As reported today in the mainstream press, Telstra have announced their retreat from involvement with Second Life.
As the Australian business with the largest investment in Second Life by far, Telstra’s withdrawal potentially has a large impact on the local case for involvement of business in virtual worlds. More importantly, there are many hundreds of BigPond regulars who are affected by the decision. Paying residents on the BigPond sims received the following notecard on the issue:
Dear Residents, Vendors and Guests,
Telstra BigPond would like to thank you for participating in Second Life through BigPond. Our creative experience with Second Life has been very rewarding for both BigPond and our members. We’re constantly looking for ways to take advantage of the latest social media trends, however, our focus is moving towards entertainment options that are gaining in popularity on computers, mobile phones, TVs and game consoles.
From December 16 you will still be able to continue your Second Life experience directly through Linden Lab at www.secondlife.com but no longer through the BigPond portal.
This will also mean that all Second Life use will go towards your download limits given that the BigPond islands currently unmetered for BigPond customers are closing. Please note that this may put you over your plan download limit sooner than you were expecting.
Please contact our in-world Social Operations Manager Peta Philbin if you have further questions and she will provide information and/or BigPond Support personnel to assist you.
Again, we hope that you continue to enjoy your Second Life experience and keep checking back at www.bigpond.com for other exciting BigPond services.
The BigPond Team
Is the announcement a surprise? Not really – Telstra’s been increasingly lukewarm over recent months in regards to continued development of new activities / events on the sims. That said, the community that’s been built by BigPond customers on the sims has never wavered and there’s plenty of them angry at the decision. The common theme from discussions with residents today revolved around the theme of only having entered Second Life initially because of the unmetered status for Second Life usage (on BigPond sims), and the subsequent meeting up with people that they otherwise would never have met.
Obviously Telstra don’t need a presence for that to occur, but they certainly created a financial and aesthetic environment that maximised the potential for new users’ involvement. It’s been one of the more notable examples worldwide of a successful collaboration between a business and its customers, with examples everywhere of that relationship:
The biggest challenge for Telstra is how it portrays its withdrawal in the longer term. It’s likely been a financial decision, and if so it begs the question of how transparent Telstra will be on the outcomes they feel they’ve got from being in Second Life, and whether they’ll make further forays in the future. We touched base with Peta Philbin, who is the ‘Pond Estates Social Operations Manager’, but she wasn’t able to comment at all, referring me to BigPond’s PR contact, Craig Middleton. We’ve sent Craig a series of questions and will post his responses in full as soon as we receive them. There’s also a farewell party planned for 21st November – we’ll publish more details on that as they are announced.
In the meantime, it’s over to you: are you surprised by the announcement or has it been a long-time coming? Will this be a set-back for Second Life in Australia and for business more broadly?