A Year of Transition
2021 was a year of transition for the Second Life team. While there were many accomplishments worth celebrating that helped to improve our collective Second Life experiences, we want to start by acknowledging the many contributions of and pay our respects to Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg, who passed away earlier this year.
Ebbe embraced all aspects of Second Life, learning about its many nuances to understand the impacts of decisions we make. He put tremendous effort into understanding the community, and many of us who are deeply embedded in Second Life. Ebbe’s goals for Second Life included promoting Second Life as the world’s best virtual world, community and platform. Ebbe would be very proud of our accomplishments today. There is no doubt in our minds that he wouldn’t have had it any other way.
We miss Ebbe but his spirit lives on through many of the initiatives and features he championed during his many years leading Second Life.
The year 2021 had several hellos and goodbyes among the Second Life leadership team. Former VP of engineering Oz Linden retired mid-year. Oz was an instrumental force in driving key decisions and implementations of Second Life’s development for over a decade. Oz left on a high note, having successfully completed the tremendous effort of migrating Second Life into the Cloud. We have felt his absence, celebrated his tenure, cast him in bronze, and used extensively his blanket permission to blame him for everything that goes wrong.
We have been thrilled to welcome Oz’s replacement Andrew Kertesz (better known as Mojo Linden) in August. Mojo has a wealth of experience building teams and launching PC, mobile, and console game products – and we are already seeing him work his magic on new initiatives for the coming year. Spoiler alert: Keep reading for a peek at our 2022 roadmap!
We also welcomed new ownership this year as Oberwolf Linden (a.k.a. Brad Oberwager) stepped in as Executive Chairman following the successful acquisition of Linden Lab by an investment group he leads with Randy Waterfield. Earlier this year, Oberwolf made his debut on “Lab Gab” – if you missed it, we recommend you check it out to hear directly from him about his vision and enthusiasm for Second Life.
Since that appearance, Oberwolf has not wasted any time in allocating new resources to Linden Lab, including the addition of several new engineers and developers, as well as other key leaders to help us further improve and grow faster. Among the newest hires are several established industry veterans including a new Chief Marketing Officer, Chief of Staff, Chief People Officer, and Chief Information Security Officer.
So many changes…but that leads us to some exciting plans for 2022!
We are already hard at work on several new features and improvements for the coming year. Here’s a sneak peek at what’s underway:
- Avatar “expressiveness” that brings camera-based gestures and movement to your avatar for a whole new level of interaction and connectedness
- Premium Plus - a new upgrade option with added features and extras
- A new mobile viewer to enhance and improve your Second Life experience
- Improved group chat reliability
- Viewer and script performance improvements
- New user avatar customization and improvements
- Updated mesh optimizer
- Search engine improvements
- Improved materials and terrain
- Adding web marketplace variants
- …and much more!
We can’t wait to unveil more details on these and other improvements in 2022. We’ll be sharing more specifics on a future episode of our streaming video show “Lab Gab” and our blog soon.
As we prepare for the coming year, we also want to reflect on key accomplishments for 2021.
Migration to the Cloud
The year started strong with our successful migration to the Cloud, which was completed in January after many years of careful preparation to minimize disruption to the Second Life community. We can’t emphasize enough how complex and delicate this transition was, but we were all happy to breathe a sigh of relief upon its successful completion. We have spent a good part of this year optimizing our infrastructure in the Cloud to better take advantage of the new possibilities.
We’re proud of the many Second Life performance enhancements that launched in the past year including investments in our infrastructure to further improve speed and cadence of updates, overhauling the onboarding experience for the newest Residents, various UI and search cleanup improvements, and backend work to ensure compliance with multiple regulatory requirements. As an example, we’ve seen some of our lowest viewer crash rates ever – a 35% decrease in crashes from a couple of years ago!
Over the last few months we have been busy optimizing our viewer and simulator, too. We have already made good gains that we are eager to share with the community as we deploy in the new year. An area of emphasis and success for us has been improved avatar rendering; initial test results show an increase from 25fps to 55fps with our new viewer with 20 avatars in the scene.
We have also seen great script performance improvements with our last set of server upgrades and move to AMD hardware. There is yet another significant server upgrade in RC now and rolling out to the full grid in January.
