Take a look at what Ebbe had to say. I’ve cut and pasted his responses here and have not edited or altered them in any manner. Many, many thanks to Linden Labs staffer Peter Gray for facilitating this interview.
Suzanne: What do you see as your biggest challenge in the next 12 months?
Ebbe: Overall, our biggest challenge is with ease-of-use. Second Life is incredibly powerful and complex – it’s a 3D object creation tool, a communication platform, a user-to-user marketplace, and much more, all in one – and making it truly easy to use is a massive challenge and an area we need to improve in order to take virtual worlds to the next level.
Suzanne: How do you plan to address the ongoing problem of copybotting and content theft in Second Life?
Ebbe: Creators are essential to Second Life, and we want to do everything we can to support them and help them to be successful. The fact that users can profit from their creativity is part of what makes our virtual world unique, and we’re continually looking for ways to thwart those who copy and steal content while keeping it easy for users to create and profit from their unique creations.
Suzanne: This is a four-part question about mainland:
a)What are your plans for the Mainland? Will more mainland be offered, developed or expanded upon?
Ebbe: There are currently no plans to expand the Mainland, but we are always looking at our current offerings and making small developed areas to enhance the Mainland experience.
b) Would Linden Labs ever consider allowing landowners to drop a sim in the sailable water on Blake Sea? Currently our problem with providing sailable waters is that we have to sink a sim in order to do so, which is quite expensive as we cannot rent out that land and simply becomes an expense.
Ebbe: We’re not looking at expanding the Blake Sea, which is currently composed of fully sailable regions. If you’re interested in providing water space around your region, we do offer low-cost alternatives to Full Regions and Homestead Regions, called Openspaces that could be used for this.
c) How are the Linden homes working? Are people using them and liking them? Are there any plans to expand them?
Ebbe: Linden Homes are a very popular product, and an account benefit that our Premium Subscribers enjoy – they are always near full-occupancy. We currently do not have any plans expand them, but we are working on an update to the product for the near future, which will enhance the home models, and bring them up-to-date with today’s content creation standards.
d) Why does the mainland not allow terraforming?
Ebbe: Actually, the Mainland does allow terraforming. Most Mainland regions have the ability to be terraformed to +/- 4m, and this restriction is a product feature difference between our Mainland and Private Island region products.
Suzanne: Does Linden Labs plan on any pricing structure changes for privately purchased sims?
Ebbe: We have no plans about this that we could share at this time.
Suzanne: What, if anything, does Linden Labs have planned to help strengthen the economy in SL, and assist businesses in gaining a foothold in SL?
Ebbe: We’ll certainly strive to maintain the amazing strength of our vibrant economy. Today, Second Life has the strongest and largest virtual economy based on user-to-user transactions in the world: the price of Linden dollars has been very stable, tens of millions of dollars have been paid out to users, there are more than a million transactions between users every day, and right now, creators are selling more than three million virtual items on the Marketplace. Starting a successful business – in the physical world or the virtual one – isn’t always an easy endeavor, but there are no shortage of opportunities or success stories in Second Life today, and that absolutely will continue in the future as well.
Suzanne: We feel that the search feature in SL needs serious improvement. In order for residents to find businesses in SL, they must use search. Is Linden Labs working on improving that?
Ebbe: Yes. We completely agree that search is in need of improvement, and we’re putting in some work to do just that.
Suzanne: One of the biggest concerns to business owners and land owners in SL is keeping people in SL. What plans, if any, does Linden Labs have for partnering with Philip Rosenberg and High Fidelity? It would be a huge draw to SL if we could embrace the oculus rift and the ability to have immersive experience in SL.
Ebbe: We have a good relationship with Philip Rosedale and the High Fidelity team and we expect that to continue, but there are no real plans to establish a partnership at this time.
As we said in our blog post about integrating the Oculus Rift with Second Life, we’ve been very happy to see all the recent activity and interest in the virtual reality space – it’s a sign of progress and innovation in the industry and helps validate the space Second Life has led for more than 10 years. Developments like the Oculus Rift hold great potential for Second Life, and we’re very excited to bring the virtual world into the future with new technologies and partners. We have already embraced and integrated the Oculus Rift in a Project Viewer available to everyone now, and we plan to continue to support relevant new technology as it progresses.
Suzanne: If there a plan for structuring the real estate in SL along the lines of creating a central grid, where you could go from one world to another, such as from High Fidelity to SL using Oculus Rift?
