Linden Lab Lays Off 30 Staff

I can now report this morning that Linden Lab has laid off staff as part of what appears to be a significant reorganization and reallocation of staff resources. My source (who shall remain anonymous, but whom I consider a good source) tells me that 30 people were let go. The rumour mill this weekend has been saying that 20 to 30 people were laid off, so the figure would appear to be accurate.

So we can assume that Sansar staff who have “disappeared”—notably Landon McDowell/Landon Linden (the Chief Product Officer), Nyx Linden, and Cara Linden—have not been reassigned to Second Life, and are indeed gone. Jesus Christ.

WHAT. THE. FUCK. HAPPENED?!??

Another source tells me something which may or may not be true:

I heard a rumour Linden Lab got bought, about two/three weeks ago; I don’t fully trust the source (it was definitely a rumour), but that’d explain it.

It is now clear that something major has happened at Linden Lab, whatever it is. I now disagree with what Inara Pey has said about the Friday Product Meetup even more strongly.

This is not “business as usual”. The hastily-arranged Friday Product Meetup was damage control, an effort to get out in front of the story.

UPDATE 10:59 a.m.: I am angry about how all this was handled by Linden Lab. I am sad for the Linden Lab staff who have lost their jobs. And I absolutely hate how private companies with non-unionized employees handle staff changes like this. It’s brutal. As the survivor of a layoff very early in my career, when I did work for a time at a private software company, my heart goes out to the Linden Lab staff who survived this layoff, who now have to adjust to a new reality (and probably an increased workload, too).

And I have been angrily arguing with several people in Discord, who think that I should not have published this blogpost (as if the news wasn’t going to get out anyway; in this digital age you can’t hide something like this). I am staying off Discord for the rest of the day, before I say something in anger that I truly regret.

This is news, I am not under a gag order from Linden Lab, and it directly impacts the Sansar community. How could I not report on something so major? Ebbe Altberg, the board of directors and upper management at Linden Lab have already made their decisions and acted on them, and the news would have eventually gotten out anyway.

UPDATE 12:22 p.m.: Inara Pey left a comment on an earlier blogpost, telling me that, as far as she was aware, Landon McDowell, the Chief Product Officer, was still with the company:

While Landon McDowell (Landon Linden) has taken something of a lead with Sansar, his title is Chief Product Officer, which (so I understand) covers both Sansar and SL. Right now (Monday, Nov 4th), he still appears to be active at the Lab (e.g. his SL account is still active, unlike a couple of others I’ve been checking on).

So, it is possible that with Sheri taking over the “GM” post with Sansar, he may have simply stepped back from the more day-to-day hands-on aspects of running Sansar, rather than having departed from LL or anything of that nature.

UPDATE 2:53 p.m.: Wagner James Au of the long-running blog New World Notes has confirmed my reporting, citing his own sources, saying:

Confirming a blog post from Ryan Schultz (along with some ominous rumblings I heard last Friday), some insiders tell me that Linden Lab has recently laid off over 20 staffers working on Sansar, the company’s social VR platform. Even more tragically, the layoffs include some longtime Lindens who got their start working on Second Life, Linden Lab’s core profitable product, but who were moved to the Sansar team.

Asked to comment on these layoff reports, a Linden Lab spokesperson just sent me this response, in its entirety: “We have no comment at this time, but we’re continuing to develop both Second Life and Sansar, and we’re excited about the many new partnerships and features on tap for 2020!”

UPDATE Nov. 13th: I haven’t been checking messages sent to me via the Contact page on this blog lately, so I missed this anonymous message sent to me on Nov. 4th:

I have a trustworthy, insider source. I can confirm Linden Lab laid off a significant number of Sansar staff (more than 50%) last week ([October] 30th). Sansar is not growing, no growth = no revenue. The Lab couldn’t get secure more funding/investor money so they had to do this. [The] events pivot is a Hail Mary to try increase user growth. Morale within the company is low (90% of avatar team was laid off). Ironically, 100% of the team working on events was laid off as well. Don’t expect any large features in the next few months.

So I have yet another source that corroborates what both I and Wagner have been told.

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6 thoughts on “Linden Lab Lays Off 30 Staff”

  1. You aren’t part of their marketing machine. Unless one is an influencer, a journalist or blogger has all the right to publish how things actually are or your point of view.