Are you in a lot of groups and getting too many offline messages in your email, but still want to see offline IMs? No problem. Receiving group notices to your email while you are offline is a new preference that you control separately from your offline instant message preferences. You are now able to choose between getting only IMs, only Group notices, both, or neither through email while offline.
Based on popular demand, we unveiled several new limited-edition “Last Name” options over the past year including some specialty-themed and holiday offerings. UwU or OwO, anyone? (We counted the paws. It’s UwU. Some of us knew that all along.)
Another popular request from our community has been support for multi-factor authentication, and other additional account security improvements to help protect our Residents. There’s also the new 360 Snapshot Tool that enables more immersive 360-degree snapshots to be taken within Second Life and shared externally. Many people in the community are already testing out the new feature – check out these images taken by our own Alexa Linden on Flickr.
Improving the New User Experience
We recognize the importance of first impressions to Second Life, so we’ve invested in enhancements to the new user experience including an all-new Welcome Island and related New User Guidebook. We continue to iterate on different approaches to onboarding.
Improvements to Search have also started to roll out. We recently gave Search a visual refresh this year, and that’s being followed up next year with an investment to improve the quality of Second Life search results.
Let’s not forget the many improvements to the Marketplace! In 2021, we shipped over 140 Marketplace updates and fixes. Highlights include tying Marketplace into the overall single sign-on (SSO) system, adding a “Save For Later” feature in the shopping cart, adding bulk redelivery for merchants, as well as fixing several issues and improving speed and stability. There is still a lot more in the works for the Marketplace in the coming year.
2021 saw the release of of two different Linden Homes themes and the introduction of a third. In March the Chalet type Linden Home was launched, and in August the Fantasy type Linden Homes were launched.
The newest theme, Newbrooke will be joining the available new Linden Homes very soon.
Marketing the “Metaverse”
So, perhaps you have heard of this new thing called the metaverse? Unless you’ve been living under a rock (virtual or otherwise), you probably already know that Facebook recently changed its corporate name to Meta as they work on their own vision and version of a “metaverse.” While we appreciate that this development has super-charged interest in virtual worlds, we also know that there is genuine concern about Facebook’s plans in this space given its spotty reputation on many issues including consumer data privacy and protections.
At Second Life, we’re proud that we don’t monetize, sell, or share consumer data - and we’ve been heartened to see the mainstream media reevaluate our own virtual world amidst the heightened interest in all-things-metaverse including a renewed recognition and celebration of our pioneering contributions to the concepts of virtual economies, cultures, and communities.
As a result, we had one of our strongest years ever in mainstream and specialized media coverage - with over 15,000 articles and broadcast outlets referencing Second Life in 2021 according to PR tracking service Cision. Mainstream media highlights for the past year include prominent coverage across the globe including BBC News, TIME Magazine, The Telegraph, VentureBeat, Business Insider, Right This Minute TV, France TV, and many, many more.
2021 was also a “year of experiments” for Second Life marketing including a few “out of the box” ideas to draw attention to Second Life through new partnerships and content initiatives.
We recently tested a limited roll out of our first mainstream commercial “Children of Creation,” which won both top prize at the 2021 Telly Awards and a top 2021 Clio Award (the advertising industry’s equivalent of the Oscars). Elements of the commercial can be seen on our newly-revamped homepage, but you can also check it out on YouTube.
Over the past year, we’ve aligned with several community content creators and external partners to collaborate on new cross-promotion opportunities that aim to broaden the appeal and awareness of Second Life. Partnerships span a broad range of communities including fans of indie comic books (Zenescope), indie films (Film Threat), sports (NFL Alumni Association), and animation (Titmouse).
So, what’s next? In the coming year, we’re allocating even more resources to help us better proactively capture new PR and media opportunities. We’re also gearing up for several exciting new community promotions and social media content initiatives.
Happy Holidays from Second Life
We’re sincerely grateful for the support and loyalty of the entire Second Life community - and we will continue to work hard to improve your virtual lives in the coming year and beyond.
Have a great holiday,
The Second Life team
P.S. We just posted on our socials a new year-end video that spotlights several of our community members as they share what Second Life means to them this holiday season. Check it out!