Second Life Founder Returns to Take On the Metaverse

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Philip Rosedale is returning to the digital world he created to help fuel growth

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The metaverse, though still largely aspirational than real, has become a hot new battlefield for tech companies looking for a major new source of revenue. Facebook Inc.

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Rebranded as Meta Platforms Inc. last year to focus its attention on the digital sector and vowed to spend billions of dollars in the coming years to realize its metaverse that includes virtual- and augmented-reality headsets, software and much more.

Microsoft Corporation

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, chip company Nvidia Corporation

, videogame companies and others have elaborate efforts to benefit from an online world where users can interact with others and participate in immersive experiences such as concerts. Apple Inc. Of

Destiny has been fueled by enthusiasm around the Metaverse.

Mr Rosedale said the business models underpinning some of the current tech giants, such as tracking user behavior to target ads, would be potentially harmful in the metaverse, which is more immersive than current digital platforms. “I think there’s a pretty real, existential risk associated with how this is done,” he said.

Second Life may have got a head start on some of the metaverse companies it aims to compete with, but is somewhat underdog. Second Life began before Facebook was founded, but has grown to nearly one million users since 2008, according to a company spokesperson. Meta’s Facebook, Instagram, and other services sport more than 3.5 billion monthly users combined, according to their most recent earnings. Epic Games Inc.’s Fortnite videogame and game company Roblox Corporation

, who are also stepping into the metaverse, have many times the number of users of Second Life.

Brad Oberweger, president of Second Life’s parent company Linden Research Inc., said he is working with Rosedale to bring the business up to speed. Second Life already gives people the ability to make money in the real world from in-game sales, a feature some other emerging metaverses lack that should attract users, he said. He added that upcoming upgrades are focused on further improving the game’s social and economic components, such as avatars and digital marketplaces, which promise to fuel user growth.

Still, Second Life faces a challenge in the form of a two-decade-old platform. Some of its competitors’ largest user groups were born in the past 24 years and are not as familiar with SecondLife as services like Roblox or Fortnite. Mr. Oberweger said Second Life could win that generation with a better user experience, more realistic avatars and by not following the business models of other tech companies that track users’ behavior.

To help realize that ambition, Mr. Rosedale is bringing with him a small cadre of developers, several patents and an unspecified financial investment from a company founded in 2013, High Fidelity Inc., a company focused on audio. Huh. and virtual reality experiences.

Write Meghan Bobrovsky at [email protected]

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