The founder of Second Life returns to revamp his original metaverse
metaverse. Not only The idea was coined in 1992, but some of us have literally been living in virtual currency spaces and virtual storefronts for nearly 20 years.
The default place that many people returned to was Second Life. Philip Rosedale, founder of Second Life, has decided to assign a core team to work on developing Second Life now that it is the metaverseonce again. His hopes are that developing community-centered worlds like Second Life will solve some of the counterproductive problems that haven’t necessarily been solved in VR headsets…until now.
After Second Life, Rosedale focused on VR technology in 2013, and co-founded a companyWhich promised high quality virtual reality technology and low latency. But High Fidelity has begun to shift from VR to other technologies over the past few years, with a focus on spatial audio recently. In 2019, Rosedale published a kind of farewell to virtual reality, noting that virtual reality had not reached the form that was good enough for most people to want to use it. While talking to him over Google Meet in 2022, he still feels that way, describing VR headsets as a blindfold for the real world that only some people feel comfortable enough to use.
Rosedale thinks VR headsets could hit the iPhone moment, but maybe not for a few more years. In the meantime, he’s shifting focus to the metaverse platform that doesn’t require headphones: Second Life. He’s not the only one who feels this way: even VR/AR software companies like Spatial have been feeling it latelyAs a way to reach more people. In many ways, this is really the multi-platform playing field behind the recent moves of the metaverse And .
Rosedale will be a “strategic advisor” to Second Life, while his company High Fidelity is looking to air some new ideas into Second Life, while simultaneously working on other ideas for future technology, including – at one point – VR again. “We’re announcing that we’ve transferred a group of seven people, some patents, some money. We’re investing in Second Life, to continue working on Second Life,” Rossdale told me. “Two of those patents are moderate patents in a decentralized environment, which is really cool.”
The reason for this shift is that Second Life still makes money and still has a much larger community than most VR platforms: more than 73 million accounts have been created since its launch, and estimates of active users hover around 900,000. Rosedale sees this shift as problem-solving while VR hardware is still being considered.
Despite the apparent success ofStill, he doesn’t think it’s enough. “The headset is so broken that it would take, I think, five years to get to something good,” he says, “and we as a startup are not going to survive, and it wouldn’t make sense to sit around for five years.” He sees building Second Life as a better platform that will be optional for virtual reality until those magically perfect devices arrive.
“I think it’s going to grow from the ground up for something seemingly mysterious like Second Life, solve these tiered governance problems, and then people will say, ‘Oh, my God, you know, for more information, you can put your headphones on,” says Rosedale.
He acknowledges that even the best virtual community spaces are still very limited now, including Second Life. “You can have about 100 people somewhere at the same time in Second Life. It’s not enough, but it’s more than all the other players in terms of just the people standing around you.” Rosedale wants Second Life to be more decentralized, but says it’s a delicate balance to get right.
What does this mean for Second Life? hard to say. It could be spatial audio in the mix, but also more advanced avatar animations using cameras’ face tracking: “Using a webcam to animate an avatar, that’s really interesting,” he says. “There aren’t enough people looking at that space, that space that I’ve spent so much time thinking about.” Rosedale is also studying how Second Life might eventually work on phones, perhaps.
As much as Second Life embraces new metaverse ideas like NFTs and some kind of interoperable content, Rosedale remains skeptical. “Do you want to take a Ferrari from Grand Theft Auto and drive it to Fortnite or between us?” he asks, noting how dropping content at random in other trials badly breaks the fourth wall of immersive experiences. “In the near term, among games, the idea of content interoperability is one of those things that only a brand can love.” Second Life already has its own currency, which Rossdale considers stable, as well as its own economy.
“Content interoperability has to be there for absolutely everything to go off. And as a way to further connect games together, it’s a complete failure. The idea in the near term is stupid. And the long-term idea is absolutely correct. And it is validated by things like Roblox and Second Life, where there is a myriad of content that people move from one place to another.”
Rosedale sees Second Life’s salable content as, in a way, the same as NFTs. But he also acknowledges that there is a lot of competition for virtual spaces: Roblox and VRChat, which he considers the most successful competing examples, and obviously plenty of others.
“There are 375 million blocks sold annually on Second Life for $2 a piece. So the transactions are about $650 million a year. These are all NFTs — the basic idea of allowing digital assets to be differentiated and allowing them to be tradable and shareable. This is going to get bigger and bigger. And bigger. But first, we have to answer the question, ‘Why would I be there? Why am I using this space? We have to get to that.'”