UPDATED! High Fidelity Invests in Linden Lab, the Makers of Second Life, and Philip Rosedale Rejoins Linden Lab as a Strategic Advisor

The Second Life website (image source)

Today, Linden Lab (more formally known as Linden Research, Inc., the makers of Second Life) dropped a press release:

High Fidelity announced today that it acquired an interest in Linden Research, Inc. (“Linden Lab”), the pioneering developer of the virtual world Second Life. The deal includes a cash investment and distributed computing patents. Members of High Fidelity’s metaverse team are joining the company, and Philip Rosedale, who is a founder of both companies, is also rejoining Second Life as a strategic advisor.

The transaction will help Second Life further scale its operations and strengthen its commitment to growing an innovative, inclusive, and diverse metaverse where its inhabitants’ ingenuity drives real-world value for themselves and others.

“No one has come close to building a virtual world like Second Life,” says Second Life founder and High Fidelity co-founder, Philip Rosedale. “Big Tech giving away VR headsets and building a metaverse on their ad-driven, behavior-modification platforms isn’t going to create a magical, single digital utopia for everyone. Second Life has managed to create both a positive, enriching experience for its residents — with room for millions more to join — and built a thriving subscription-based business at the same time. Virtual worlds don’t need to be dystopias.”

High Fidelity is the company Philip Rosedale founded after leaving Linden Lab. Its first product, an ambitious social VR platform called High Fidelity, failed to catch on and was shut down in early 2020. Its successor product (also called High Fidelity) is a 3D spatialized audio system for use in other metaverse platforms. So, when I’m talking about High Fidelity (HiFi for short), I always make sure to indicate whether I am talking about the company itself, its former social VR product (the old High Fidelity) or the new 3D audio product (the new High Fidelity)!

The website for the new High Fidelity (image source)

Wagner James Au, writer of the long-time virtual worlds blog New World Notes (from whom I first learned about this breaking news), has this to say:

Just got this message from Philip Rosedale, about the future of Second Life:

“I’m not back full-time, but it feels great to get to be talking to Lindens about design! I think the vital thing to focus on is demonstrating that a virtual world can scale to greater capacity while being inclusive and fair and safe for humanity.”

Exciting and welcome news, indeed! I will update this blogpost with more details as I acquire them. Stay tuned!

UPDATE Jan. 14th, 2022: The Wall Street Journal, in an article titled Second Life Founder Returns to Take On the Metaverse (archived version), reported yesterday:

Philip Rosedale in 2003 launched the online game where players using avatars can hang out, socialize with other players and make purchases. Second Life is a forerunner of the virtual worlds that big tech companies are now trying to create and that are often referred to as the metaverse. Mr. Rosedale is returning to the company he left in 2010 to serve as a strategic adviser and shepherd its expansion as the metaverse gains wider traction, he said in an interview…

Mr. Rosedale said that the business models underpinning some of the current tech giants, such as tracking user behavior to target ads, would be potentially harmful in the metaverse, which is more immersive than current digital platforms. “I think that there is a real genuine, existential risk associated with how that gets done,” he said.

Second Life may have had a head start on some of the metaverse companies it aims to compete with, but to some extent is the underdog. Second Life rolled out before Facebook was founded, but has hovered at around one million users since 2008, according to a company spokesperson. Meta’s Facebook, Instagram and other services sported more than 3.5 billion monthly users combined, according to its most recent earnings. Epic Games Inc.’s Fortnite videogame and game company Roblox Corp. , which are also making moves in the metaverse, have many times the number of users that Second Life has.

Brad Oberwager, chairman of Second Life parent company Linden Research Inc., said he is working with Mr. Rosedale to inject momentum into the business. Second Life already offers the ability for people to withdraw money from in-game sales into the real world, a feature lacking in some other emerging metaverses, which should attract users, he said. Coming upgrades focused on further improving the social and economic components of the game, such as the avatars and digital marketplace, promise to drive user growth, he added.

The Wall Street Journal article goes on to state that “Mr. Rosedale is bringing with him to Second Life a small cadre of developers, a number of patents and an unspecified financial investment from the company he founded in 2013, High Fidelity Inc.”

In an interview with c|net, titled Second Life founder returns to revamp his original metaverse, Philip goes into a little more detail:

Rosedale is going to be a “strategic adviser” for Second Life, while his company High Fidelity looks to infuse Second Life with some new ideas, simultaneously working on other ideas for future tech, including – at some point – VR again. “We’re announcing that we’ve shifted a group of seven people, some patents, some money. We’re investing in Second Life, to keep working on Second Life,” Rosedale told me. “Two of those patents are moderation in a decentralized environment patents, which is really cool.”

