Sunday, August 26, 2007

Exclusive from Reuters: Philip Rosedale interview from SLCC

This doesn't have much to do with DJing and electronic music, but it has to do with SL, and also I wanted to have a reason to link to Reuters. Here's a good article with Philip Rosedale. I'm glad they will be focusing on quality in the next 6 months. Generally I have a warm fuzzy feeling with all of Philip's answers. Yeah, he's a good politician and evangelist, but he shows he's listening to everyone's concerns. ....and he's a good smart dude that made a place with millions of people.... and all those people have issues.... and he's doing the best that he can. And the best that he can is actually really pretty good. When I started in SL, I thought LL was the devil because they took away dwell and traffic stipends. ahahah. Now, I feel Philip is a cool dude. He's human. He's someone that made a reality from a dream. I have to give all the folks at Linden Lab a thank you now-a-days. Sure, I bitch. We all bitch. And LL does too. Our problems are their problems. We're all just chillin' in SL together trying to make it all work, taking a risk, and hoping it all won't go flip-side and ape-shit.

Exclusive: Philip Rosedale interview from SLCC
Sat Aug 25, 2007 4:08pm PDT
By Eric Reuters

CHICAGO, Aug 25 (Reuters) — Linden Lab CEO Philip Rosedale sat down for an exclusive interview at the Second Life Community Convention on Saturday to talk about Linden’s business model, its relationship with its customers, and whether the company will have to chase the lowest common denominator in adhering to real world laws.

An edited transcript follows.

Reuters: Linden built the tools that empower Second Life, but it’s the residents that built everything in it. What surprises you most out of what’s come out of Second Life?

Philip Rosedale: Nothing has really surprised me, because we always expected the system to be inherently complex.

Conspiracy theories… one of the small negative side effects is a lot of that kind of thinking.

That’s one of the challenges for us as a company. There’s a strong sentiment in many cases that we are engineering society to a degree we are actually just not. There’s just not enough of us to do that even if we weren’t on principle opposed to that.

Reuters: How do you combat that as a company?

Philip Rosedale: Well we’ve always believed in being transparent, with each other inside the company and then with everybody in Second Life outside. The only thing that limits transparency for us is simply manpower. We just don’t have enough people to emit all the data we want to emit to the world around us.

The more you can just throw the doors open and turn the lights on and say: “Look you guys, you can come on in. You can sit in my office with me. This is how we’re doing things.” All of that makes things better.

Reuters: Do you have an alt? Do you ever go into Second Life undercover?

Philip Rosedale: I’ve got some accounts I created long ago but sadly I really haven’t had time to use them.

I don’t know whether I’d personally ever be comfortable not saying who I was. It’s hard for me in terms of my personal style to imagine being comfortable doing that. But I’d like in the future to go in there as a normal user.

Reuters: Is Linden profitable?

Philip Rosedale: Linden is roughly profitable. We’re right at the point of profitability, which for a company of about 200 people is pretty impressive.

The business model is actually pretty simple. The engine of growth in Second Life is a lot of small-scale entrepreneurship. We have a thousand people making more than US$1000 a month. That engine is what enables some of that economic activity to be paid to us as the operators of the simulators who provide the service.

Reuters: What are Linden’s real sources of income? You’ve got a small spread on the Lindex, land sales, tier fees.

Philip Rosedale: By far the largest source of income to Linden Lab is the sales and the tier fees.

The core of our business is a hosting business.

Reuters: You’ve mentioned you want to make a move towards open source servers. If land is the bread and butter of your business, and you’re open sourcing that, how will that work in the future?

Philip Rosedale: If you’re an entrepreneur, wanting to enter the virtual world and sell stuff to people, you’re going to want to find the largest possible audience. So you’ll be strongly drawn to set up your shop on the system with the largest number of people using it. There will be a tremendous desire by people to link those servers together and be on our network so they can have access to the largest base of people.

Reuters: So Linden will charge an access fee?

Philip Rosedale: Right.

Now you wouldn’t have to, obviously, under the open source model. Not every application would demand one to connect to Second Life. But the entrepreneur who comes in will want to come towards where the largest market is.

We believe we can reasonably make money — barely make money — by just charging access to the system.

We also provide a whole bunch of global services. The uniqueness of your name, your inventory, the ability to unique mark things — this person built that object.

Reuters: You talked a lot this morning about reliability. What are your performance benchmarks? What is a reasonable goal for Linden to accomplish?

Philip Rosedale: We need to increase service availability. It’s not as high as it could be or as high as we’d like it to be for a commercial large-scale operating service. We’re going to publish the running data of how we’re doing. So everyone will be able to see us hopefully improving it and gauge and discuss whether we’re improving it quickly enough.

We need to get to the place where Second Life is as reliable running on your PC or a Mac as an Internet browser.

Reuters: In terms of new features versus bug fixing, which do you consider the more important of the two?

Philip Rosedale: Fixing bugs.

There’s not a key feature — I think that voice is exemplary of a very important significant platform feature that’s necessary for people to do everything they immediately think of wanting to do. But beyond that I don’t see a huge imperative feature — if you were to push me I’d probably say getting a web browser onto the surface of objects, so you can be browsing the web while you’re standing with somebody. That’s a very powerful feature that we’ve partway implemented already. So I think that’s something that’s a basic capability. But that is way outvoted by the simple requirement for greater reliability.

Reuters: Are there any plans to take Linden Lab public in the near future?

Philip Rosedale: No. We’re profitable now and sustainable, so that choice is up to us. And we don’t have any immediate plans.

Reuters: Is there a problem where German laws are more restrictive than American laws on ageplay? And likewise, American laws may be more restrictive than European laws on gambling. Are we moving to the lowest common denominator?

Philip Rosedale: No.

The lowest common denominator is just not what you want to do. It’s not going to happen on the Internet, and it’s not going to happen here. We’re doing what we can as a platform to try to make that the case.

If you want to apply a local jurisdictional law to people, we’re going to make it so you apply that to people who are individual avatars trying to go to one place. That’s what we’re doing with age verification. We’re making that a feature that’s tied to land and people, not a feature that’s tied to the whole system. When we’re confronted with a legal or regulatory matter where we need for legal reasons to enable a certain type of restriction on behavior, we do that as locally as possible and not have a lowest common denominator.

Reuters: So there may be code in the future where your avatar is tied to your real-life nationality and then based on that nationality certain restrictions may or may not come into play?

Philip Rosedale: Right.

If the local restrictions that countries for example are making on avatars, if those restrictions are well-published and transparent and in the public light, I think we’re going to get to a good overall set of choices. Countries will make the right choices about how they want to restrict people’s use in Second Life if they can see what other countries are doing rather than us being the sole decider of what’s right locally.

Reuters: As CEO of Linden Lab, what is your number one focus and priority for the next six months? When you get up in the morning, what do you think about getting done in Second Life?

Philip Rosedale: Quality. We’re at a place where we’ve demonstrated that the virtual world can exist. Now we need to make it high quality so it does continuously support the activities and desires of the people who are using it. That’s what we’ve learned by listening for the last couple of quarters. We’ve got to increase the quality.

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