Philip Rosedale in Paris : transcript (Apr. 25, 2008)
Robert Vinet (R.V) : Let’s start. Our afternoon will be in 2 parts: one hour concerning a certain number of subjects with Philip and then the questions will be yours.
I would like to start thanking Mr Rosedale to be here : « Thank You Mr Chairman to be here! »
Philip is not the President of Linden Lab anymore, he’s Chairman. He is going to probably give us a vision of what it’s all about.
We suggested discussions to fall in 3 parts
1. The company: Linden Lab today, questions/answers
writes us, bills us, makes us angry, tries to help us …
2. Second Life’s platform
3. Vision/prospective/future of Second Life and where the Internet 3D is going,
All being followed by the bloggers’ questions.
Philip Rosedale (P.R) : when I was in high school, the first language I tried to learn was French. I was much better at programming computer…So today we will have to speak English.
Thank you very much its very nice to be here, I’m very happy to be there. I had the opportunity a couple of times to travel, to have people meet and speak about Second Life. It’s really great. It’s the biggest group of users I have ever spoken too when I was travelling. So thank you very much for coming !
Part I: Linden Lab : the company
R.V: Linden Lab today: Could you talk about Linden Lab’s human structure today ? How many persons there are, what do they do ? Because for us it’s a name…
P.R: Linden Lab was created in 1999 and there was only one person at the beginning, The first employee was Andrew Linden, engineer, like me, my background is physics and engineering.Today, Linden Lab counts 250 people spreaded across 5 offices – the biggest in San Francisco- but also in Boston, Seattle, Washington, Davis (in the Silicon Valley), and one small office Brighton in England.
Linden Lab is divided up in 2 big pieces:
1. Engineering, Product development, operations: there are 160 people that do development and operations. 20 operations : who keep the grid up. Half of them watch the grid 24h/day (about 10 people). The rest of the software development is a mixture of engineers, quality insurance and program management, etc.
2. Customer support and concierge team :around 20 people responsible
And the rest of the team that we call the « Overhead » made of marketing, PR (1 person …), etc. Robin Harper whom some of you know works in that marketing team. And a few more persons that complete the team.
We are profitable, most of you must know, we are self sustaining, we are not looking for investments.
We are trying to hire not as quickly as we would like to because Second Life is still mystery for many people.
R.V: What about the Grid service that’s built on 7/7 and 24/24? Can you talk about the technical structure behind the grid ?
P.R: As for the architecture of Second Life, each server is one CPU (Central Process Unit), there are 18000 of these CPU’s in 3 location in the US : San Francisco, Dallas, Phoenix.
When it’s at full power at 2 pm SLTime, mainly due to European activities with 65 000 people on-line,10 gigabyte/second of network traffic. These machines need to be updated very fast and that represents a big and hard work. It works 7 days and 24/24.
R.V : These 3 locations, do they manage different sims, different data ?
P.R : Yes. They represent different geographic areas, most of them in San Francisco (central services) for login, money transactions, etc.
We built SL with the concern of simulation machines : dealing with assets nobody believed in.
Second Life’s architecture has been built with the concern of Second Life’s world simulation. A virtual world was a dream and it is was a struggle to stay alive. It was sometime hard to keep the investments in. Last years we suddenly became successful. We did not build it as well as we wanted to. As a result, we had to be very scrappy and quick to build some of the things. Today, these machines are well maintained.
R.V : You said, Linden Lab was profitable. Every one here gives an amount of money. What is the business model, for the company today ?
P.R : Linden Lab is a profitable company. We make benefits through sales/fees on-line and through managing the economy (new dollars in the economy as it grows).
R.V : You have partnerships such as IBM and some other sources. This means you have « friends »: what type of friends are they and why?
P.R : We have started to have important partners and sources, but it remains business partnerships around technology and savoir-faire and not content partnerships because it would lead to unfair competition. Our main partner is IBM who puts the Grid services onto separate machines. Our partnerships are most entirely technology partnerships.
R.V : You have been looking for a CEO. What is your role today, it’s not really understood in European countries? And what will be the newly appointed CEO’s one ? How do you see that in operations and development of company ?
P.R: Indeed, I am an engineer. I have a degree in physics and background is in physics engineering. My best areas of expertise are design, technology and engineering strategy. Now that Linden Lab has incredibly grown, it is a real challenge and I do not think I have the best skills to manage. My desire was to find someone to do the job I used to do. It was unusual to say that we were hiring CEO before we found him. But we wanted someone to come to us. Mark Kingdon called me and we hired him as CEO. He will be responsible for the leadership, in other words, he will put teams together.
