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Farewell, Avatars United

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Jack.Linden

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Today, is a bittersweet day. As planned, we have taken down the Avatars United site, as outlined in last week’s blog post. The Avatars United website now points to the main Second Life homepage.

Although many are sad to see Avatars United go, we are very excited that soon we'll be sharing more of our thinking as we explore how to integrate social networking capabilities, powered by Avatars United technology, directly into the Second Life experience. We want to make it even faster, easier, and more fun to find friends, build vibrant communities, and share the richness of Second Life.

For Avatars United members, we hope that you’ve taken advantage of the past week to save any pieces of content that you wanted to keep. And, if you have an account balance, then yesterday you should have received an email regarding your AU Coin refund. Expect another email later this week with more specifics on your individual account.

As I stated before, a big thanks to all Avatars United members and we encourage you to reestablish your connection with friends--and find new ones--in Second Life. See you there soon!

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And not even one fake crocodile tear of remorse for eliminating the site for the many AU users that were in no way interested in Second Life? Nothing at all to say to the people whose AU experience was not related to Second Life, before or after you bought their site, and raided it for technology, and then shut it down?

I'm sure all those WOW and Eve Online and Harry Potter Online and other game enthusiasts that were the majority of users on AU before LL bought it, and probably remained the in majority up until you shut it down, will have fond thoughts for Second Life and Linden Lab.

I agree that LL shouldn't be running AU. But you really should have sold it to someone willing to maintain it for the non-SL AU customers, that you just left out in the cold.

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i totally agree with your comment. i used AU for more than just SL and i'm really disappointed that it was just dropped like this. i can't have an sl facebook because facebook has a policy against "fake people" so AU was my replacement for that. sure it was annoying when people would add you without even bothering to speak to you but it was a place where you could connect with others.

thankfully there are other sl profile sites, which i shall not name here for fear that LL purchases and closes them down as well, but it sucks for the gamers who were in more than just SL.

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I think I have to agree with Ceera. While shutting AU down might make sense from a business management perspective, it doesn't seem to be the right thing to do, morally. I like Second Life, but I can understand well those who don't. AU enabled people from different VWs and games to connect, indiscriminately of their (non)connection to Second Life. Asking all its members to now join Second Life is somewhat impertinent.

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I dont as a rule grumble but i would totally agree with you and this was so much more than Second Life. There was only a sudden influx of Second Lifers when us residents saw the blog about it. Its all well and good them closing it down but they have left other gaming communities high and dry. Are LL going to publibly apologise on there forums for destroying something they created before LL moved in?. Why try to fix what aint broken and fix what is broken first.

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Absolutely Ceera.  If money was LL's issue, then LL should have SOLD the AU site to anybody, anywhere.  That would have made LL something green to put in the bank and avoided bad press.  Instead LL chose to lose all their money, downgrade the other AU users' attitudes about SL from "uninterested" to "Actively Loathe", get tons and tons of bad word of mouth on every other gaming forum on the big wide net, and become a laughing stock in the business world for it's serious case of Corporate Attention Deficit Disorder.

And then LL wonders why nobody takes SL seriously for any serious applications.

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I am interested in the potential that this technology aquisition brings to the future of SL. Web based profiles, web based groups, friends lists, and possibly web based messaging as well. A lot of these services, in their inworld forms, have been atrociously limiting in the past. How LL will implement this technology, we shall see. Will it be little more than the web-based profiles we have now? Or will it be something more-akin to facebook or myspace?

This move definitely does suck for AU users. I know that I found out about AU through Star Trek Online.. and was fairly intrigued at the idea then. But at the same time, nothing is stopping anyone from taking the AU concept, and starting over again. Be it something as simple as a PHP-based forum site, or something a bit more custom made.. there are social-networking solutions built on the wordpress platform, as well as many others. It wouldn't take an enterprising individual long to put something like AU together, at least in a rudimentary form.

This is, unfortunately, the way mergers and aquisitions go. Sometimes the buyer buys the site/service/company with the goal of profiting from the purchase (XStreetSL).. sometimes the buyer buys the site/service/company to close down competition(OnRez), and sometimes the buyer buys the site/service/company to gain access to it's secret workings, with no interest in the actual service itself(AvatarsUnited/Windlight). I'm sure that the guys at Enemy Unknown were given a choice as to whether to share their secrets for a price, or to be bought out entirely.. THEY made the choice to sell.. and I hope they got a fair price.

