If you think Second Life was hard to get into, wait until you buy your first NFT and try to show it to a friend.—Philip Rosedale.
Today, Philip Rosedale, the founding CEO of Linden Lab (the makers of Second Life) and the current CEO of High Fidelity, had a chat with Sine Wave Entertainment’s Adam Frisby in Breakroom (the corporate cousin of the Sinewave platform), who was also heavily involved with the development of OpenSim.
In fact, I learned before the event started from Adam Frisby that Breakroom had implemented the High Fidelity spatialized audio system, just before the event! A crowd of about 50 avatars gathered in a custom virtual world created by Adam himself, which reminded me strongly of the great Canadian north!
Here are a few quick notes on just a few of the topics from that conversation today (I hope to be able to add a video of the complete event later):
- Rohan Freeman of Sine Wave Entertainment gave an introduction, mentioning that their business had started in Second Life
- Wagner James Au of the blog New World Notes had a few audio difficulties, but eventually was able to speak, thanking everyone for coming, and mentioned a few features of the web-based Breakroom app (including emojis and hand-raising)
- What is a metaverse? Adam said it is a powerful blank canvas, allowing people to create and express themselves. Philip said that the older he gets, and the more he contemplates virtual worlds, the less sure he becomes about what the “metaverse” is. He defines it as “the digital space between us”, a creative space that consists on our shared agreement on the space between us (based on consensus). That space is the metaverse.
- The nature of virtual worlds includes the idea of the person/individual/avatar, a concept that is missing from the internet, which mainly exists to connect information
- Most surprising or humbling thing about user creativity? Philip said the infinite creativity of people building upon each others’ work over and over again, and how far Second Life has come in its history, which is inspiring to him. Adam said the game-building that has taken place in Sinespace, how people continually subvert the rules of the platform and make amazing things like first-person shooters
- What aspects of SL user creativity should newer platforms learn from? Philip is proud of SL, particularly the economy and the ability to creative derivative works/derivative rights, which he says still really hasn’t been replicated elsewhere. Adam said the financial and legal work required to enable that economy and operation, allowing people to create and sell their goods, calling it a “self actualization economy”.
- Adam: you can succeed in building a virtual world without an economy (cites VRChat), but if you want to get people to invest, you want to attract professionals who expect to be able to earn money, let them run free, which makes them more popular (e.g. Roblox)
- Is the metaverse limited to younger people? Philip said no, but the youngest generation which has the most time and energy, determine whatever happens next. Second Life started off with a younger userbase, which has aged over time. (Many people tell Philip that they got their start in SL.) Adam talked about the pivot to Breakroom during the pandemic, which has had huge adoption in areas such as banking conferences and events (something that he would not have previously predicted). Adam got his start in Active Worlds, when he had lots of energy! Different people want different things: socialization, creativity, etc.
- How important is the adoption of VR headsets? Adam said that it is still too easy to “break the spell” when in virtual reality, and thinks that VR might reach 30% of households at some point. VR per se will not make or break a metaverse. Philip said he learned that it’s still to early: the VR headset is still not going to be a replacement for something like the smartphone anytime soon (e.g. the awkward workarounds for typing in a headset). “We’re absolutely not there yet.” Divisive with respect of the people willing to wear an “electronic blindfold” (creates an imbalance in the social fabric). Despite this, he is still enthusiastic about VR, despite his pragmatism based on his experience with the old High Fidelity social VR platform.
- Cryptocurrency and NFTs: Philip said that there are still many challenges to face, saying that cryptocurrencies tend to concentrate wealth even more rapidly than regular currencies. Neither do NFTs. “If you think Second Life was hard to get into, wait until you buy your first NFT and try to show it to a friend.” Adam is NOT a fan of crypto, citing losing your passwords and losing access to your wallet as a serious problem (and customer service cannot help you!). These sorts of things are complete antithesis of something consumer-friendly, plus the environmental destruction caused by mining cryptocurrency. Philip thinks SL’s governance helped open up the conversation on how best to manage economies.
The event ended with questions from the audience. All in all, it was a wonderful event, with a great many people in attendance who are active in the metaverse!
UPDATE June 30th, 2021: As promised, here is the unedited, 80 minute-long YouTube video of the event:
This blogpost is sponsored by Sinespace, and was written in my role as an embedded reporter for this virtual world (more details here).