R.V : What will be your new role? What will we be able to « blame on you » as you liked to write on your SL profile ?
P.R : I’m not even partially retiring. Concerning my own role, I will still be Chairman of the Board (investments, etc…) and I will of course work with Mark as well. I am not leaving but just focusing more on products, on how Second Life works and how to make it easier to use, how to make it more scalable.
Part II : The Second Life platform
R.V : That platform is 7/7 and 24/24 operation nearly. We have some questions. About 12 months ago, Linden Lab opened client’s source. Was is for you a success or failure ? What has it brought ? Is that something you believe in?
P.R : Concerning open source, I think it has been a huge success. But we still need people to manage good open source : programs, codes, forms, etc… Second Life on cell phones has been built on open source and I am committed to that open source because we want to build something bigger than the web. There no other way to reach that objective than open source.
R.V : What do you intend to do about proprietary versions of software ? Will you replace them to release open source ?
P.R : We would love to do so and we try to be as open source as possible. We will replace the proprietary solutions by open source ones if they are better. We prefer not to get worse because of open source….But we have not the human resources enough to do so for the moment.
We are willing to use Mono so that different languages and not necessary LSL can be used. It will help getting faster.
R.V : What about the projects to ease the use of the client? You have the Dazzle project …
P.R : Dazzle helps a new user. It helps the people who arrive finding it more professional. We have a certain number of priorities: ease the downloading of the client, finding the right way to walk, put clothes, how to find things, interact with somebody…There are a lot of kinds of jobs to have the majority of people stay…
R.V : A couple of months ago, at Chicago SLCC, I heard you saying Linden Lab being a mature in 3 years ?
Aren’t you afraid to deliver an “unfinished” Second Life that drives people away ?
P.R : I think it was better to release what we had at the beginning, and create experience while improving little by little. It has changed all along. Second Life won’t be finished until a decade or so. But the main thing is if we are remembered as a company because we did it early, sooner than others. The virtual world is inevitable. It had existed in science fiction for 20 years.
Following the introduction of voice last year, html is essential, space navigator is very cool, to move, control cameras… 3D cameras like Minority Report’s ones to make avatars do exactly the same moves as yours are a interesting direction. The lips moving while talking is very difficult.
R.V : What do you plan concerning the Grid architecture? What about decentralization? What about your view on peer to peer architecturing in Second Life environment ?
P.R : We need to anticipate Second Life servers. There will be an enormous number of them in 5 or ten years, much more than what we as a company could possibly own. Servers need to be well distributed and remote possibilities have to be tried and this is an important step. Second Life becomes more generalized and it allows facilities and servers to run: we want the same technologies to allow new servers to be deployed. IBM is a pilot and this will be done elsewhere.
Concerning peer to peer solutions, in which you are using a mash of connected clients to assist with processing the world is a very, very difficult problem. Problems such as security implications may be impossible to solve. I don’t’ have any near term plan to work on that. I don’t know if someone will ever have a solution to this hard question. But we are ready to follow it if a solution is found! Some solution like Croquet architecture exist, but there is a trust model to be established and it’s very difficult.
R.V : About the policy, do you have any projects for the residents? Public works and mainland revitalisation seems obscure…
P.R : One person wanted to work on that. We want to facilitate users’ interactions, experiences taking place on mainland..
R.V : The price of sims, the access price to Second Life follows the curve going up and done. What’s your policy on that? What do the fees cover ?
P.R : We have a reasonable margin with the access price on Second Life. When people will tun their own servers, they will be able to set their own prices. Unfortunately, because of the machines, we need to set fees. We cannot predict exactly what will happen with the price because of the market. More competition will be good.
R.V : Can you talk about Second Life Brand Centre, which is all the new aspects to protect the brand but which has implications about naming conventions …It has treared many comments… We all share a certain perception on the way Linden Lab usually brutally announces things, sometimes on Sunday night…?
P.R : The simplest thing we are trying is to be a common, public good (such as Wikipedia). Even in those cases like Second Life and Wikipedia, you still have a name and a brand and there is a difficult question there. Because, for the benefit of every one, we cannot assign collective administration of Second Life as a brand to 10 million people. I know of no management infrastructure that could reasonably do that. What would you use? Voting?
R.V : What you say is quite understandable. Second Life must defend its brand. There has been a change in the way you deal with it…
P.R : Again, we had a very small marketing and PR team. We’re a technology company. We’ve not spend a lot of time historically worrying about what we needed to do about naming, branding of SL, etc…As we hire people and get smarter we have to deal with some of these issues As the community big enough, this becomes an issue; basic what we want to to is provide minimum amount of reasonable protection so that it doesn’t become completely unregulated. The challenge minimally manage the brand within the brand centre. I don’t think we’ve done anything very strict.