Do I hope that someone stirs up a new AU-type site? definitely. I think there's a market for such a service.. though Valve's flagship community-portal-thingy "Steam" is really the frontrunner there. But there's plenty of room for healthy competition in the "multi-service social network for gamers" arena. Obviously LL just wanted the facebookish tech behind AU.. Their goal is a "facebook for SL" it seems.. so they probably won't even be competing in that multi-service field.

 

Eclectic Randomness
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Jack, just what have you done for those other virtual world communities? Seriously, be honest; if you've done nothing, please come out and say "We've done nothing." If you're not planning on doing anything for those communities, find the testicular fortitude to stand up and say "we're not planning on doing any more for any other virtual world communities." Just so those communities can get a better idea of how they're expected to be treated when they do magically decide to ditch their Warcraft-fuelled world and jump ship to Second Life, as you're expecting.

And also, let's straighten this up too: the Tweet you made to link to this post said "Hello to cool new networking technologies in Second Life" - please delete that Tweet and rephrase it to read something a bit more accurate. Something along the lines of "Hello to recycled technology that we purchased from someone else." Stop using the word cool. Nothing Linden Lab does is 'cool' any more.

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There does seem to have been a missed opportunity here, especially when you consider that Facebook doesn't allow avatars and the big furore when Blizzard talk of putting real names on their forums, never mind that plenty of people in Second Life are aghast at the idea of any sort of real name capabilities.

However a business decision has been made, some folks will be disappointed and those not associated with Second Life won't have the best impression of Linden Lab.

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I am interested in the potential that this technology aquisition brings to the future of SL. Web based profiles, web based groups, friends lists, and possibly web based messaging as well. A lot of these services, in their inworld forms, have been atrociously limiting in the past. How LL will implement this technology, we shall see. Will it be little more than the web-based profiles we have now? Or will it be something more-akin to facebook or myspace

Facebook for SL users on the SL website with tight integration into the client would be my guess. The push seems very much to be on moving things out of the world and onto websites.

Search has been downgraded to fit the new vision, SLM is now touted as the premier place to shop in SL (as oppose to shopping in SL which is half the point for many of us). How long before profiles vanish from the viewer only to be replaced with a web page and some mini social networking mess on the SL website. Next up, the map perhaps, group management, estate tools .. Picky users don't like the client so lets dumb it down as much as we can?

Can't help but feel if half the lab stopped peeking over the fence at facebook and imvu we would have a better product. (oh .. and maybe if they stopped sacking people in the same paragraph as congratulating them on their invaluable hard work).

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Congrats on the Tech, LL.. but as for how it was handled, i'm not so keen there.

I cannot fathom why the Lab chose to just close down AU instead of selling it to someone. It really shines a negative light on LL as a whole, especially to non-SLers. I imagine they're trying to fathom the same thing i am.

I don't know if all of the information is still saved somewhere, but i hope it is. If so, please... PLEASE.. reconsider the closure and think about selling it to someone who can keep the inter-gaming community alive. If for no other reason than to save face.

I don't like it, but this makes LL seem like they don't care about anyone. From an outside viewpoint, Linden Lab has just stomped on that site like Godzilla did to Bambi. Then, the way the news is delivered and then the invitation to come join SL seems a bit too light-hearted, in my opinion. It seems all wrong. I may have thought some decisions could have been handled better, but this one feels morally out of place for you guys.

 

Jack, none of this is really directed at you personally. This is commentary on LL as a whole, but more directly towards all of those who make the ultimate decisions.

 

ETA - I originally came to AU through City of Heroes. Adding my SL info was just an aside at the time, kind of a "why not" thing. Granted, i barely ever used the site anyway.. but still, thought i'd add that bit of knowledge.

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So the Lab is excited - and the users of other MMORPGs that used it are sad.  You messed up big time with AU - shouldn't have bought it, and shouldn't have closed it!

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Well said, it is a bit of a PR disaster for Linden Lab how they've handled this, I'm disappointed to see how this has panned out, whereas I understand the business perspective, there is a market for this sort of site, that's why it was there in the first place.

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Well said, it is a bit of a PR disaster for Linden Lab how they've handled this, I'm disappointed to see how this has panned out ...

Yes, because nothing says you care then declaring the sites closure as 'bittersweet' and following up with how excited you are its gone.

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As others have mentioned here, my personal opinion of this matter is that Linden Lab has acted irresponsibly and inexcusably in this matter.   If you couldn't manage and support AU, you should not have aquired it in the first place.  Once finding it did not benefit your company, you had the option of selling it or even giving it away to responsible parties.

