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5/4/2007
01:21 PM
Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner
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Will The Monster Of Instability And Bugs Devour Second Life And Grind Up Its Bones?

You ever have the experience of moving to a new city -- a great city, like New York, Los Angeles, Paris, or London? For a couple of months, just walking down the street is magic, but then one day you wake up and, well, you notice the uncollected trash and the panhandlers and the fact that public transit is never on time. You still love it there, but you also wish that your bus stop didn't smell like pee. That's kind of where I am with Second Life.

You ever have the experience of moving to a new city -- a great city, like New York, Los Angeles, Paris, or London? For a couple of months, just walking down the street is magic, but then one day you wake up and, well, you notice the uncollected trash and the panhandlers and the fact that public transit is never on time. You still love it there, but you also wish that your bus stop didn't smell like pee. That's kind of where I am with Second Life.

There are still great things happening in Second Life, and the service is getting better every day. Second Life is a flowering of live music, clubbing, role-playing, surfing, people creating, selling and giving away beautiful building, land, clothing, jewelry, scripts, and more. It's the single greatest concentration of creative energy on the Internet, bar none. On the business side, companies are coming in every day doing serious business in Second Life, using it as a three-dimensional collaboration tool for employees, partners, and customers.

Alas, Second Life is also the single greatest concentration of bugs and instability on the Internet. There's only a 50-50 chance that everything will work right when you log into Second Life at any given time. System response time is slow. The overall quality os more suited to beta or even alpha software than it is to a service that's been on the market -- as Second Life has -- almost four years. As companies and individuals start investing significant amounts of cash to do business in Second Life, the service's instability is costing significant amounts of money.

And, as reported in an article posted to InformationWeek today, the system's users (known as "residents" in Second Life jargon) are fed up. They signed a petition demanding that Second Life fix the service. Second Life is making a priority out of bug-fixes and system maintenance -- but will the fixes be fast enough?

The virtual-world interface is going to sweep the Internet. The human brain is used to living in a 3-D world. . Avatars are a great way to use the 3-D Internet to connect with other people. And Linden Lab, the company that develops and operates Second Life, has a decided first-mover advantage in this new market. Analysts at Gartner project that 80% of Internet users will have a presence in virtual worlds in four years; Second Life has the potential to be a Google-sized dominant player in this new market. They have a clear and remarkable vision of what the next-generation Internet should be like.

But vision isn't enough. Many of the billion-dollar companies on the Internet today are built on the corpses of pioneering companies that had a clear, remarkable vision of the future, but which failed to execute and went out of business. Linden Lab could go that path, and become a trivia question for future technology historians.

On the other hand: Maybe not. They're pedaling hard on their bicycle of quality assurance, struggling to get ahead of the monster of instability and bugs that's threatening to devour them and crush their bones. I'm rooting for them.

P.S. Second Life being what it is, I'm hoping someone builds the Cyclist On The Bicycle Of Quality Assurance soon. Be sure to make the Monster of Instability and Bugs suitably frightening.

What do you think? Will Second Life make it?'

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