Philip Rosedale: Mainstreaming Virtual Worlds and Positioning Linden Lab
Robert Bloomfield from Metanomics recently sat down with Philip Rosedale to chew the cud over several of the live issues facing both Linden Lab and the virtual worlds sector as a whole. Robert has asked me to comment on a specific extract from the interview relating to Mainstreaming Virtual Worlds and Positioning Linden Lab. Here’s the extract with my thoughts/comments in stages:
PR: By the way, I think the requirement for a software download, a standalone executable, which is true with every product thats out there right now other than the most simplistic like 2D virtual worlds, like Habbo Hotel or something like that, the requirement that you install and run a piece of standalone software, that requirement probably has a greater impact on the acquisition rate of new users than any other factor. And, unfortunately, until were bundled with the operating system in some way, its really hard.
When the browser came out, you had to download the browser. Ultimately it got bundled initially into Windows 95. No, Im sorry it wasnt even Windows 95. It would have been Windows 2000 that had it. IE came out when you first got a browser in the operating system. But the requirement for the browser was a hard requirement. You had to get a new five megabyte or so application onto your computer, and that slowed down the adoption. But there are these changes in technology that I think are required to create the kind of experience that is, like Steve Jobs said, good enough to criticize. And you got to download an application to do that, and that slows things down right now, and I think itll continue to slow things down for a while.
So, I think downloading clients as opposed to browser access does slow-down adoption of the early-majority group. But, what are the current alternatives at present? However, I would counter that by saying that innovator and early majority groups have less of an issue with client downloads and typically you need to go through the adoption curve in stages anyway in order to stimulate late comers. Other take on this is demand – if a really compelling virtual world product comes out and has a massive download then that’s the route you have to take.
Analogy: Does the really long flight to Australia from the UK mean fewer people are inclined to visit Oz? And/or, does the fact that its a long flight mean that people stay longer when they’re there?
PR: You know, theres an adoption cycle around graphics hardware. PC adoption cycles are pretty fast. It depends on what part of the world youre talking about, but theyre typically less than two years, a year to two years. And I think that were still waiting through laptops being powerful enough to really put you into an immersive graphical environment.
Again, you can argue that you dont need 3D graphics to create this kind of experience, but I actually think thats not true. I think that there is a fundamental need for the 3D environment because its the one that matches our mental framing of things so well and makes this all so both engaging and easy once youre in. So basically I think we still have to wait, particularly on laptops and lowend laptops, we have to wait probably a couple years more to be in that situation where you absolutely know that everybody, whatever laptop is in their backpack, itll run Second Life just fine.
And, again, I dont think theres a magic solution in that interim timeframe that says, Oh, well, we dont need 3D graphics, or, Heres a really neat way to do 3D graphics in the browser, or something like that. I tell you, those solutions that theyre just not going to work. Look at modern video games. You have to have the full power of the graphics hardware there, and I dont think theres a way around that, and I dont think well need to wait too long for that to happen.
I’m a big fan of 3D. I’m also a big fan of 2.5D. It’s basically horses for courses. As a aside, a lot of first time users of 2.5D virtual worlds just think/describe it as 3D anyway. The bottom line here is that an improvement in graphics cards will fundamentally make the experience better for users. I draw from a recent personal experience. I’ve just bought a 42″ HD TV specifically toutilizethe graphics from my PS3. I’m a lot happier because now with COD4 I can shoot people from a lot further away.
WI-FI. A DOUBLED-EDGED SWORD
PR:But I remember in the early days of the company, the rise of WiFi, which was actually a fascinating phenomenon to watch. In about 2001, it just really took off. It was problematic for me because it encouraged the use of laptops. And when I started the company in 99, it was based on the prediction that desktop computers would by, say, 2002 or 2003, which is when we formally launched, that they would have the graphics hardware that you needed to run Second Life. A fact which turned out to be true, but I didnt think about WiFi. You do your best as a futurist. But everybody started using these laptops, and many laptops still dont adequately run Second Life.
Continue reading →