Interview: Philip Rosedale, Founder, Linden Lab


Ravi Kumar S,
President, Infosys,


Philip Rosedale
, Linden

Ravi Kumar 00:13
Hello everyone, my name is Ravi Kumar, President at Infosys. Welcome to this new chapter of
Trailblazers Talk in 2022. This is a great time to connect, a very exciting time for Infosys as we
announce the launch of Infosys metaverse foundry to help enterprises navigate the metaverse by
partnering within them on a discovercreatescale cycle. We will harness the power of a
confluence of technologies, 100+ readytoapply use cases and templates, 3D environments, an
ecosystem of partners, platforms and much more to make it all happen. Infosys, as all of you
know, is deeply invested into training, I would say lifelong training infrastructure. We have the
largest corporate training university in the world. So, we are also making a foray into something
called the metaverse in education and learning and we’re hoping to stay ahead of the curve there.

What a great time to have the special guest today Philip Rosedale, the founder of Linden labs,
the parent company of Second Life, the original metaverse company founded almost 20 years
ago, as an openended internet connected virtual world. Following Second Life, Philip worked on
several projects related to distributed work and computing. Intrigued by the innovations in VR
enabling devices, he reentered the virtual world, cofounding High Fidelity a company devoted to
the future of nextgeneration virtual reality using spatial audio. He rejoined Second Life in 2022,
as a strategic advisor, focused on helping and shaping a better metaverse. Phillip, thank you so
much for joining us today.

You’ve been thinking about the metaverse for almost 20 years. Since you established Second
Life, I know a variety of things happened Roblox, which gave us a virtual gaming universe,
Bitcoin, tokenized currency and an evolving virtual world. Facebook acquired Oculus, to get into
the metaverse. Decentraland is a 3D virtual world browserbased platform. And then we saw the
launch of Fortnite. We had two broad announcements from Facebook and Microsoft. And we are
now stepping into the metaverse with so much curiosity. What do you think has captured the
imagination of tech innovators, businesses and consumers, now than ever before? Is this the
confluence of technologies? Is it the pandemic which created a need for a virtual world for all of
us to interact in? Do we need to be cautious? I’m trying to understand what’s going on.

Philip Rosedale 03:54

Changes that have happening from the time Second Life became widely used. I’d add Minecraft,
looking at how kids have been exploring virtual worlds together. But I think as you said, COVID
has probably been one of the biggest instigators along with Facebook’s most recent claim of the
overall marketspace. COVID has created this situation where we all have had to wonder whether
we’re going to have to use online technology to replace some of our social and entertainment
experiences. And so, I think at a very high level, the industry and the big tech companies are all
trying to figure out, how to participate in something like that in providing online access to social
and entertainment experiences.

Ravi Kumar 04:51

And, and Philip, which industries, sectors or type of companies you think will gain the most from
the metaverse? And do you see a specific opportunity for b2b brands? And how might that evolve?
Where do you think the opportunity is for industries?

Philip Rosedale 05:36

Well, we saw a little bit of this with Second Life in the 2000s. There, I think we saw smart industries
that look at specific vertical applications that take advantage of both virtual worlds and VR, things
like simulation of business training, you know, taking apart the engine of an airplane and being
able to walk through it with a bunch of other people in VR. These are examples that are going to
work today, I think that some of the problems that we have about broadly using virtual world and


VR technology, are around governance. And I think that we will see use of both VR and desktop
technology, by enterprises today, in a way that we did see a little bit of an example in the 2000s.
And I do think the time is right to go beyond Zoom if you will.

