Fleep Tuque posted a fascinating essay yesterday with the provocative title, "Why Anyone Who Cares About the Metaverse Needs to Move Beyond Second Life; Now, Not Later." It was a lucid and heartfelt account of Linden Lab's transition from an ideal-driven group of Metaverse enthusists, to a market-driven corporation going after the gaming market. She also did a great job describing the impact that the corporate changes had on the Second Life community, of which she has been a long-term leader.
I was one of the Metaverse idealists she described so well. I thought that there would eventually be a seamless integration between Second Life and OpenSim that would eventually be extended to other platforms via open standards. I also believed that virtual worlds would soon move into the mainstream and be commonly used in people's business and personal lives. I was wrong.
Linden Lab is now actively working to distance Second Life from OpenSim. One of the leading OpenSim grids recently announced that they're abandoning the platform to focus on its own Unity-based product. Although there seems to be some growth in hypergrid compatible OpenSim participation, proprietary 3D chat room and social gaming platforms like IMVU to have a lot more momentum.
Unlike Fleep, I'm not convinced that Linden Lab is the main cause of the virtual world's failure to actualize our idealistic vision. Sure, they would have been more successful if they hadn't wasted so much time and resources on their ill-conceived forays into chasing the corporate market; if they had communicated well and reached out positively to the Second Life community over the years; if they had not pulled the rug out from under us so many times, such as the OpenSpace fiasco and the elimination of educational discounts. But even if they had done everything right, I don't think the Metaverse ideal would have been embraced now outside of the current small niche.