Linden layoffs

Meanwhile, back in the virtual world, the news is rather downbeat too. As you will know by now, if you are interested in these things (as you must be if you are reading this), Linden Lab laid off around 100 employees this week, a third of their workforce, closing down their outlying offices and winding up the enterprise division.

I’m not one of those bloggers who affects to be on personal terms with the Lindens, so the list of redundancies means nothing to me, but apparently among the casualties are a VP, and various key staff in the technical, sales and marketing departments. The official spin is that the new configuration will allow the company to focus on its key objectives, but it’s hard to see such a level of cutbacks as anything other than a sign of corporate distress.

The response of the Second Life community to this news has been characteristically solipsistic, with a memorial garden set up where residents can show their grief for the fallen, since obviously our pain is the main story here. I suspect that the now-jobless Linden staffers may have appreciated a little practical solidarity more than such virtual gestures. I’m feeling a bit guilty that I never actually got round (so far at least) to organising a Second Life Communist Party, instead of just talking about it. We could have staged some sort of in-world protest, and our San Francisco comrades could have picketed the Lab’s offices or something. I hope the Lab’s remaining employees have seen the writing on the wall, and are getting themselves unionised.

What does this mean for the future of Second Life? The optimistic view is that the Lab is realigning itself with its core market, content to be a successful niche player rather than being hell-bent on expansion. My more pessimistic take is that the cuts are the desperate actions of a management that has no plan other than preparing the company for sale.

I’ve always been doubtful that the current Lab management knew what they were doing, and I think the ideal long-term outcome would involve M Linden turning the whole operation over to the residents, and letting us run it as a cooperative. I suspect though that he would rather see it fail than flirt with such a progressive ideal, and I’m not sure that many residents would be up for life as virtual communists either.

Time will tell I guess, but right now the $70 or so I paid for my last annual subscription is looking like one of my less smart investments.

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