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Editor's take: Second Life founder Philip Rosedale is returning to Linden Lab to help navigate the company and its groundbreaking virtual world through the modern metaverse push. It’d be quite remarkable if Second Life could find its second wind, or at the very least, if Linden Lab could use what it has learned in the digital socialization arena to build a VR-based successor to Second Life. They’ve tried once already with Sansar, but ultimately sold off the project in 2020.
Rosedale’s social virtual reality company High Fidelity has acquired an interest in Linden Lab, which is said to include a cash investment and distributed computing patents. Some of High Fidelity’s employees will be joining Linden Lab as well, and Rosedale is also rejoining Second Life as a strategic advisor.
Second Life launched in 2003 as an online virtual world where players, depicted as avatars, create a “second life” for themselves. It's not really a game as there are no set objectives or "manufactured conflict," but more of a virtual space where you can do whatever makes you happy.
Growth was strong in the early years and by 2013, some 36 million accounts had been created with a million users logging in monthly. In May 2020, Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg said the Second Life community had about 900,000 active users monthly.
Big tech has since jumped on the metaverse bandwagon, but not everyone is convinced they’re capable of getting it right.
“No one has come close to building a virtual world like Second Life,” said Rosedale. “Big tech giving away VR headsets and building a metaverse on their ad-driven, behavior-modification platforms isn’t going to create a magical, single digital utopia for everyone,” he said, adding that virtual worlds don’t need to be dystopias.