Ravi Kumar 06:30

We are toying with this idea of metaverse for education and learning. Do you see the metaverse
playing a significant role in intertwining education and work? We are very excited about that

Philip Rosedale 07:07

It does feel like the combination of remote access obviously, as a fundamental thing that we now
are all embracing as an industry, broadly, the combination of that. And the ability of virtual worlds
to put people face to face in a much more memorable and comfortable way is something that will
drive changes. And I agree with you, I actually think if you look at something like Ready Player
a work of fiction the thing that was left out when they made the movie, in my opinion, was this
implication for education. The very idea was that kids were now going to school from home using
virtual reality. They left that out of the movie, which I found so frustrating because I agree with
you. I think that if we make it much, much easier to do continuing education, for example, or
training, we’re going to disintermediate universities in some regard, you know. I’ve talked to
schools about this and see a really different kind of delivery pipeline for education. And I think as
you say that the key virtual world experience, key technologies that enable that kind of experience
are exactly what’s going to make it possible and a distinctly better experience than what we’re
doing today, mostly with online video conferencing.

Ravi Kumar 08:22

And it’s going to be much more immersive if you could intertwine it with work. The current Internet
in its centralized form, has very imbalanced creative economics. People are upset about data
controls and monetizing attention. In some ways the future will be built on web 3.0 technologies
decentralized ledger. This holds the promise of creating a more equitable balance between
participants and creators with this potentially leading to a participantled economy bridging the
divide. How do you think this economy will shape up? I know you did a little bit of that in Second
Life as well, your economics is not related to advertising and promotional activities, it’s more

Philip Rosedale 09:37

I observe that the internet is still very decentralized for a lot of experiences, for a lot of companies.
When you help a company put a new service or a product online, fundamentally, you know, you’re
generally enabling them to operate in what is still a very decentralized way. But you are right, a
couple of companies, you know, probably most notably, Facebook and Google, have built
business models around being an intermediary that captures a large share of creator content as
it’s delivered to the world through social media. And I do agree with the enthusiasm around fixing
some of that intermediation. But I would note that, it doesn’t apply to the whole internet. Second
Life was a very interesting experiment in an early cryptocurrency that was sort of partly
decentralized and partly centralized. And so, it’s a fascinating kind of case study for the future
right now. And it enabled people to engage in trade in a very fair and open and kind of micro
transaction sort of way. And as you last said, and I’ll repeat it, Second Life is a demonstration that
you can have a great business that doesn’t manipulate behavior or get in the middle of content
creators. And I think those two are sort of the same problem. Second Life is a business based
entirely on fees, transaction fees, and land fees, and therefore, you know, doesn’t get in the way
of the creators and, the company still generates more money per user per year than Facebook
and Google.


Ravi Kumar 11:25
In some ways, the economics model is very different as well, I was wondering whether the
economics pushed you to not grow, or it’s the other way around Facebook has two plus billion
people. And I heard you quoting in one of your interviews, saying that this decision to live in the
digital world is a serious one. And people have to think through how much serious time they would
really spend on this virtual reality. I’m kind of curious to know, is there a learning from your Second
Life experience?

Philip Rosedale 12:14

You are right. When I started Second Life, like a lot of entrepreneurs here in Silicon Valley in the
late 90s, early 2000s, it sort of seemed like everything we could offer people online was a good
thing. Looking back now, more than 20 years later, I think we made some mistakes. There were
certainly reasons to not spend too much time on your phone or on social media or on the internet
overall. And so I think that, it’s a very fair point. And going back to what you said about stabilizing
a million people, I’m pretty sure that Second Life didn’t stabilize because people are not yet ready,
mostly, to engage particularly in social and entertainment experiences online, we still have
fundamental research we need to do. And Second Life is proof of this with its smaller base of
residents, that we still have work to do to make the social and entertainment experience
compelling for people. And as I’ve said before, I’m not even sure that’s a bad thing. I think, as you
started to say, we should be very cautious about how we spend our time and why we’re online
and what we’re doing when we’re there.

Ravi Kumar 13:30

In fact, there’s interesting research stats last year said that, at an average 46% of the people
use five to six hours on the phone and I’m one of them. We’ve got the point because there was
more cocreation and coinnovation by communities around the phone ecosystem, the iPhone
ecosystem. Do you see a similar evolution happening in virtual spaces? Tell us a little bit about
how that can be evangelized?

