Stories started popping up all over Digg.com yesterday about an open letter to Linden Lab asking that they correct five critical flaws with Second Life. Terra Nova has a good blog entry up summarizing the letter:
There is an interesting discussion emerging in the comments section of this entry, so be sure to read the comments.
The letter addresses those concerns that anyone spending more than a day in-world realize are big issues:
Problems with Find and Friends
Grid Stability (this should be number one on the list, above all other concerns)
Build Tool Problems
Linden Lab has not commented on the letter yet, and I suspect they won’t. Anyone seriously engaged in the Second Life universe knows that they are experiencing major grid scalability issues at the moment. Many of us will put up with the frustration if we know that something is being done to address it. However, Linden Lab is not always very open about problems in Second Life, especially when it comes to what’s being done to address those problems.
With the maximum load on the grid being something under 40,000 concurrent users, Second Life will not be the next evolution of the Internet unless the grid issues can be resolved in some fashion. Restricting non-paying accounts from logging in during peak times is not the answer, nor are any other band-aid approaches to ease traffic. The only real solution is to change the infrastructure to lift the current restrictions that are stunting the growth of concurrent resident populations.
I still believe that the only way forward for Linden Lab is to break the grid up into smaller grids that are licensed to educational institutions, corporations and individuals. There is no functional benefit to having a contiguous land mass in Second Life. Nobody walks or flies between destinations anymore, it takes too long. The majority of travel is done via teleportation. Linen Lab would be the keeper of the transaction database, and independent operators would pay to link their grid back to the Linden Grid. I see no other viable architectural change that will get Linden Lab past this current ceiling in growth. I am not sure that this design jives with the internal belief of how the world of Second Life should look, so this could be their undoing in the end.
Second Life is at the same point in its development as the Internet was back in the early 90’s, before anyone could run their own web servers. This was back in the day when you could go to the bookstore and buy a copy of the “Internet Phone Book”, a yellow pages of WWW sites. Can you remember back when the entirety of the Internet could be contained in a single bound volume?
Failure to scale beyond the current crisis will likely relegate Linden Lab and Second Life to a single chapter in the history of the coming Metaverse, much in the same was as the Mosaic Browser was on the road to the current Internet.