We just went live with video which is being captured in Second Life and streamed to our homepage. While this may sound a little odd (video of a virtual world, what does that mean), it's actually profound. Here's why.
Second Life is a 3-D virtual world that is 100% created by its 32,000 residents. The challenge this presents us at Linden Lab is that all the action that takes place in Second Life is very compelling; whenver we sit down and show it to someone, their mind is summarily blown and they very often sign up for an account. The problem is a chicken and the egg one -- showing Second Life in person isn't scalable and screenshots just don't do it justice. You really need to see avatars flying around, building amazing creations, chatting with eachother in order to get it. The energy of that experience is what sells Second Life -- the raw, unedited magic, but until recently we couldn't bottle the magic.
The first significant bottling of this magic came in the form of Snapzilla, a very clever tool that allows residents to take pictures and post them to the web. Created in February by Cristiano Midnight , Snapzilla was an almost instant hit with Second Lifers. I worked with Cristiano in those early days, sharing ideas and figuring out how to morph this thing to let SL'ers tell their stories and chronicle their Second Lives.
Once the process of democratizing content creation was begun, we Linden Lab a live feed of all these snapshots to our homepage -- a scary move that's inherent in user-created content -- by giving power to the people, you also have to place your trust in them. What's to stop somebody from taking naked pictures of their avatar in compromised positions? Nothing. And yet we've been amazed at the general civility of the content in the Snapzilla feed. In the 4 months since its launch, Snapzilla users have taken 15,509 pictures of their Second Lives (that's an average of 129 per day). Of these pictures, only 6 have been topless and 0 have been bottomless, so to speak. Why is this? Who knows -- either people are afraid of the repurcussions and reprimands they might get, or they are almost as invested in their avatars as they are in themselves -- they'd no sooner post naked pictures of their avatars for the world to see than they would pose for Penthouse in "Real Life".
Today we took the next step in lowering the barrier between Second Life and First Life by letting Live Video out. As always, this experiment is scary -- we must trust that people/avatars will behave themselves. Only time will tell but my bet is the same as always -- I believe in the goodness and decency of people and moreover in the power of the bonds created in a social society. Stay tuned for results.