The micro-industry of content development Second Life is growing very fast. All the developers I know are very busy, and there's definitely an excitement that comes with each new project. The types of projects being done are exciting - educational, public works, and research provide a lot of the opportunities. Add to that the good media attention we've been getting and it's a pretty sweet deal for people getting into it.
There is the downside that, as a new technology based industry, people are wary to spend a lot of money. Yes, I've had to turn down projects. Yes, some projects I've done at cut rates, but it's more than enough to live on if you're pursuing jobs actively and you're both skilled and professional.
Mid to Long Term Demand: The Big Splash
There will come a point where companies that are on the Internet will want a 3-D virtual presence. It will be the trendy thing to do, and honestly, for most medium to large sized company, it's relatively cheap to have a presence in Second Life. Though wary of the old dot-com bust, companies will realize that a 3-D Internet is a natural progression from the 2-D one, and will want to make sure they remain with the newest trendy technology.
This I call the "Big Splash". It's the sound of companies all jumping into the water at the same time. When this time comes, demand for SL talent will be like that of web-designers back in 1996 and 1997. Come a year from now, people in our industry will wind up with a choice of jobs:
- Consulting. Knowledge will be in high demand and people will make money simply writing books and telling companies what they need to do to get into the Metaverse.
- Joining or starting development studios, such as Electric Sheep Company, The Magicians, or Millions of Us.
- Joining new development studios, backed by major Internet developers with proven development business methods.
- Going professional freelance and specializing on specific skills. (Gardens, scripting vehicles, virtual event planning, etc.)
So the medium-to-long term looks great. And for anyone who can't quite make the jump to a full-time Second Life job just yet, doing it part-time is still an excellent preparation for times to come.
Two Types of Companies
Two types of companies are already emerging: Those that are aware that they are an inseparable part of the community of developers, and those who don't. The prior I call "community companies". The latter I call "the isolationists". They are companies who tout their skills and their big clients, and don't need to bother with playing nice with other developers.
As the Metaverse grows, they will become irrelevant. The only companies that will get ahead will be the ones who act in community, and realize that there's so much pie out there to be eaten that there is no need to squabble over the same piece.
How do you tell the two apart?
Isolationist companies will tout their own projects as revolutionary.
Community companies will compare their successes with similar ones of other developers.
Isolationist companies will tell a client that they are the only person for the job.
Community companies will not be afraid to let clients shop around.
Isolationist companies will pride themselves in being better than everyone else.
Community companies will pride themselves in constantly learning from others.
Isolationist companies will speak poorly of other developers.
Community companies will promote other developers.
Isolationist companies will treat other developers as competition.
Community companies will see other developers as partners in growing the industry.
Isolationist companies will dismiss a job they don't want or can't handle.
Community companies will recommend other developers when they can't take a job.
Isolationist companies will spend all of their effort improving themselves.
Community companies will take part in creating shared resources for all developers.
Isolationist companies are doomed to fall behind on technology and become irrelevant.
Community companies will build a strong network, be well-liked, and thrive.
Which one do you prefer to be?
Aimee Weber gave some great advice for developing professionally in SL in NWN recently.
I was a guest on SecondCast, episode 19. Topics included the change of the SL terms of service to allow Linden Lab to sell L$ for US$, the future of SL as a Metaverse, and the guy who is suing Linden Lab because he hacked their land sale server and got banz0red. (Aww, what a shame!)
Tune in or download, yo!
I'm watching the live streaming of The Rules of Engagement, an event which is the first mixed-reality symposium by SDForum. Now, I love mixed-reality events, and I love to see Electric Sheep working on more of these events. While Linden Lab only announced this event this yesterday, I stopped by the locations, and there's three sims full of folks watching the stream. There is really a big demand for these.
Electric Sheep's CEO, Sibley Verbeck, was on a panel "The Virtual World Value Chain", and brought up an excellent point about the state of the Metaverse. The panelist before him had emphasized what Philip Rosedale has been saying for a while, that the Metaverse is at level compared to the Internet in 1994. Sibley agreed, but added that the learning curve that people are going through is much, much less than back then. People are already used to Web 2.0, and learning to use a 3-D Internet is not that big of a jump.
The Technology Gap
This is the essence of an idea I have been thinking about for a few months. There is a gap between where the technology is to enable a Metaverse, and how ready people are for it. While Second Life is at a 1994 stage of working out lots of kinks, as Philip freely admits, peoples' readiness is about at 1997.
Back in 1994, there was a lot of new things that people didn't readily accept and understand. The obstacles that sat in the way of users accepting the Internet as a worldwide medium included:
- Putting a computer in almost every household
- Putting a computer in almost every workplace
- Learning how to type
- Learning how to use a computer
- Learning how to use an operating system like Windows or MacOS
- Convincing everyone to sign up for an ISP
- Convincing people they need broadband
- Establishing trust for online commerce
- People getting used to using e-mail and instant / text messaging
Now, we've got all of those out of the way, what's left to accept the Metaverse? Learn a 3-D Interface. That's it. Hence, there's an amount of catching up needed on the part of the technology - the software and architecture of the Metaverse.
Implications of the Metaverse Technology Gap
1. The industry is exploding for professional Metaverse developers, such as myself. Experts in the Metaverse now will be in enormous demand.
2. Linden Lab is likely to have a major competitor step in with large amounts of capital, and try and circumvent Second Life as the Metaverse.
3. There is a huge opportunity for middleware makers who solve the problems not yet fixed by Linden Lab. However, this is a very risky industry, as we have seem from GOM.
4. It's entirely possible that governments will step in early on to try and legislate the Metaverse to a way they see fit, while the platform is still malleable.
5. The Metaverse may need to be significantly reinvented. I foresee a SL 2.0, and the longer it takes to make this change, the more bellyaching we're liable to hear.