapped, if resellers have a S.M.A.R.T. annuity revenue incentive, support structure and marketing that originates with Linden Lab!

To all my Virtual Friends, Business Associates and Clients, whether still in SL or not, I wish you a healthy and prosperous New Year!

Response To MetaReality’s – No One’s Driving This Ship PodCast

Posted in Op/Ed with tags , , , , , on March 9, 2012 by Valiant Westland

Proactive Communication, Collaboration and Effective Leadership Are Key!

Let me start by saying I agree 100% with Draxtor’s call for an “Adult” approach to the future of Virtual Worlds and specifically Second Life. It’s a huge challenge though, as these spaces are populated with a vocal group of people who tend towards emotionalism, rather than reason and feel strongly that whatever they “believe” has more weight and validity than any facts that may exist.

I also agree that Second Life has been horribly undersold. This ties into the first topic, as anyone who would otherwise consider doing business in Second Life, is put off by all of the whining, griping and constant predictions of doom & gloom.

Esbee’s and Charlar’s departure will remain a puzzle, without a clear road map by the Lap regarding their future product strategy. People leave companies every day, due to changes in the market and the company’s needs.

Proactive, positive communication is the key to this and most of LL’s other challenges. Whether or not SL is “dying,” LL pulling back from reporting SL Stats sends the wrong message to the user community. If things are bad, let’s hear some inspiring communication about how we can ALL make things better. If things are good, let’s hear more about the wonders and successes in-world and what LL is going to do to facilitate future opportunity and success for everyone!

As pro Second Life & Virtual Worlds as I am, I share the opinion that neither the platform nor the community are ready for a huge influx of people. One of these “not ready for prime time” issues is certainly user names.

Rod Humble’s Decision on Last Names is frankly, puzzling. In my opinion, the BEST thing that could happen would be for LL to assign each verified user with a “permanent” account number and allow people to choose BOTH a First AND Last Names. If people want to share a last name with someone else, let them voluntarily choose the same last name! If someone wants to be called “DufusIAm Stupid,” let them.

Relating to user accounts, what I WANT to see is shared user accounts, where machine ID’s / MAC Addresses are used to uniquely identify users and multiple “Alts” can share inventory. I believe this would be something that would be a tremendous improvement for both uses and vendors. I would like to see this discussed in an upcoming segment of Metareality.

Second Life truly is a beautifully chaotic world. However, as someone who is a Master Citizen Planner, Charrette Planner/Facilitator and two term Elected Official, and has 20+ years of IT planning experience, I have seen first hand the benefits of effective strategic planning, zoning and communication. My experience has taught me that almost every challenge, that is not engaged proactively, with community-driven citizen and stakeholder participation, ends up costing far more money/time than it should have!

Passing of a Dream

Posted in Real Life, SecondLife® with tags on October 27, 2011 by hawksrock

Jell called me today with some sad news: she had just learned that one of our nearest and dearest friends in SecondLife passed away, Dreamer Demontrond. Dreamer was one of those shining star type personalities which were larger than life. Her wit, intelligence, sarcasm, love, and competitive spirit were all things that drew me to her. She will forever be the hostess with the mostess. She used to love to egg me on in private to always best Jell’s many suitors at Tringo who loved to drive the pot up higher than I could afford. She was the first person to know that Jell and I were becoming a couple in SecondLife and she had the honor of being my best “man” at my wedding. I spent many a late night/early morning due to the Australian time zone difference having a brisk discussion and “huggles” on a beach of her choosing. Her ability to cut through the crap and to the point with razor sharp clarity was amazing to say the least.

She is a living testament to the power of technology to bring about change and the fact that SecondLife can actually deliver some good with all the dramz. In real life her body was never capable of delivering on all the promise she held in her heart and mind. She fought a debilitative lifelong disease that at the age of 42 finally won the battle. It was her secret that was to be spoken of only in “hushed tones” to those she truly trusted. In SecondLife she was able to find her true love, Sal, and to experience running down the beach, climbing trees (which were craftily scripted by her love), surfing, and much much more. In fact, her RL mother created an account and logged in for the first time to be part of her wedding to Sal as she wept with tears to see her daughter so happy.

At this point I am filled with sadness and regret that as I moved away from SecondLife I did not do more to stay in contact with her. Although she was often in my thoughts, I didn’t make the time to let her know how much she meant to me. I think that knowing her as I do, she understood my thoughts and feelings about SecondLife and was happy that I found love through SL that I could carry over into RL. She was not the self pitying type, even though she justifiably would have had a lot more reason than most.

Dreamer was loved by many… but in the end no one can speak more eloquently than herself when I quote her poem that she wrote knowing her end was soon:

When I come to the end
of the road,
and the sun has set for me.
I want no rites in a gloom
filled room,
why cry for a soul set free?

Miss me a little –
but not too long
and not with a head
bowed low,
remember the love
that we once shared,
miss me – but let me go.