R.V : I know you are keen on key performance indexes in SL. Are you still developing, measuring a better service? Something that’s not only numbers, but the truth behind the numbers.
P.R : The main statistics are up-time and crash rates and framerates: they establish how Second Life is running. Since the SLCC meeting, we’ve been publishing all of them and they are quite accurate and we keep adding more date onto it. I thing we do a pretty good job measuring performance.
I apologise, we’ve had a terrible April: we had massive network failure that was bizarre in the way that it happened but not unsurprising. We had a substantive amount of interruptions caused by failure of one of very high capacity switch at one of our provider. It took longer than normal to identify that failure, communicate it, and switch taken out of service. It it was tragic it took us long to convince the network provider what was wrong. It was relatively unprecedented. The second thing that unfortunately happened this month: the hardcore database. We upgraded it’s configuration and it caused a bunch of problems. I apologise again. But we have a stable configuration right now. We have not a long of competition today, because it is a pretty complicated technology.
R.V : About the general development of the economy, do you have target countries ?
P.R: With different countries, we have websites and support clients. When interesting views are developed in countries, we are trying to improve languages (this is our challenge) when there. There are website, clients, billing system, customer support to be translated and it a big job. Second Life has become international. In 2006, Second Life was 70% in the US and 30% international; now it has switched, 70% international and 30% in the US. In the first few hours decide of the people will stay or not. We still loose the majority of people. If you use Second Life two months, you will stay.
R.V : Do you think you will need a bigger platform because of simultaneous connections?
P.R : Second Life is growing and that is what is important. 90 to 95% of the newly connected persons won’t stay. 500 000 people use it 3 hours per month and 250 000 people use it 3 hours every day.
R.V : What about VAT being billed from a UK company?
P.R : VAT fees need to be respected in every country. It imposes a heavy access different from a country to another and disadvantages people here.It represents a high tax (20%) and it is unfair but we cannot do anything about it. VAT fees are our great frustration.
R.V : What can we expect from you? And what do you expect from us?
P.R : The content development is what brings new people. So we need to work together. For the moment, we have no competitors because it is hard and we have been pretty smart.”
Part III: Vision/prospective/ future of Second Life and 3D Web
R.V : How will the future of the virtual world development?
P.R: The big transition has been the way from Web to 3D Web. We need to anticipate to build a better world and thus the future. We have to keep an open platform (and it is working).
My perspective is that Second Life as a technology makes two changes: primarily, it was texts connected together through hyperlinks. 3D Internet such as Second Life allow the information to be presented in a perfect way for human beings. Universal symbol are being used with the most associations. A chair for example is a universal symbol. If you can organise information with these symbols then you make a real transformation.
We are social animals. So Second Life provides the possibility to share information with others (consume, create, sell, etc…)”. As living minds, we want live contact with other people. This technology allows in real time information, creation, consumption with other people in real time. That’s what we’re building and that change that drive 3D internet.
R.V : Can you speak a but about the aspect of interoperability? Can you give us a status report? Where is it going? We like to say we « are platform agnostic ». It’s going to grow because the total market will grow. What about the interoperability of avatars?
P.R: The most useful interoperability will be between social networks and Second Life. Solutions like OpenID exist that partially answer this question. There are no 3D worlds doing things similar to what we are doing. We are more on building specific experience, on specific groups (cf. the MTV Laguna Beach project. I would love to have an avatar go from a world to another. But I don’t know how it’s coming. Is there any one here using another worlds and willing to connect it to sl ?
R.V: Import – Export of objects ?
P.R : I would love to see that but it is unfortunately not yet compatible with the virtual worlds. Objects is the kind of things in virtual worlds that are most incompatible. The rendering and simunation architecture are different from a world to another perventing objects to move etc..
R.V : What about the competitive landscape? For some of our clients dgoing on SL and Habbo Hotel is the same thing ?
P.R : Some clients do not think that Second Life is unique. There are Habbo or Club Pinguin (my favourite one!) that are developing. But the content is different. IMVU is great, technologically speaking. OpenSim is fantastic and it’s a good direction. People will start with small contents to go to more complex ones. Hipihi is more or less the same as Second Life. Our business model encourages us to interconnect with OpenSim
R.V : How do you see Linden Lab in 3 years? What would please you?
P.R : I’d look a little further. In 5 years, it would be good to have 1000 or 2000 people who work for us around the world and to have great systems behind the Grid. I will be pleased as well if the Company becomes the leader of the software area and if that is a free standing company.