The reason for the shift is that Second Life still makes money and still has a considerably larger community than most VR platforms: It’s had over 73 million accounts created since it launched, and estimates of active users hover around 900,000. Rosedale sees the shift as solving problems while VR hardware still gets thought out. 

Despite the seeming success of the Oculus Quest 2, he still doesn’t think it’s enough. “The headset is so broken that it’s going to actually take, I think, five years to get to something that’s good,” he says, “and we as a startup would neither survive, nor would it make sense for us to sit around for five years.” He sees building up Second Life as a better platform that will be VR-optional until that magically perfect hardware arrives. 

The entire c|net article is well worth a read, by the way. This news has also been covered by publications such as The Verge, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and CoinTelegraph.

Honestly, the more I read, the better this sounds! I think this is exciting news for both Linden Lab and High Fidelity, and I wish all involved every success in this endeavour.

Skittish: A Brief Introduction

Skittish is what you’d get if you crossed Animal Crossing with Clubhouse.

Taylor Hatmaker, TechCrunch

Skittish is a web browser-based virtual world with a whimsical spin: you can choose from one of 45 different animals as your avatar, and you can host conferences, festivals, meetups, parties, workshops, etc. in a playful cartoon world with spatial audio, where you can create virtual worlds with a drag-and-drop editor.

You wanna be a cow? You’re a cow! Just pick a starter avatar and you’re all set to go!

In fact, Skittish’s high-quality spatial audio chat uses an API from High Fidelity, the company run by metaverse pioneer and Second Life founding CEO Philip Rosedale. TechCrunch reports:

Skittish grew out of a $100,000 grant awarded by Grant For The Web, a fund created by Coil, Mozilla and Creative Commons to support projects that incorporate micropayments for online creators. [CEO Andy] Baio began prototyping Skittish last July, imagining it as a pop-up space for events rather than a persistent virtual world.

Skittish spaces initially accommodated up to 120 mixed voices in a single room, but the audio capacity is even higher now. Though he’s still testing what the new limits might be, Skittish is getting closer to Baio’s goal of hosting 1000-person events. Skittish rooms can now be password protected, invite-only or public, and Baio imagines special “cozy” 3-5 person spaces in the project’s future.

Here’s a one-minute video overview (you might need to turn your sound up a bit to hear the narrator):

Skittish reminds me of a similar product I wrote about last year, called Remotely, only in that case, instead of an animal, you were an astronaut! I can see the appeal of this if you, like me, are fighting a serious case of Zoom fatigue (although I’m not quite sure how much uptake there will be among the educational and corporate sectors!).

To learn more about Skittish, visit their website, check out their YouTube channel, or follow them on Instagram or Twitter. And, of course, I will be duly adding Skittish to my sprawling list of social VR, virtual worlds, and metaverse platforms (which I hope to reorganize and recategorize sometime soon!).


Thank you to both Dr. Fran Babcock and Rainwolf for the heads-up!

Video: Matthew Ball Talks About the Metaverse Road Map in Breakroom

On Thursday, October 21st, Matthew Ball, author of the influential Metaverse Primer and lead creator of the Ball Metaverse Index, was joined by Gene Park of the Washington Post and virtual world blogger Wagner James Au for a fireside chat in the virtual world of Breakroom. The chat covered a wide range of topics, including key trends to watch for, the mainstream adoption of the Metaverse, and the broader impact on society. Near the end, metaverse pioneer Philip Rosedale was also invited up on stage. You can read more about the event here.

Matthew Ball is a well-informed, articulate, and insightful speaker about the metaverse, and I highly recommend you watch the following 50-minute video of the well-attended event:

Please note that, as you watch this video, both Adam Frisby and Rohan Freeman of Sine Wave Entertainment, senior executives of the company who make Breakroom and Sinespace, were the ones responsible for spawning the dizzying array of items on and around the stage as the panel members spoke to the assembled audience.

I certainly don’t blame Adam and Rohan for wanting to flex the dynamic editing capabilities of their platform, especially in front of an audience full of big names in the metaverse! However, at first I thought it was a griefer attack! (I even DM’ed Adam to report the “griefer”, not knowing that it was him! How embarrassing.)

