Second Life Enterprise: virtual worlds behind the corporate firewall

Second Life business link terminalHere’s an interesting development in the metaverse – Linden Lab, creators of Second Life, have announced the formal launch of their “Second Life Enterprise” platform, which is essentially a fragmented piece of the virtual world that runs on corporate servers behind the firewall. Private, hermetically-sealed virtual worlds, in other words. [image by Daneel Ariantho]

This is important for two reasons. First of all, it’s a major step in Linden Lab’s attempts to turn a decent profit from Second Life, which it has struggled to achieve with the free-to-use business model of the public version. If they can convince some big players of Second Life’s utility as a collaborative business tool, the subsequent inflow of money might enable them to step up the bug-hunt and fix some of the virtual world’s bigger flaws. IBM have been a presence in SL for some time, as have other big corporations (to whom we can now add the US Army’s Medical Research and Materiel Command branch, who are financing a “therapeutic space” for amputee veterans using SL Enterprise); the potential for the same tools in a more secure environment (e.g. devoid of flying penis barrages, for a start) may entice more money into Linden Lab’s coffers, and open up the field for competition from other virtual worlds. So now’s the time to set up a business making sharp business suits for executive avatars, I guess…

Secondly, the veil of privacy will doubtless encourage experimentation, and should lead to some new and weird ways of interacting with (and creating within) synthetic spaces. After all, you wouldn’t want to go developing your top-secret big-money idea in public where anyone could see (and copy) it, would you? Imagine for a moment that DARPA decided to set themselves up with an SL Enterprise installation… I’d pay a good big bribe to check out the crazy crap they’d have filled it with after a year or so of getting to grips with the interface, that’s for certain.

And, of course, one can’t help but be reminded of the abandoned corporate virtualities featured in William Gibson’s Bridge Trilogy, most particularly Idoru. Like the adandonware websites that already festoon the web, sat on some server somewhere, waiting for a rental agreement between two companies that no longer exist to expire, the metaverse could soon become a multimetaverse, with a few vast virtualities with public access and countless little bubbles of digital existence locked away behind firewalls and restrictive protocols. Urban exploration is a growing trend at the moment, but in a decade or so, the adventurous people will be cracking their way into abandoned corporate and gubernatorial realities to see what they can find lying around… and hell knows some of it will be more interesting than rusty old swivel chairs.

4 thoughts on “Second Life Enterprise: virtual worlds behind the corporate firewall”

  1. I can certainly report that I have experienced abandoned virtual spaces. I’ve seen the death of several MUDs – text-only virtual worlds. People slowly stopped frequenting the place, until only one or two people were left. Several of them went on, continuing operating automatically for years, until they were finally shut down.

    I’ve also seen abandoned Web 2.0 spaces internal to my company – which were put together, used for a few weeks, then left unused for years. The information being exchanged in them was easier to exchange in person…

  2. “it’s a major step in Linden Lab’s attempts to turn a decent profit from Second Life, which it has struggled to achieve with the free-to-use business model of the public version.”

    I’d like to know where you get this information from. AFAIK Linden Labs makes a healthy profit off of the in-world transactions that place in SL. A portion of every dollar that is converted into Lindens is skimmed off and goes right into their pockets, and last I heard their economy numbered in the hundreds of millions of dollars according to their transparency/self-reporting policy.

  3. Hi, FTL; I know that LL has always had a steady income from in-world transactions, but they’ve always been looking for much more than that, and quite understandably – the SL mainland is hideously expensive to run, for example, requiring a lot of hardware and maintenance, and they need to do more than skim the cream off the top of the economy to make it a viable growth business before someone else pips them to the answer and steals the notoriety crown. Or to put it another way, if the status quo was their business model end-game, why didn’t they invest the income more quickly in infrastructure, stability and bug-squashing, enhancing the end-user experience? I posit that it’s because they had bigger fish to fry all along, though I’d be happy to be proved wrong if you have more information.

  4. I’d like to hear, here maybe, what is needed in terms of hardware – to run a single 250m2/15K prims sim. Then I’d like hearing how it can be scaled to, say, 500m2/100K prims, and run on my home desktop. My guess? five years from now. So that basicly means, anyone can run a Second Life server in 6 years, and probably a far stabler, far more versatile, far more diverse SL-analogue server. You;ll have a basic server, but lots of plugins and mods and tweaks (like the bouncing boobies emerald mod – *smirk* or the upcoming emerald “integral adjustable penis” mod coming out in 2 months) … Right now a few millions are playing around with SL clients – what if tens of millions of people are working on it? For example, the *amazing* Kirstens client was made by one single programmer! The potential for improvement is amazing, and is set to accelerate. LL will have problems keeping that in the box, and their client and servers might flee from their hands, people left and right modding, improving and using it and LL not receiving a penny from an emerging billion dollar industry.

    The big breakthroughs will be – gestural interfaces. A steroscopic interface using lean hardware. A far more userfriendly interface (which will happen next year – expect to be surprised). Bigger sims, or sims you can “embed” in bigger spaces (immersion in Google Earth?). Interoperability with other engines. correct physical integration with sketchup models. Absolutely smooth transition from sim to sim, or maybe getting rid of the idea of sims altogether. Augmented Reality SL.

    The endpoint will be private networks with unique physics or services: vatican SL sims versus futanari sims; each locking off connectivity to each other. Space simulation sims. High-detail model sims, allowing far better representation of clothing or consumer products.

    Even now most people don’t have a raging clue how big these markets stand being, and how much they will affect media such as TV or cinema (or music). Or work! With people in SL handling detailed renditions of telepresence spaces – by somehow building up the view from several camera angles in the real world into a 3D image in a specialized SL (have a look at Google BuildingMaker!) – you can have teleworkers controlling/instruction robots, working from the home. This will be very welcome to the real estate markets, and there will be increased demand for far bigger homes, as people work from an office space in their own home. But what will they do with all those offices no longer needed? Bear in mind, this might become an issue emerging in less than ten years! Technology will reach maturation in about five to allow companies to work FAR cheaper than competitors (and consequently, outcompete competitors) by using these virtual tools. How much can a hospital save by using homeworkers ? How much can a security firm save? How much can a real estate agency save ? crowd controllers ? scientists ? educators? … the military ?

    Remember this could be a landslide change to job markets in less than ten years. So my question remains – based on Moore’s Law, how small would a SL server be in ten years from now. If it would plausibly fit on something I can hold in my hand like a phone – then the consequences will be staggering and potentially disruptive.

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