Part IV: Bloggers’ questions
R.V: Great audience here have great questions.
Hugobiwan Zolnir de la Bibliothèque Francophone
I hope you’ll understand my english. My questions are about open formats, the possibility to use SL as a part of an information ecosystem.
Personnally, I use OpenSim that allows me to import 3DS files and use them as grouped files. I’ve made tests with RL museum and discovered possibilities to work wth many different type of architecture, plans, on Google Earth, Sketchup, by augmenting the reality. It is important to make experiences with avatars and objects, move them in mirror world, with a presence here and there, etc.
My problem is that I can’t do all these tasks in SL even after all my tests. The same problem arises with video, sound, text messages. It is utmost important to have better links between SL and the web’s clasics.
P.R.: On content, the real problem concerns arbitrary grouped files. Having an entire sim filled with these type of files would take hour to allow a login. I’ve worked on data compression, it is my past professional experience. But we are working in directions that will allow external formats file imports. Today anything that is made out of 3DS makes the sim unusable because of file loading time. We want SL to be as open as possible and are trying to do things in a good order. Everyone wishes to import directly files. There are also financial issues. We want you to be able to do that.
Jean-Michel Billaut, président d’honneur de l’Atelier BNP-Paribas
What is your vision of the virtual economy in 10 years (inflation, taxes, real estate, etc) ?
R.V : Could you please tell us about your Congress experience that was kind of alike ?
P.R: I’ve had the opportunity to be invited by Colin Parris of IBM, Larry Johnson of New Media Consortium and Susan Tenby de TechSoup to talk about Second Life. Internet is a global phenomena. I’m not sure about taxes but I think transactions shouldn’t be impacted. As for inflation, we regularly add new currencies, which is the good method ; it is nevertheless very hard to create a monetary system except if everyone uses it. As for real estate, I don’t really know. Often we talk about the unlimited supply of land and that it could impact market price. Anyway, land prices will always be linked to the price of computers, servers, etc.
What do you think of the game platforms created by the South Koreans, such as Kart Rider, MapleStory, Drift City ?
P.R.: Kart Rider is just one of the greatest thing ever. I always try to explain Second Life pictures from the world is the easiest way…Kart Rider is a game by selling better cars, it’s a racing game. some, a lot of the things being sold are cosmetics to have you look cooler. People are willing to spend money even if it’s nor directly linked to the game experience? What happen today in South Korea is interesting but remains different from what happens in Second Life. The Asian appetite for technology relies on casual game experience; short time duration, relax, have funny, life, use the computer to relax at the end of the day… I’m being very simplistic, of course everybody in every part of the world has it’s reasons. The trend in South-Korea is much more gaming than what seems to happen here or in the United States.
Gil Reveillon, LaSer : Great opportunity to meet you. .. the question is about the terminal to access virtual worlds in near future? There are 3 billions of these and Comverse has shown a solution for SL; there are many players today who are using more and more intermediation through the mobile phone. Do you see a future, anything special in the way they are going to intermediate…Chinese and Japanese companies for example sell advertisements on the games…What’s your vision?
P.R : Second Life on the mobile, interesting problem…The immersive nature of Second Life is part of the magic. It’s not possible to render this on mobile phone, it can barely work. The solution is open source which allows people testing it on mobiles to see if this is something simple that can be done there, I thing there is. The trend to have people having meeting is very strong. In last year, 15% of the island are all education, universities…
Thomas Khayat aka Saddam Triskaidekaphobia, de Liberta et de SLMag : Hello, Thomas Khayat, Saddam in Second Life. I am very interested in professional partnerships, I work myself with many partners inSL. As for Linden Lab, I know you have built partnerships with IBM and Samsung for instance. Do you intend to have more partnerships with big to have SL evolve or do you prefer a smoother evolution.
R.V. Thomas is asking: do you have a plan for major partnerships with non-technology company that could be of interest for the development of 3D environment?
P.R : First thing, I don’t think that we have to partner directly with some of these companies…
Infrastructure companies, like Facebook, Ebay, YouTube…we can get the web working correctly in SL, we don’t need any partnership. I could even say, I don’t have in my head right now a non-technology company we would contemplate doing a partnership. Maybe, if people wanted to connect banking services to Second Life, that’s the sort of capabilities, partnerships we would definitely do.
R.V.: …same aspect as IBM and security of networks partnerships with you…
Serge Soudoplatoff : I’m really interested in the business part, including intra-company like collaborative working or company with it’s customers, selling goods or products.The question is: will you have some sort of roadmap of HIPIHi, of web services on the server side that will be published helping people to know how integrating more with their intranet. Or shall we have to go through IBM who told me they were starting to sell web services have started like database and datacenters… What shall we have?
