I haven't been to the forum or even the official blog announcement but I did get a mass email from M. Linden which seemed to be assuring its recipients that the decision was not down to the company having economic issues but rather streamlining staff to concentrate on evolving SL to a web based client like IMVU with plans to piggy back on social network sites like Facebook.
It makes sense to me at least. I logged into IMVU last night to check it out. There were over 90,000 people online. I have never seen that many people logged into SL and we never will because the client/viewer cannot run efficiently with more than 70,000 people logged on in any one time.
Making SL a web based client with no download means more people can log on without burden to servers.
Linking people who are already members of Facebook to a SL client is good business sense. SL right now has more merchants than consumers. Thats just the way it's gone so we need to attract more consumers and less merchants.
Here's an interesting blog post which covers the subject from a business perspective.
As for IMVU, it seemed like good fun and there certainly was a better platform for encouraging spending right from the point of avatar creation. But the game play was awful! I visited a "room" which was a tiny floating island with 10 avatars all sat on static assets (chairs etc) and talking absolute nonsense, playing in burps, farts and the sound of some guy taking a leak in the toilet as they all fell about laughing. I logged out bored within 5 minutes.
The avatars are more cartoony than SL avatars but the marketplace is thriving! You can earn or buy "credits" to spend on avatar clothing or furniture and even whole rooms. One way to earn credits (which have a real life value much like SL's Linden Dollar does) is to evaluate content creators submissions and test them in a 3D viewer. This was fascinating to me to see and test drive all of the different content people had made and were waiting approval of. I got to see the best and the worst.
Once you test the basics and make sure it doesn't break the TOS standards such as nudity, violence and general abusive undertones, you pre approve it and then it is sent to IMVU staff I assume to give it the final thumbs up. I guess it's a form of alpha testing.
Everything has to be approved before its allowed to be released into the game or market. There.com had the same system and sure it took man hours but if IMVU can manage it why can't Linden Labs?
Right now anyone can upload anything into SL.
It's like the Wild West as offenders of copyright re offend in different account names which BTW don't even have to be ID verified by Linden Labs.
IMVU encourages its members to verify their ID by giving them credits, confirm your email, get more credits, buy your user name and sign up to be a content creator, get more credits.
Fantastic strategy and one that LL could lend from.
Of course, any news about job losses in Linden Land sends ripples of insecurity throughout the grid and sales plummet, its inevitable.
To me at least, it's no surprise and not because I think SL/LL are messed up but because nearly all companies in most western countries are experiencing job losses or cut backs. Linden Labs are not immune to this recession, why would they be?
On the flip side, I have been invited to do a 10 minute public talk and Q&A session on texture creation for Burniversity the art and build learning portion for the Second Life, Burning Life.
Its very flattering but the words "as an individual recognized as an expert in the field" fill me with utter fear because I don't consider myself an expert in the field at all. It's all relative. To some I may be seen as an expert, to others I am just an amateur.
This invitation thing brings the Anshe Chung interview incident to mind.
I laughed at that Video when I saw it. Not in spite but because it was just funny.
Not so funny when your on the other side of that fence though and I doubt I will be putting myself in the line of fire.