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Interview with Ebbe Altberg

In February 2014, Ebbe Altberg became the CEO of Linden Lab. Since then I’ve noticed a shift in how the Lindens interact with the Second Life community. There are more meet and greets inworld and I feel as if they are more accessible. I also see more development in many different areas. Not just updates to Second Life itself but also a whole new virtual world, Sansar.

This week, for Second Life’s 15th birthday, I got the opportunity to ask Ebbe 10 questions.

BERRY: Hi Ebbe, thank you so much for taking the time to do this with me. Before Linden Lab, you worked for Yahoo and Microsoft, how did that experience prepare you for running a company that dealt solely with virtual worlds and online communities?
EBBE: Working on complex products that reach billions of users across devices and platforms was something I got to experience early on at Microsoft and later and Yahoo! Being at Microsoft, inside what became the Office organisation in the 90s was probably the best place on earth to see, learn and be part of incredible success at that time. I’ve seen various cultures, both extremely successful as well as struggling ones. Mixed in I have also worked at smaller startups, again seen both success and challenging times. In the end, as long as you’re passionate about the subject matter it’s all more or less the same. Word, Excel, Powerpoint, or Telephony platforms, marketplaces, or enormous media sites etc. If it’s interesting and challenging then it’s fun and not hard to grasp.

BERRY: Initially what attracted you to Linden Lab?
EBBE: I’ve known about SL from very early on, knowing both investor and founder. Also, my son, had a great time doing meaningful work in SL and that was great. The idea of a platform where users can create rich content and have meaningful social interactions, and also earn money,  is incredibly interesting. And then hearing all the success stories about how people found their friends, loved ones, earned money, healed themselves or others etc. Just so powerful. I’m loving it.

BERRY: In the 4 years that you’ve been here, what have been some of your most memorable moments?
EBBE: Too many to pick one. Memorable moments happen all the time. It’s fun to think about so many memories and realize that there’s no difference between how these memories stick in my mind, whether they happened in physical or virtual space. Laughter, suspense, awe, beauty, business, friendships. Residents make so many amazing experiences.

BERRY: Now that Sansar development is in full swing, where do you see Second Life a year from now? Will it still have the attention it gets from the Lab in regards to improvements and maintenance? How about 5 years from now?
EBBE: SL is a fantastic platform and and brand and we will continue investing in it as long as I can see into the future right now, regardless of what other products do. We are very focused on growing SL and have a great team fully dedicated to making that happen.

BERRY: Many Second Life Residents are worried and have concerns about the lack of focus or direction from the Lab when it comes to their beloved virtual world. What would you say to these Residents?
EBBE: I understand that, because it is so important to so many people. Rest assured that we are continuing to invest and have no plans to slow down in our efforts to make SL even better. It’s a very successful business for both us and so many Resident business.

BERRY: In the 4 years that you’ve been with the Lab, I’ve noticed a massive shift in the way Lindens interact with the rest of the Second Life community. I feel their presence is more prominent. Is that something that you encouraged and if so, what’s the thinking behind this?
EBBE: Yes, it was a bit of a fractured relationship between Lindens and Residents when I got here. The team wanted to interact more and I encouraged it. We removed some policies that were getting in our way. I also try to lead by example by dropping in myself and socialize whenever I can. We’re all better off when we can have a dialog and learn from each other.

BERRY: Have you spent time in Second Life exploring and/or socializing like other Residents do? If so, what has been a fun activity for you?
EBBE: Yea, I love doing that. I love strolling around and letting things just happen. Meeting strangers and friends. Seeing amazing experiences. Having my mind blown. Wish I had more time to do it more often.

BERRY: What is your goal or focus when it comes to Sansar?
EBBE: The focus has been a lot on building technology that we believe can scale. We also focus on making it easier for creators to make rich social experiences for PC and VR, for now, than what is currently possible in the market. Now it’s about iterating towards a great product market fit. Finding the nuance that will make it extremely valuable to a large number of people so that we can get into growth mode.

BERRY: Are you planning for Sansar to replace Second Life eventually, perhaps a decade from now?
EBBE: No such plans. Second Life and Sansar are different products with different strengths. But a decade is also so far out that it’s not even possible to predict. I would be very happy to have two successful platforms then. Maybe they’ll be connected?

BERRY: Recently your Second Life avatar was updated and you got all bento-meshed out. I was one of the people that was involved with updating your look so I’m dying to know, how much do you hate it?
EBBE: I love it. I mean, just check out all that hair!

Interview with Ebbe Altberg

I took this picture of Ebbe Linden, which is Ebbe’s Second Life avatar. Recently Xiola Linden, Patch Linden and I got together and updated Ebbe’s avatar to bring him into 2018, and I’m happy to hear that he seems to like it! What do you guys think of Ebbe’s new look?

You can see more of Ebbe’s new look at the Meet the Lindens event on Wednesday, June 20th at 2pm PDT.

A big thank you to Ebbe for taking the time to answer these questions for me. On Saturday, June 23rd at 11am PDT, for Second Life’s 15th Birthday, Draxtor Despres and I will be doing a live tour of SL15B and Ebbe has said he will be joining us! You too can join us inworld or watch it live on my YouTube channel. Happy 15th Birthday Second Life! <3

UPDATE: Check out Ebbe’s Second Life 15th Birthday Message with a promotional video created by Draxtor Despres: https://youtu.be/rPzWvChb1C8

Our Digital Selves by Draxtor Despres

Our Digital Selves is a full feature film by Draxtor Despres, available for free on his YouTube channel. It is a Drax Files special documentary about disability and embodiment in virtual worlds. He not only focuses on residents in Second Life, but Sansar, High Fidelity and other virtual reality worlds, with guest appearances from Ebbe […] Continue reading →