Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Linden Lab & Second Life 2007 Wrapup - By Tatero Neru in Massively

"It's been no less a tumultuous year for Second Life in 2007 this year than any previous year, frankly. There are a few standout items though. This isn't the list that anyone else might make - We might completely skip over one of the things you see as standing out as a huge impact, based solely on that we don't actually think it was that big a deal in the scheme of things. Be careful what you wish for; Users spent 2005 and 2006 begging Linden Lab to start behaving like a business. In 2007, Linden Lab certainly did that. Pretty much all the key items for 2007 flow on from a shift towards acting-as-a-business. However Linden Lab may function internally, from the outside there's not much to distinguish them from many public corporations these days. After the 2006 accusations of Linden Lab signaling imminent rate rises for Class 5 servers to a limited number of people, Linden Lab responded to complaints of such leaks by essentially switching to a policy of zero warning, and little or no community consultation on fiscal or policy matters in 2007, much as Philip Rosedale foreshadowed when discussing the matter in interviews towards the end of 2006.
Like any company accused of insider dealings, Linden Lab shut down all advance notification of major changes until things seem to be set in stone.

Profitability - Linden Lab became profitable in 2007. We haven't heard that they have become otherwise in the meantime. From all external observations and statements it seems that they are eating up all the profits in extra staffing, expanding as fast as the money will allow. A tiny piece of one investor's share in Linden Lab sold for somewhere near 500 million US dollars. If you read techcrunch you might think that was 10% of Linden Lab - that is not the case. It was 10% of one shareholder's portion - considerably less than 10% of the total.

Expansion -Linden Lab opened offices all over the place. Right now, Linden Lab have offices in Boston, Seattle, Mountain View (CA), and San Francisco. Did you know that Linden Lab has an office in Japan now (see update below)? Managed by one Jun Doi, this office crept in silently in late 2007, only given away by the new map on Linden Lab's website, which prompted us to ask about it. Getting answers is tricky, and getting them at this time of year is trickier still - we'll let you know more about that when we know more. [Update: LewisPR apparently led us a little astray on this one: "It's true, Linden Lab has opened an office in Japan," apparently actually means, "No, we've just got a single employee there"] There's a suspicious orange dot in South Korea as well, but the Beijing office is unmarked. We don't know if that's an error on the map or not. [Update: Likewise, RTMAsia's presence in Beijing does not constitute a Linden Lab office either, despite reports to the contrary. The people there are, instead, helping Linden Lab evaluate if a strategy specific to China makes sense or not. Robin Harper says, "Linden Lab is constantly evaluating new markets and opportunities. Given the high broadband penetration and active Internet user base in China, it makes sense for us to consider a potential presence in that market." - and it does; as well as weighing up the potential barriers and any flaming hoops that have to be jumped through. Likewise, the dot in South Korea appears to be spurious.]

Departures - CTO and co-founder, Cory Ondrejka left Linden Lab in December - though it is certainly not the last we'll hear from him. Differing styles when it comes to internal management of the company has been cited by other parties. Previously, we've seen some accommodation or compromise between two distinct styles. In 2008, one of those will come to dominate. We don't know what those styles are, or which one is the winner. Daniel Linden also departed. A victim, we think, of the users' shoot-the-messenger strategy. As with 2006, there were a lot of new hires, and a lot of departures." More here;

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