Earlier this week, Linden Lab, creator of the well-known virtual world Second Life, announced a new CEO: Mark Kingdon, currently CEO of digital marketing firm Organic. He will be taking over in mid-May.
Kingdon inherits Linden Lab after a flood of press coverage last year made Second Life one of the best-known virtual worlds and got people excited about its potential. Major brands flocked to establish a presence in-world. But some, such as AOL and Wells Fargo, pulled out amid the turmoil created by some of Second Life’s Wild West atmosphere. According to an official blog post by Linden Lab founder and outgoing CEO Philip Rosedale, Kingdon “will have an intense focus on improving the in-world experience and stability and reliability of Second Life.”
Kingdon’s arrival is the most recent in a series of changes to Linden Lab’s management. CTO Cory Ondrejka, who wrote the scripting language used in Second Life to create and control user-generated content, left the company in December. Rosedale announced his resignation in March, along with his intention to become Linden Lab’s chairman of the board.
Technology Review assistant editor Erica Naone spoke with Kingdon earlier this week about his plans for Second Life.
Technology Review: How much time do you spend inside Second Life?
Mark Kingdon: I’m spending a lot more time in-world now. I’m still in that place where I’m surveying the landscape, because it’s pretty vast, and I’m collecting experiences that are amazing. It’s just mind-blowing that this is all user-generated content. I haven’t yet created anything myself other than clothing, but I think that’s the next step for me because I like to make things.
TR: Creating things seems like a Second Life rite of passage.
MK: That’s definitely the story of Second Life. Once you cross that magical “Aha!” place, it becomes very compelling.
TR: A lot of new users seem to have trouble getting to that place. They get confused by the controls, and aren’t sure what to do inside the world. Do you have any thoughts about how to make it easier to get started?
MK: I’ve got a lot of background in the kind of user-centered design work that’s going to be important for Second Life, especially as you look at the first-hour experience. I haven’t come to any specific conclusions yet, but I think it starts with understanding what the resident needs in order to make a powerful experience, and looking at the kinds of people that you want to attract and bring in-world. The answers will emerge very clearly from that.
TR: How do you plan to get different types of users acclimated? For example, business users might just want to get in-world quickly to have a meeting, while other users might be looking for a more playful experience.
MK: I think the first thing that I need to do … is really immerse myself in the different user bases and then think about if, by giving them additional tools, they can create that entry point for themselves, or if it’s something we need to encourage, or if it’s something that we need to create for them. I think the question is, how do you make that happen without becoming the primary content creator?