Philip Rosedale 14:24

Well, first of all, I would say that the as you say, Second Life started right at the beginning of the
smartphone revolution, we missed the smartphone like Facebook and all the other companies
that started right there in the early 2000s, when the iPhone came out in 2007. So, I think that we
all learned a lot from that moment on the smartphone and of course, the smartphone is a dominant
way that people worldwide access the internet, but the smartphone is a difficult way to be really
immersed, particularly in an entertainment or social experience. It’s much more approachable for
things like industrial applications, training, you know, things where you’re very purposeful. But the
the smartphone is a difficult way to be immersed. And so I think that’s going to set back progress
a little bit as we go toward these metaversestyle three dimensional environments. But I think the
important thing here to think about is not so much the technology or the devices through which
we access the internet, but more what we’re doing when we’re there. And I think the thing that
we’re at risk as a species right now is reducing trust and intimate communication between people.
I think that one of the problems, largely unintentional, of the internet, is that product designers
have succeeded in separating people from each other where we thought we would have brought
everybody together. So, I think that it’s important to build these metaverse worlds as we become
three dimensional as we start to have these live experiences with a focus on giving people the
same quality and trust building and collaborative opportunity as they have when face to face with
each other, as we have in real life as much as we possibly can.

Ravi Kumar 16:17


I’m hopeful that web 3.0 technologies, which will be the underpinnings of the metaverse will create
that trust on the internet. And hopefully we transition from an economy which is very attention
seeking to an economy which is value driven. On one side we have digital fatigue and digital
minimalism as people call it from this immersive hyperconnected virtual world. Why then do we
need to be on the metaverse? Is this an opportunity to create like an alternate world, where you
find it more satisfying, more level playing, more inclusion, and a reset of the digital divide we have

Philip Rosedale 17:13

And now I’d say a couple things about that. One is, remote work. And I’m sure that your company
is on the frontlines of this with your customers. I fear as we go back from a fully remote situation,
which is dominating during COVID, to a hybrid environment where we have multiple people in a
meeting room, and then multiple people that are trying to join that meeting from remote, I think
that is both a tremendous problem and an opportunity for innovation. I don’t think we have nearly
any of the solutions yet for that. And then, you know, I think as regards digital fatigue, you know,
we spent a ton of time so far at High Fidelity looking at things like spatial audio, and also kind of
what’s wrong with video conferencing, you know, and a lot of that fatigue are these problems that
result from having a lot of faces looking at you or seemingly looking at you. And it doesn’t happen
as much in a one on one conversation like we’re having, but it does happen in a group
conversation, maybe it goes up even non linearly as you increase the number of people in the
room. So I think that there’s a positive opportunity to give people a more relaxing, less fatiguing
experience, say as avatars in virtual spaces and address some of the research and the problem
that you’re talking about.

Ravi Kumar 18:49

I think working all remote is relatively easy. Working physical of course, we’re used to. Hybrid is
harder, because you just need to create an equality of experience between the physical and virtual
worlds. What are the biggest challenges for experimenting with the metaverse for companies that
are intrigued by it, but don’t know where to start with? The use cases are not very mature. What
should companies be thinking about if they want to start this journey?

Philip Rosedale 19:32

I talk about this a lot as it relates to broad uses of the metaverse. But you know, people like to try
things like VR headsets, for example. And even virtual worlds with avatars, they’ll try it one time,
and they’ll never come back again. But they’ll actually report the experience as being a positive
one, which is actually a fascinating finding in product development. But what I would say for you,
for your customers is to think about starting small with a very specific use case, getting it working,
and then being very particular about post testing, that people prefer it to, say a video conferencing
equivalent or to whatever they were doing before, and really being thorough about that user study.
Because it’s easy to be mistaken and believe that you have something working, that is fatiguing
or, or has too high a transaction cost, you know, putting the headset on or whatever, and ultimately
doesn’t get used. We’ve seen a lot of that on the consumer side. And I think you’re going to see
the same thing on the enterprise side as people try to build solutions.

