Are you familiar with today's Internet acronym? "FUD" stands for "Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt," but it's much more than that. It's the term for the web's version of mass hysteria. You know, the phenomenon where people in a crowd can panic and become a fear-crazed mob, even though its individual members are reasonable, rational people.
It happens on the internet too. In fact, it can happen even easier because of a number of factors. First, the "data rate" of communication on the web is much lower than in a face to face communication. You see only words, not the facial expressions and emotions that go along with them. And this makes it easy to mistake the meaning of the message, or to impose some new meaning that the originator didn't intend. Second, there is the speed with which rumors can spread. The web, and social media like YouTube, FaceBook, and Twitter allow rumors and opinions masquerading as facts to spread practically at the speed of thought.
Which brings us to this week's latest news. You've probably already heard something about it, because there are lots of bloggers who write about this stuff before I finally get around to it. Linden Lab announced that they are working on a successor to Second Life, a new and improved virtual world.
Oh, you hadn't heard? Cruise over to Inara Pey's blog and this post, and it will give you the straight word from LL, plus links to lots of other discussions.) But you SHOULD have heard. Pete Linden sent out a broadcast email to everyone announcing the project.
Basically, the facts are these: LL is, indeed, working on a new platform that they hope will be an even better virtual world than SL. It's still a long way off, and there are still a lot of questions that even LL doesn't know the answers to. Second Life is not going away any time soon. It won't be going away even when the "new" world goes live, at least as long as it's profitable for LL to keep it going. Second Life As We Know It should be around for years to come.
And the new project sounds exciting. I'd love to go to a virtual world with better creation tools, more realism, deeper immersion, better physics. Hey, maybe even weather! Simulated plants and animals with a life cycle and an ecology! Buoyancy in water! (No, I don't know if LL's new creation will have any of this stuff. I'm just tossing off ideas that I think would be cool.)
But now comes the inevitable FUD. It was not long before people were screaming in panic on the Second Life forums. "OMG, I won't be able to use my favorite viewer! I'll have to leave SL!" "I hear everyone is going to have to pay to use it!" "Crap, we'll have to use our Real Life names and have avatars that look just like us in RL!"
I think this is a good time to sit back, take a deep breath, and CALM THE FUCK DOWN, people! Gosh, it felt good to say that. The real truth is, we DON'T know very much about this new project. Heck, even LL doesn't know the answers to a lot of the questions. I, for one, am excited by the possibilities. And I'm willing to wait patiently to See What Happens before I panic. It's WAY too soon to panic. So stop panicking, already, OK?