Ebbe: Our focus is on making Second Life the absolute best it can be and bringing the greatest value to our customers, not on building things like the ability to teleport your Second Life avatar to a separate platform.
Suzanne: Does Linden Labs have any plans to offer different real estate sim configurations, such as a “party sim” that could hold up to 400 avatars for instance, or have a sim that is between a full prim sim and a homestead sim (7,500 prims)?
Ebbe: No, we don’t have any plans to offer regions like this that we could share at this time.
Suzanne: Real estate owners are the number one business in SL right now. Would LL be willing to bring back the Land Expos? In the past, these expos were a huge event spread over 10 sims for 7 to 8 days, and is a wonderful opportunity for estate owners to get together and kibbutz. It would be a wonderful opportunity to have Linden Lab staffers attend and really get to know SL estate owners and help improve communication and create a dialogue.
Ebbe: We’re certainly happy to support and help promote community events and meetings – and to participate as appropriate – but this sounds like an initiative that would be best organized and hosted by estate owners, rather than Linden Lab.
Suzanne: In addressing communication, estate owners feel that there is a lack of communication and that the case workers at Linden Labs aren’t listening to their concerns. Are you aware of this problem and how can estate owners help facilitate a better exchange of ideas with Linden Labs?
Ebbe: Improving our communications with our customers and community at large has been one of my early goals since joining the company, and we’ve made significant strides in that regard. We’ll always be open to listening to concerns and ideas – in addition to direct conversations, meetings, emails, we keep an eye on discussions in blogs, forums, other social media, JIRA, for example – and we’re working to be as proactive and transparent in our communication with our customers as we can be.
Suzanne: Linden Labs currently does not provide support 24/7, and there is a gap between midnight and 8am SLT that is a “dead zone.” Since SL is 24 hours, and we have many clients and customers around the world that are only online during that time, this creates a huge problem for us in helping our customers and clients get their issues resolved. Does Linden Labs have any plans to bring back 24 hour support?
Ebbe: It sounds like you’re referring to our Concierge-level support, which does have a gap in shifts between 12am and 7am PT/SLT. However, we do currently offer live support for billing and basic assistance around the clock, and even during the hours that the Concierge team is unavailable, you should still be able to reach a live agent by phone or chat.
Suzanne: Will Linden Labs consider bringing back the community gateways, to help drive noob traffic to the estates and businesses?
Ebbe: I’m not ready to make a commitment saying we’ll bring back the community gateways program, but we would certainly consider an approach like it. I like the idea of empowering users themselves to bring in new Second Life users and help them get started inworld, as opposed to Linden Lab being the sole source of new users and pushing them all through our own registration and initial experience ‘funnel.’ The challenge is to do this in a way that’s scalable and makes the best use of our resources – i.e. provides a consistently high quality experience to new users, adds significant value for us and our customers, etc.
Suzanne: I know that Education and Nonprofits are going to start getting special pricing once again, to encourage virtual education. How can businesses like ZoHa Islands get involved with encouraging the influx of education and nonprofit organizations, and getting them started in-world?
Ebbe: The educational and nonprofit discount was actually reinstated and expanded last July, and we’re happy to see organizations like these continue to see great value in using Second Life. We don’t currently have a program to refer organizations that apply for the discount to particular businesses in Second Life, but certainly want to make it easy for inworld businesses to connect with prospective customers of all kinds.
Suzanne: Jump forward six years. What does SL look like in 2020?
Ebbe: In 2020, the virtual world will be incredibly immersive, and you’ll truly feel a realistic sense of presence as you explore and interact inworld. You’ll be able to participate across all kinds of devices, including tablets and mobile devices, laptops and PCs, virtual reality headsets like the Oculus Rift. Creators – from hobbyists to professionals – will be making an ever-more-diverse range of rich content and experiences that will be easily accessed and enjoyed by a massive global audience. Some of the experiences, creations, and uses of the virtual world will likely include very advanced and extremely high-quality versions of the kinds of things enjoyed in Second Life today, but I expect new uses will also emerge. The virtual economy will be operating at a scale many times what it is today, and we’ll see new records set for the profits that people earn from their virtual creations.
Once again, thank you, Ebbe Altberg, for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer my questions. I appreciate the time and effort very much.
I remain respectfully yours,
~ Suzanne Piers, ZI Social Media Manager