 

Not the first time we've seen LL pull this stunt.  Your company purchased OnRes -- an excellent virtual market with a very good free networked vending system -- only to immediately shut it down.   You could have left it open for the benefit of those merchants that chose to use it.   But no consideration was given to the needs of others; as always Linden Lab had its agenda and detrimental consequences to customers be hanged.

 

I didnt' use AU for one reason and one reason only:  Linden Lab was in charge of it.  I felt from the beginning this was a dead-end endeavor and decided to not waste my time on such nonsense.  If LL had proved itself in the past to be reliable, responsible, and to take the overall welfare of its customers into consideration, I may have felt differently.  But as it was, I knew how LL operates, the future of AU was pretty predictable, and I had better things to do.

 

So... just stating my opinion here.  I believe this remourseless blog is basically for the purpose to allow people to vent, ignore such, and move ever onward, "staying the path".  And so Linden Lab alienates yet again thousands more customers... and makes their company just that much less desirable and that much less trustworthy to its users.   You could have handled this differently; you chose not to do so.

 

Open question to Linden Lab:  how long do you think you can get away with the constant self-focused, abusive decision making before customers will decide they've had enough?  Is Linden Lab totally unaware of the negative signs... or perhaps in denial?  A company that abuses its customers, loses its customers.  How many times will we have to say this before it sinks in?

 

Our group is closing down a sim on SL.  We have 8 sims on another grid with a 9th on the way, and have made the decision we will invest no further in additional SL lands, period.   So Linden Lab, you are in position to make whatever decisions you want.  Go ahead.  But you have to know whatever decisions you make will bring consequences... good or bad... depending on the nature of those decisions.  Just a word of caution from a long-time user.   You will not continue in this current course without severe consequence.

 

(BTW, when Ning changed their user policies, they gave their members 6 months to back up their files-- which in my case was quite extensive.  You gave people one week?  That is just seriously, bullheadedly wrong.)

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we encourage you to reestablish your connection with friends--and find new ones--in Second Life.

A decidely peculiar way of encouraging people, by abruptly destroying their existing content and community, but at least they're getting an honest preview of the sort of stability and respect Linden Lab provides its customers before they sign onto the roller coaster.

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Sedary:   we encourage you to reestablish your connection with friends--and find new ones--in Second Life.  A decidely peculiar way of encouraging people, by abruptly destroying their existing content and community,

 

I have to agree.  Linden Lab callously destroys one social structure, then encourages people to come use another?  I wonder how long before they decide to callously shut down Second Life.

This company strikes me very much as the type to "take the money and run".  When that day comes, I think they will surely have no consideration for their customers or our investments.

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As someone who's an SL resident as well as an Eve Online player I have to say that this is a very bad move PR-wise and a slap in the face to all those from other MMOs who had no connection to SL. I'm just glad that I didn't talk AU up to all my Eve buddies or they'd be hunting me down and blowing me up by now.

Just curious LL; how many times do you think you can announce some new shiny initiative, roll it out half baked, let it languish, then ultimately shut it down before people no longer take anything you announce seriously? Once bitten twice shy as the old saying goes...

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Nice work Jack and team...

There was a multitude of people who used that site from the World of Warcraft community, including some VERY big guilds who used AU as a means of communication.  Linden Labs and Second Life is now more loathed than ever within World of Warcraft's larger guilds, the same "big money spenders" that you folks in LL are trying to entice into SL.

Those same people are now branding Linden Labs "vultures", and that word is about the only PG rated word i can use in this blog, the fan run and official WoW forums are ripping LL to shreds, same goes for some of the fan run EvE online forums...and when fan forums react, the print media takes up on it, or didnt any of whats left of the marketing folks in LL realise this?

Be expecting PC Gamer magazine and several other gaming print magazines to pick up on this story and tear shreds into whats left of Linden Labs pitifull and meagre reputation...cause guess what Jack, PC Gamer, and several MMO magazines had GROUPS in the site you just shut down, and those groups was very active!

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Could we get an honest figure for how many non-SL accounts were on AU?

It was definitely not the place where WoW players went, they have other sites. So Im thinking this is all rather contrived. AU was pretty lame, and you couldn't block people. You couldn't do much with it except upload a picture and IM people. You can do that on AIM or Yahoo or a hundred other things, so it was pointless.

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