The Virtual Whirl: News of the Whirl

This week, in The Virtual Whirl, we're having our monthly roundup of news items. Things that got missed, things that didn't make the cut, things that got buried, and things that really should have gotten your attention anyway.

Lineup changes at the Lab

Assuming we hear about most of the staff changes at Linden Lab, the company would appear to have an unusually low staff churn rate, only a fraction of the normal rates for a company of its type and size, which should be turning over 5-10 staff per month.

Well, we're probably not hearing about them all, but unconfirmed reports that the Lab is turning over 5-10 staff per week seems unreasonably high and we're inclined to disregard them.

Notable departures and changes at the Lab in recent weeks include:

  • Charity Majors/Charity Linden, who has gone off to a company outside the VE industry. Majors, who was over in system administration, has earned our vote for the Lab's all-time best communicator.
  • John Lester/Pathfinder Linden, was dumped in a reorganization that seemed a bit like a round of musical chairs. When the music stopped, John was left without a seat. Lester occupied a number of roles during his time at the Lab, particularly business development and evangelism. He was most known for his involvement with – and advocacy for – the education community.
  • Meadhbh Hamrick/Infinity Linden has also left the Lab. Hamrick was notably involved in the IETF virtual environment interoperability specifications. She will apparently continue to be involved in those efforts, but not on the Lab's behalf.
  • Robin Whyte/Jack Linden has moved up – at least we think it's up – from "Executive Director of Customer Relations and Land" to "Executive Director of Consumer Products". What consumer products are those? Apparently they're 'Land', 'eCommerce', 'Subscription' (that would be premium accounts) and 'Search'. So, you'll be seeing Whyte's fingers in a lot more Lab policy pies from here on in.

Open Wonderland Foundation Launches

Sun's open source Project Wonderland toolkit for building collaborative 3D virtual environments seemed to take a bit of a blow as new owner Oracle cleaned the new digs. Neither virtual environments nor open source were specifically targeted, but Project Wonderland was just one of a number of collateral casualties.

That said, however, the Project Wonderland team has founded the Open Wonderland Foundation, migrated the code onto Google Code, and – at this particular moment – appears to be as healthy as ever, if not actually healthier.

At this time, it appears to have a larger overall development base than Second Life, so despite having been somewhat overlooked as an open source project in the past, it remains one to watch.

OpenSim sees growth surge, gains currency

Hypergrid Business' Maria Korolov reports that "The world's top 40 OpenSim-based grids gained over 900 regions over the past month, from 8,626 to 9,533, an increase of more than 10 percent." That's some fairly impressive growth, and that's not even factoring in a plethora of microgrids.

The five largest of these grids at present are (in order), OSGrid, ScienceSim, The New World Grid, FrancoGrid, and ReactionGrid.

Additionally, four grids on the list have signed up with VirWox's Open Metaverse Currency (OMC), a hypergrid-friendly virtual currency – the Open Metaverse Cent (OM¢) – similar to the Linden Dollar (and can be purchased with Linden Dollars, in fact).

A credible operator-agnostic virtual currency provider could really shake up the industry right now, and drive considerable growth outside of the walled-garden worlds.

That makes VirWox worth watching very closely indeed. As a currency provider, their reputation and reliability will need to be quite high. Doubtless some in the industry may see them as a business threat if the OM¢ starts to take off, and the reaction of businesses that feel threatened is always worth watching closely.

Linden Lab tours Europe

Linden Lab marketing has been on a whirlwind tour of Europe, though the aim of the tour is a little less than clear, other than trying to encourage more journalists to write about Second Life. Given the considerable lack of quality and correctness in mainstream media reporting of Second Life, you'd generally think that that wouldn't be a good idea.

Nevertheless, as the largest player in the space, Linden Lab needs to have a care to keep more in the public eye than much of the up-and-coming would-be competitors and alternatives.

With the Lab driving Second Life towards the mainstream over the next couple years (at least we think that's what they're doing – their precise goals remain a mystery still), lining up the press for subsequent announcements is important to them, even if the press can't seem to get the stories right.

This article was originally published on Massively.