  2. LL invested heavily in Sansar without any form of market analysis being conducted. Just because you can, doesn’t mean that there is a demand. Truth is that they became complacent and stopped innovating. Second Life has been slowly dying over the years and being their sole revenue generation stream, it seemed strange that they would refocus their efforts on Sansar which was an abysmal idea to start with. Had they reinvested in fixing the issues that made creators abandon the SL platform, it would have then made sense to start up another project. Considering the time and money wasted on the Sansar project, it’s difficult to see Linden Labs being sustainable in the next 5-10 years. The company is hemorrhaging money and they’re continuing to lose their subscriber base daily. They promised a reduction and reevaluation of their pricing model for renting Sims saying that moving to the cloud would drive down their upfront cost, but none of their subscribers have seen these cost savings. They’re charging an absurd amount of money for a plot of land and being that the grid isn’t as populated as it once was, it will continue to get worse. LL is done for, they should just liquidate all of their assets if they’re not currently moving to sell off the company in it’s very defunct state. Poor leadership, lack of vision, and corporate greed. Well deserved indeed.

    1. Premium account membership is up, so are sales according to Casper tracking https://caspervend.casperdns.com/economy.php Do we need a new platform? Absofuckinglutely. However, there are still an incredible amount of people who are running SL on 10+ year old computers or better. Last I checked the LL team was sitting at around 200 people. I’m not sure how many of those if any are the moles who are all hourly contractors from what I understand. I think this dream of a new platform where they magically make 16 year old items still work is ridiculous. Yes, we all paid our money and I think I can safely say that most of us got our moneys worth out of it. I think I can safely say I and many others would sadly but willingly turn our backs on all the old SL stuff if we could get an SL 2.0 , ready for creators out of the box, platform.

  3. I pretty much agree with everything that Ambro said. From day one, I thought Sansar was an ill-conceived idea. I don’t really know, but I heard that one of the primary motivations for it was to recoup revenue from certain “land deals” that were made in Second Life. If that’s so, the notion of corporate greed as a core problem is well deserved. All large successful software and “online” companies have always recognized that you must share the wealth to become wildly popular. Thoughts of Amazon (with all of their third-party store vendors) and Microsoft (with the enormous number of third-party vendors writing software for Windows) comes to mind. If you make your product into an ecosystem, it becomes part of our culture … and, apparently Sansar was heading in the opposite direction (i.e., we want to keep all of our marbles, and not share any).

    Another thing that someone like Microsoft understands, and Linden never seemed to appreciate, is that they have to stay backward compatible (and not abandon all the folks that made them great in the first place). They always said that Sansar wasn’t being developed to replace Second Life, but we all know that was a bunch of hooey. They had starry visions of Sansar taking over the 3D social world and leaving Second Life in the dust. Shame on them.

    If they were honorable folks, they would have put those resources (the revenue that Second Life brought in) back into Second Life, developing easier build tools, more alternatives to viewing and staying connected, possibly contributing to a cut-down version of Blender more geared toward making mesh objects, and less laggy group chat (which is where much of my fun in Second Life is), possibly enhanced areas for marketing of real life products (think of a visual 3D version of Amazon), easier to use meeting spaces, an alternative for real-life validated avatars (not anonymous), possibly a switch in regions to allow only real-life validated avatars, etc etc.

    Again, I’ve got no idea, but I’m guessing the whole Sansar project started with a bunch of young brilliant (but dumb) new kids, saying they could make it better and greater, but really just wanted to piss on anything/everything that wasn’t their creation in the beginning.

    I feel a bit sorry for Philip Rosedale. He had a brilliant idea, brought it into fruition. And then it was subsequently destroyed by small egotistical minds incapable of coming into a successful culture and making it even greater. However, it’s also his fault for somewhat abandoning the project a few years back.

    In my opinion, they still have enough goodwill to reemerge, as many other companies have done by building new and insightful innovations into the products that brought them to the table in the first place. But they’re definitely swirling around the drain, and I’m just not sure they’ve got anyone with the vision and authority to pull them back into greatness. It makes me think of the story of Sears. In a reasonable world, they should be the Amazon of today, as they were the first company to see the fortunes in mail-order sales (an older version of on-line sales). But they were too busy cashing in and leaving innovations to youngsters who had good grades but no true brilliant ideas. And they were just going too fast in the wrong direction.

    I think the writing is on the wall, but it will be a sad day when Second Life gets either shut down or sold and turned into something entirely different from what it currently is.

  4. 20 to 30 people is a small number. I used to manage a call center of 200+ employees. It was not unusual to be given last minute directives to terminate 20 people before end of business day. I had performance metrics and an employee score card to rank staff, so it’s it was simple to choose the bottom performing employees. Sometimes that’s necessary to make room for new hires with better performance potential, as a project was being phased out, or when projections for quarterly or annual reports are not looking hot. I had to do this in December once, uff! It’s understood in my state that you work for an organization as long as it suits you, and you’re employed as long as it suits the organization. There’s never guarantee. Why is this news? If Linden Labs reports closing one of their sites, or operating at a loss, I’d find it more concerning.

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