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5/4/2007
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Bugs And Unstable Code Threaten Second Life's Future

Second Life business owners and users want Linden Lab to fix the service's egregious bugs and instability before the whole thing comes crashing down.

A group of Second Life's business owners and users are taking Linden Lab to task for ongoing, serious bugs and stability problems in the virtual world which, they say, threatens its survival.

Problems include daily meltdowns in navigation systems, in-world chat, instant messaging, and community groups used to bring together users (known as "residents" in Second Life jargon) with common interests.

The problems are particularly significant as people and real-world companies begin using Second Life as a platform for real business, said Cristiano Diaz, a Web and Second Life developer in Miami who's led a rebellion of residents against Linden Lab.

"Second Life is incredibly unstable and has become more and more unstable as it's grown in the last two years," Diaz said in an interview. "But at the same time, customers are paying hundreds or even thousands of dollars a month for services with Linden Lab."

He added, "It isn't something like World of Warcraft, where you're paying $14.95 a month and if it sucks you can go somewhere else."

He said he's concerned that Linden Lab will join the long parade of startups who collapsed and were destroyed under the weight of too much success and rapid growth.

Officials at Linden Lab didn't immediately respond to requests for an interview.

Diaz got so frustrated that he rounded up a petition of frustrated Second Life users and business owners, outlining his complaints. He sent it to Linden Lab on April 30, and posted it to the Web on a new Web site, Project Open Letter, http://www.projectopenletter.com/. By Thursday evening, the petition had 3,800 signatures.

Linden Lab held a Town Meeting Thursday afternoon in a Second Life text chat session to address the concerns. Ironically, the meeting itself was plagued by bugs: The area filled up before the meeting started; that happened two hours before start time, according to reports from residents. Linden Lab broadcast the chat to anyone interested using in-world IM. But the IM portion of the discussion was unreliable, leading to frequent interruptions from users complaining that they weren't receiving text.

At the meeting, Linden Lab CTO Cory Ondrejka -- known as "Cory Linden" in-world -- said improving stability and eliminating bugs are a top priority. "69% of the development staff at LL are currently on scaling and stability and that percentage is rising over the next few weeks," he said. The company is aggressively recruiting developers to add to its staff and help solve problems. "It is the highest priority and the focus of the majority of our design, coding, and QA [quality assurance] work. We are also working on the next-gen architecture to allow far more scaling than the current design." InformationWeek described that next-gen architecture in March.

Ironically, Diaz himself was thrown off the session after just 15 minutes. He said, "To have a Town Hall about stability go completely to hell is a testament to exactly what I'm talking about."

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