Ravi Kumar 20:37

We know that the real metaverse is years away. When do you see the metaverse evolving to a
general purpose, population grade technology or a general purpose population grade platform
scale? What do you see are the technology advances which are critical for the evolution of the
metaverse in the future?

Philip Rosedale 21:39


We’ve got the hardware that we’re going to use. So there’s the virtual world and metaverse
technology deployed to the desktop. And then there’s the second stage technology deployed on
either AR VR goggles. Let me talk about the AR and VR goggles. I think they’re ways out farther
than people think. Except for industrial applications, like simulation and training, which we touched
on earlier for entertainment and casual use business meetings, live events and things like that. I
think the VR headsets and AR devices are more than five years out at this point. The reason for
that is that there’s just critical work such as weight, just comfort, the feeling of being blindfolded
in the real world that are very difficult physical problems to address in the hardware. So, I think
we’re far out there. If you bring it in closer, though, to say, the desktop devices, desktop and
smartphone will dominate us over the next five years. The challenges there, as you say, to get
from the hype stage to really, really heavy usage are related to I think two areas. One is the nature
of the avatar, we have to build a virtual person that is comfortable enough for a regular say
business person to come to a meeting wearing they have to be comfortable being an avatar. I
think we’re close on that but we’re not quite there but there’s a lot of good evidence in the
marketplace. You know techniques like epics, meta humans, and you know, there’s bunches of
bits of examples coming out that show us the way there. But I think over the next five years, the
first area is the quality of the Avatar that’s going to have to get a good deal better to get the
average person to come to a meeting. The second thing is getting a lot of people in one place.
This is partly what we’ve worked on with High Fidelity and audio. Many human experiences as
we know our experiences where there’s say more than 100 people in attendance, you know,
whether you’re talking about a freshman college class, or a music event, or almost any kind of
entertainment experience, you’ve typically got a lot of people standing around, and the technology
needs to get there to enable lots of people in one place. The examples we’ve seen over the last
couple of years have been toy examples that typically have a dozen people in one place. Second
Life got about 100 people in one place, but barely. High Fidelity has done some tests with 500
people in one place wearing VR headsets. But in any case, we’ve got to get to the kind of audience
size that you would say, have visiting a website. And we’re not quite there yet. And so, I think the
next five years are going to be critical to see Avatar improvements at scale.

Ravi Kumar 24:20

Phillip, do you see interoperability between different metaverse is in the future?

Philip Rosedale 24:32

There’s going to have to be some interest. But I think the ways we’re talking about it today don’t
really make a lot of sense. Today, people are talking about, say, wearing the same tennis shoes
between two or three different video games. But I don’t think that’s very likely to happen because
game are by design their own universes, they have a holistic quality to them, which is implicit in
the design of them and then in their appeal. So, I think the conversation about how we drive a car
from Fortnite into Among Us or something like that is kind of a silly conversation. But the business
conversation, on the other hand, about how you might come to a business meeting, wearing a
suit that you bought, is a very important one. And I think it’s there that we will see some
interoperability standards continue to develop. I mean, there are early fledgling efforts around that
right now. But I do think, once we have business use cases that are real, we’re definitely going to
have content interoperability that will fall out of that. And I think the network effects will drive it to
happen as producers want to have their content accessible on more platforms.

Ravi Kumar 25:35

So well said, the metaverse will have a network effect. You know, I actually wish that the next
time you and I talk to our audiences, we will do this conversation in the metaverse.

Philip Rosedale 25:55


Thank you very much for having me. It was great.


Have A Great Week From All Of Us At Zoha Islands/Fruit Islands