Anyways, I learned a lot from Matthew’s talk, and there were some great questions afterward from the audience, so I thought I’d share the video here with you. Stay tuned for news of the next in this free series of Fireside Chats in Breakroom!


This blogpost is sponsored by Sinespace, and was written in my role as an embedded reporter for this virtual world (more details here). 

BURN2: Celebrate Burning Man in Second Life, October 8th to 17th, 2021

Entrance to the BURN2 festival (SLURL)

Once upon a time, a man named Philip Rosedale went to Burning Man…and the rest is history. Some say that it was Philip’s experience at Burning Man which inspired him to create the still-thriving virtual world of Second Life. And so it seems very fitting that, as the real-life Burning Man festival has been cancelled for the second year in a row due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, we gather in Second Life for a virtual Burning Man festival.

Veteran SL blogger Inara Pey writes:

Burn2 2021 opens its gates at 17:00 SLT on Friday, October 8th, 2021 and will run through until Sunday, October 17th, 2021. Possibly as a result of the 2020 event proving so popular amongst Burning Man veterans – that event went virtual due to the pandemic – this year’s Burn2 Octoburn is taking place over a total of 12 regions, double the usual number. Thus, there are more camps, more builds and more things to see and do.

The theme for this year’s event is The Great Unknown, once again matching the core theme of Burning Man, and the organisers of that event describe the theme in these terms:

THIS YEAR’S BURNING MAN THEME IS AN INVITATION TO EMERGE FROM OUR COLLECTIVE ISOLATION, TO EXPLORE THE UNFAMILIAR CONTOURS OF A CHANGED WORLD, AND TO REIMAGINE OURSELVES, OUR COMMUNITY, AND OUR CULTURE IN WAYS THAT MIGHT NOT HAVE BEEN POSSIBLE BEFORE THIS PERIOD OF PLAGUE AND PAUSE. AFTER A LONG YEAR ADRIFT IN THE MULTIVERSE, BESET BY ANGST AND UNCERTAINTY, IT’S TIME TO CLIMB UP OUT OF OUR ESCAPE PODS AND LOOK OUTSIDE TO SEE WHERE WE’VE LANDED. ON TOP OF A MOUNTAIN, LIKE NOAH? AT THE BOTTOM OF A RABBIT HOLE, LIKE ALICE? OR ARE WE ON A VAST AND ENDLESS PLAIN, RINGED BY ANCIENT MOUNTAINS, THE SORT OF UNFATHOMABLE TERRITORY THAT ONCE CAUSED MAPMAKERS TO THROW UP THEIR HANDS AND WRITE “HERE BE DRAGONS” AT THE MARGINS OF THE KNOWN WORLD? 

The official BURN2 website offers a bit of background on the virtual festival:

BURN2 is the first sanctioned Burning Man regional in the virtual world. Burning Man has always had a presence in Second Life since its beginning, and BURN2 is the latest incarnation of Burning Man presence there. Today, BURN2 occupies a region in Second Life year-round called Deep Hole, with extra regions added to their virtual space during special events. It is run by a group that includes people involved directly with Burning Man, along with seasoned Second Life programmers and digital artists with a genuine interest in Burning Man.

The BURN2 community is a mix of those who attend real-life Burning Man as well as people from all over the world who may never have the opportunity to visit the real playa, but share a genuine interest in Burning Man. For many, BURN2 is their Burning Man experience. Together, we celebrate Burning Man culture in the unique environment of Second Life.

BURN2 has many of the elements of the Burning Man event, including being set in a desert playa virtual environment, and the opportunity to create your own environment. BURN2 has many of the same organized groups such as Lamplighters, Fire Dancers, Rangers, a DMV complete with crazy art cars to drive around, and many talented artists who build and share their art with the community each year.

You are encouraged to explore the dozen sims of BURN2 on foot, via bicycle (free ones are available at the entrance), or using one of the many crazy free vehicles you can find scattered around. There’s even a hot air balloon to take you high over the playa!

At the end of the BURN2 festival, the burning of The Man and the Temple will take place at 12:00 noon Second Life Time/Pacific Standard Time on Saturday, October 16th, and Sunday October 17th, 2021 respectively.

For more information about BURN2, please visit their website or subscribe to their RSS newsfeed (and if you are complete and utter newbie to Second Life and BURN2, start here for step-by-step instructions on how you can participate). Here’s the listing of all the events taking place, and an event calendar. You can also follow BURN2 on social media: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or YouTube. See you on the playa!

P.S. There is a large selection of free gifts from various creators located immediately in front of the entrance to BURN2.