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.
The virtual world paradigm is pretty much in direct opposition to the rest of our networked lives. Modern society is actually diametrically opposed to the virtual world ideal of being fully immersed within a single place (virtual or otherwise.) We experience our 2D virtual lives in thousands of bite sized chunks over the course of a day on multiple devices and platforms.
It seems to me that what people want today is technology that demands as little attention as possible. No one would have predicted thirty years ago that text would be the dominant form of teen communication in a future where voice and video were almost universally available. Although my teen children and their friends have smartphones and laptops that can run Skype, they almost never choose video and seldom voice, even for extended conversations. It’s because texting allows them to control their attention and split it between conversations and whatever else they’re doing. Although many of them are gamers, not a single one has any interest in Second Life or other virtual worlds. It's hard for me to see 3D virtual worlds as the near-term future of the internet when Second Life and OpenSim grids seem to be populated mostly by people in their thirties and above.
Finally, I wonder how important the Metaverse concept is to realizing the aspirations that Fleep so eloquently articulated in her post:
I became absolutely convinced that those of us pioneering these new digital worlds would have the opportunity to do better in the virtual worlds we create than has been done in the real world we inherited, and that we could learn from our experiences in virtual worlds to make the real world a better place, too.We don't need a universal Metaverse to accomplish those things. We don't need Linden Lab to embrace our vision. The tools we need are available today for those of us who want to use them. So in conclusion, if there has been a failure, it is ours.