P.R : I think we need to do a better job about giving a roadmap. The reason why we weren’t use to give a clear roadmap historically is that we didn’t know. We’ve already started and we’ll do a better job in the next months. I am better at mid-term and long term, I know that we need to give you a intermediary roadmap. I agree with you. Our new CEO will help with that.
Stephane Desnault aka Stephane Zugzwang sur SL, Consultant stratégique, convergence
Two things: When will we have a more firewall friendly service to be deployed in companies? A trend I’ve been seeing is the offerings from Amazon and other companies to deploy a full image anywhere in the world and where the image will actually deploy itself closer to its user without you having to do anything. Are we going to see Second Life server image that we could deploy very quickly ?
P.R. There are distributed systems : Amazon, Google have announced. we already use S3. The EC2 which is the idea of having a computer having a computer used like the SL simulator. One problem, the simulation of the virtual world in a local requires the higher speed CPU you can get and the virtualisation skims that are used never give you enough quick power in the moment to simulate second life … we tried with EC2 with Second Life, but it didn’t work because it run too slow.
As for firewall, that’s even easier, there’s a work we are doing with IBM; we need to « tannel » SL to get easier on firewalls. We’ve got to do that. There’s nobody working on that right now, it’s complicated because there are 15 or 20 network connexions. We have to fit this all through one pipe typically for http.
The other problem is the installation of the client: the corporate environment, don’t allow the installation of the software. We have to try to use flash, thin clients, ajax life for instance. I’m excited to look at flash 10, it might be possible , it has some 3D capabilities. I’d like to see people build avatars entirely on the web too…
If anybody here wants to work on that…please do!
I heard William Gibson say a few weeks ago saying that we are not aware that the future is already here? Do you think that Second Life is a kind of future already here? What is your dream about eduction in Second Life ?
P.R : I love William Gibson! The accurate quote is « the future is already here. It’s just not very evenly distributed ». William Gibson is my favourite author about the metaverse. He has been in Second Life, and had a very interesting quote last time, he said » while walking around Toronto, I see people from Second life on the streets ». As we begin to use avatars to project identity, in a strange way, it changes the way we look in the real world. I’ve talked to a lot of people using Second Life about that, and noticed how the had changed the way the dressed, Second Life has an influence on the real world. The distance between fiction and reality is getting less and less. Jules Verne wrote in 1896 « From the Earth to the Moon » and it took 74 years ( 1979) to launch Sputnik and we walked on the moon! Snow Crash, which is the most accurate description of Second Life was published 1981 and it took us 15 years!
I think that the distance between fiction and reality is getting smaller and smaller.
As for the the future for education, I am on the board of two science institutions and think that so much science will be unbelievable. I think we will be able to teach ten time faster in physics…there are incredible opportunities there…
Gil Reveillon, LaSer : it’s more on strategic vision this time… You talked about UK and the Brighton site. You are in US the leader by far in the way you anticipate the future of the Internet. In China there is the CRD (China Recreation District) for mobiles, etc… How can we convince continental Europe and french government promoting 3D and selling 3D through a platform having a site only in Brighton? What are your plans for Europe ?
RV: If I summarise, being in Brighton, is not being in Europe! We are a bit frustrated…what do you intend to do for french residents and companies in SL?
P.R : Even more than an installer…We have an optional Second Life but it’s not good enough to release. We need to work here, have offices as quick as we can. Brighton has 5 people. We are coming as quickly as we can. The service need also to get better.
Yohan Launay ConceptSL : maybe I will get sued in the next few months because of my name… I have a question: going towards a software as a service hosting applications like office applications and we know that google is extremely reliable in terms of quality of service (QS). How can we convince companies going into Second Life if we have the stability problems all the time?
P.R : I agree, we have to get more stable. I’m sorry that it isn’t. Google can’t not run Second Life any better than we can. There is a difference in the complexity of storing documents and running Second Life. What feature in the system are u willing to give up? I think you’re right. We used to go down every week
R.V : Before a person to person to person, while taking a coffee, do you have something to tell us.
P.R.: When I presented Second Life project, I used to have pictures of pyramids, Mall of America, the largest shopping centre in the world. You van imagine how ugly this is…I used to say: they represent the largest centrally designed things that human beings have been able to make. I had other pictures: downtown Paris, New York, Tokyo, they are interesting because there were designed by every one, they are chaotic, sometimes frustrating, containing the magic of the things in the world we love the most. I wanted Second Life to look like this.
R.V.On behalf of everyone, I’ d like to thank you.