Second part of the analysis of Rosario Di Girolamo (aka Dep1050 Plasma) about past, present and future of virtual worlds and particularly of Second Life. After explaining some rules which are the basis of the synthetic world, Dep remember the story briefly, before giving his opinion on the possible evolution. This article was originally published at early September 2009 on SLnn.it (now gone), but it is still valid. Have a nice reading.
Second point: a brief history
Untill the day when Newsweek published a cover with the photo of Ashee Chung (aka Ailin Graef) revealing that she had become a millionaire (buying and selling “virtual lands” and thus constituting a real company, Anshe Chung Studios, which owns real estate agengy Dreamland, owner of a substantial portion of Second Life, see there), Second Life has basically lived in a sort of golden age, that is the SL world were not asked to meet the need to increase the economic wealth of the carbon-based world (except that a small percentage of people who speculated on land, just as the Graef).
It was a world in which for the majority of “residents” was the tip of the pyramid of Maslow that was more involved: the mere personal fulfillment, that is creativity in various forms. The internal market was fully deregulated, because there was no need to put rules: no one copied anything from anyone, because personal achievement was not so much related to selling, but to building. How many things were free, full copy. And then one linden dollar is worth three-hundredth of an euro. It was not asked the (SL) world to meet basic needs (of the world carbon-based) and so there was a balance between the virtual world and its people: it was a stable ecosystem. Everything ended up with the explosion of media hype. To the creativity media added the basic needs: secsuality and money! In a short time it was the end and the beginning of the ecosystem stable system frustrated.
Now (September 2009, ed), being now the downturn in the sight of all, I can only tell the story in a different way, the story that some of you may have already heard a couple of years ago. Take a field, and put the herbivores. Herbivores can only do three things: eat, reproduce and die a natural death. If herbivores become too numerous, the grass does not have time to grow (lag? lol) and a part of the herbivores die of hunger, disappears and goes away. If, however, in function of the rate of change of the population (births/deaths) the field is growing, there is no grass for all the herbivores die a natural death only. Let us now put carnivores, those oriented to money, as our friend Biancaluce Robbiani says, whom eat the herbivores. Carnivores entering the field, adding a piece of lawn and tell the lambs: “Come one, come on…”. Without going into the specific mechanisms of Second Life, the system evolves as a function of the relationship between carnivorous and herbivorous, and the size of the field. If carnivores are few, does not substantially disturb the balance of the territory, if they are too much or if they eat too many prey, the prey can end and they remain with their piece of lawn with grass growing… This reminds you of something?
A software that describes a primitive system of this kind can be found on the internet at least 15 years and above all… this system has an exact mathematical solution, that is there are some equations that describe the behavior of this system. They are the Lotka-Volterra equations, which in fact may well be that, with hysteresis (ie time delay) the first part of the hype cycle (media uphill, downhill due to more disappointment), to the point where SL is now. However, the hype cycle, once you reach the “bottom”, works with different mechanisms and are not worth the equations of Volterra: the ascent is not automatic, it is not “seasonal”, is not even mentioned that there is necessarily (this observation is not for Mario Gerosa, which, indeed, I recognize the merit of being the serious person that he is, the only one that has shown correctly the Gartner graph. It is for all those who speak of the cycle of Gartner as something that they can push around and invent the position of the points at their convenience).
[End of the ex cursus]
What can do in such a situation, the owner of the field (Linden Lab)? Because the system is complex, it must act on all the pieces of which it is necessary: it destroys first of all the subjects with the most dangerous activities (first gambling, then “pseudo” banks), then it drug on the market with pieces of meadow (by launching the homestead), then it deletes the carnivorous pests (war on copybot) and so on, until the actions announced in these days: the change in the calculation of the traffic and the decoupling of this in the search. Please remember that Google rules internet because it rules the search engine, not because of its free emails. The way to adjust the internal market, with strong actions and “dictatorial”, term used, if I remember correctly, right from Gerosa in Virtual Renaissance. Meanwhile, the downturn is so acute that it can no longer deny and Linden Lab changes its target audience, promising new premium features for businesses that we expect to see. And the future? To find out, we will give you an appointment to the third and last part of this analyses, always on the pages of Mondivirtuali.it.