RIP Dreamer… I look forward to huggles on the beach one day in the future.

Pssst… Alts Are Taking Over The World

Posted in Op/Ed, Parody, Satire, SecondLife® with tags , , , , on October 17, 2010 by hawksrock

I recently had an experience akin to that of the matrix or terminator movie franchises, whereas I uncovered a nefarious plot by not the machines in this case, but by the alts to take over the world.  Luckily we the chosen few have been well trained in special alt SL-ops (or SLops) by some of the best masterminds out there.  I mean if you do not yet understood the new math of 6 degrees of Elexor Matador… then how can you even call yourself a Second Life resident?   I guess for the uninitiated, or simple minded out there…  you might be wondering what the new math is or maybe you slept through that period in SL-algebra?  First read up on the old school math here.   That was sooo  circa 1999.  You see Kevin Bacon was limited by the fact that he was only one person, and therefore was somewhat limited in his capacity to reach out and touch someone.  In the current world, through the power of alting, you  now have the ability to have an exponential impact on those around you.  You are limited only by your own imagination and ability to multitask conversations.  The new math dictates that one in 6 avatars IS Elexor Matador.  So yes… if you have had SLex with at least 6 avatars (a number probably on the low side of average driven up by the number of horndogs out there who seek the truth) then you too have probably gotten a lil blingy penis without even knowing it.

The reality is that the six degrees of Elexor Matador phenomena has just gone viral.  It has recently come to my attention that alting is taking over THE WORLD… well at least social networking which is our LINK to THE WORLD from our basement safehouses.  I will admit that I was taking life easy, enjoying a little sunlight and fresh air for a change, while venturing abroad into that great abyss known as the great outdoors during my self imposed hiatus from SecondLife.  When all of a sudden, boom… my SLops training started tingling and I realized that my 17 year old daughter was falling for the ploys of a Matador initiate.  It started when I noticed a little thing on that link to life Facebook called a “relationship status” change.   It appeared that our daughter was now “in a relationship”, and it wasn’t even “complicated.”  Well, Jellybean and I immediately dusted off our cyber-sleuthing skills and went to work.

A quick backlink trace showed that this initiate was either a bit sloppy or at least pretending to be.  You see it appears that his wall, photos, info, and historical files were all readily accessible.  The first redflag appeared when we checked his date of birth which showed 1989.  I know many of you are still reeling from the SL-algebra above, but I will help you out and explain that this would put his age at 21 years which ranked up there in the “oh hell no” of ages.  Second, it was time to check his wall.   It appears he was speaking in some sort of code or foreign language.  It appeared that all of his status updates were pure gibberish to the uninitiated.

A few examples:

“BE BAK ON SOON TXT ME MMK ! NEMO BE BAK LATR:) FISH GOT SWIM BIRDS GOTTA EAT:) LATA DUDE:)”

“u showd me nuthin but hate but just like thy say, wat comes around gose around…”

“luvin du fuckin life im livin… its like a DREAM…”

At this point the daughter was brought in for questioning.  A few things were brought up such as her moral imperative to be additive to the global gene pool and not to assist with the dumbing down of America.  How was a 21 year old attending high school?  Do they not teach spelling in school any longer? Is this really the best option on the table?  She then dropped the bomb.  You see this facebook account wasn’t a true depiction into the intelligence and moral aptitude of the new relationship.  He just chooses to “act this way on Facebook”.  He put his age in as older so he looks “cooler.”   OMGWTFBBQ!!!   Does he have a blingy penis?  And you better not be able to answer that yet missy, since this is only day two of the new relationship status!

Well needless to say, this sort of put me back on high alert status.  It appears that there is a new push to hide your true identity on Facebook.  People are alting under various guises at various ages and with varying intelligence levels.  They are seeking to infiltrate the very fabric of our social existence.  They are on the lookout to RULE THE WORLD!

Perfect Partnership

Posted in Op/Ed on July 11, 2010 by Daila Holder

Linden Lab’s Second Life Adverts

Posted in Parody with tags , , , , on July 10, 2010 by Prad

I love the Second Life adverts which Linden Lab have come up with. When it’s not some random SLer you’ve never heard of being morphed into a pixellated form, it was an obvious rip off of Avatar. Amazing how IMVU had the exact same idea..

Amazing how the LL vigilantes are cleaning up XStreet SL for anything which vaguely looks like it’s infringing on real world copyrights, but they have no issue when it comes to jumping on the Avatar bandwagon and using such blatant advertising to misleadingly draw people in. Oh, this is the new one, by the way:

Is there a vampire movie coming out or something? I can’t say I’d noticed.

Of course you can be a blue-skinned utopian dreamer, or a glittery pale-skinned bootylicious vampire. Alternatively, Linden Lab can put out more direct adverts which are guarenteed to be much more appealing.

Hey Linden Lab’s Marketing Department – you can have these for free, because I’m feeling generous: