Longtime users of Second Life are all too familiar with the days of M Linden. Before him, Second Life was truly seen as "Your World, Your Imagination." But then, Linden Lab began making a number of questionable moves that didn't seem to make any sense, except possibly for short term profits at the expense of long term, or just made no sense at all. People began to have less and less faith in the Lab to run the virtual world in a competent manner. The doubt was to the point among some as to question any new move Linden Lab would make out of fear they'd just screw it up and end up making the Grid worse off.
Following the layoffs in 2010, people could be forgiven for saying Second Life was going downhill and headed for shutdown. The return of founder Philip Linden briefly raised hopes, but they soon fell again with more questionable decisions such as the Teen Grid merger and the end to nonprofit discounts. Residents were less eager to invest as before. People began to check out the alternative worlds and in a few cases move and all but leave their former virtual home behind.
Then came Rod Humble, and with his competent record, residents began to think maybe just maybe the Lab was starting to get serious. In contrast to many Lindens who seldom used their own product, Rodvik Linden as he came to be known, was willing to spend time inworld and see what he could do with it as a run-of-the-mill resident. Things were far less than perfect, as the decisions about the teens and nonprofits were not reversed, but residents began to feel the Lab was starting to get it's act back together. The Lab began to work on viewer developments, and work on ways to entertain new and old residents alike such as the Linden Worlds game areas. And with bringing in "gaming god" Will Wright, people began to think Second Life had a bright future after all.
When Linden Lab announced in December it would soon be working on new products besides Second Life in December, a few people expressed worry that it was about to all but ignore the Grid or even close it down altogether. Had the announcement been made a year earlier, that might have been the general consensus. But people were more confident, beginning to invest more despite the bad economic times in real life, and some of the people whom had left to other virtual worlds were supposedly coming back under new account names. The Linden's move was instead seen as no big worry at worst, and at best an opportunity to attract new people through publicity if the new product turned out to be a hit. As the end of February neared, residents in general were fairly confident.
What a difference a week makes.
First the Lab announced changes to their third-party viewer policy. The biggest change was that no longer would they allow them to make features they didn't have. Rightly or wrongly, the official viewers have a poor reputation among many residents, and this was seen by some as basically a power grab. Linden Lab, they charged, was willing to kill further innovations of the viewing experience out of embarrassment of most residents using viewers other than their own.
While this news was still fresh in people's minds came two more developments. First, despite committing itself to do so earlier, Linden Lab stated they would not be giving newer accounts last names after all. The responses were of disappointment and grumbling, people not buying the Lab's explanation that this was too difficult to pull off. As newer residents have reported feeling left out because their single name marks them as "newbs," Linden Lab's claim of concerns over "bulling" by official viewer users by third party viewers are probably looking pretty hollow to more than a few.
Then came word about Linden Lab's quarterly economic reports of Second Life. There would be no more. As Hamlet Au, the one time imbedded reporter of Linden Lab put it, "This is bad." When most companies stop doing so, this is a sign of trouble. And as Tateru Nino reminded, they have been cutting back on their reports for some time.
Linden Lab, what is going on?
For businesses, trust is a valuable commodity. Trust that you will honor your commitments. Trust that you have the competence to run your business and manage your product well. It cannot be gained quickly or bought, only slowly earned over time.
The trust people had, it took a year for you to rebuild. And now in a week, you've wrecked it.
Once again, residents are distrusting your competence and your intentions.
Once again, residents are having doubts about the future of Second Life.
Once again, residents are hesitating about committing their time and effort into the Grid.
Once again, people are using your name as a curse: "to pull a Linden" meaning to take a great product and drag it into mediocrity.
And don't think what goes on here won't haunt you. When you try to sell your new products, people will ask what else you've made, and then ask, "Second Life? How has that been doing lately?"
How will you answer them?
1 hour ago