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Second Life Ejects CEO, Brings Founder Back as Interim Chief

It’s been a tops-turvy time for Linden Lab, the company that operates the Second Life virtual world. Just as Second Life is celebrating its seventh birthday, Linden Lab CEO Mark Kingdon has stepped down as the company’s CEO, and the company is bringing back its founder, Philip Rosedale, to take over the CEO position on an interim basis as the company works to find its feet, improve accessibility, and simplify its focus.

“On behalf of the board, I thank Mark for all of his contributions during his tenure with Linden Lab which include growing our user base and revenue, increasing the stability of the platform, and nurturing and helping build a world class team,” said Rosedale in a statement.

Rosedale is currently head of Linden Lab’s board of directors, and will continue to serve on the board while acting as CEO. In addition, Linden Lab CFO Bob Komin will be taking on the role of LInden Lab’s chief operating officer.

Rosedale stepped down as Linden Lab CEO back in 2008. Under Mark Kingdon’s leadership, Second Life worked to shore up its fundamental operations as well as pitch itself as a virtual training and meeting space for enterprise…a move that apparently went over like a lead balloon.

The move comes barely two weeks after Linden Lab announced it was laying off some 30 percent of its employees—roughly 100 people—and announced intention to focus on enabling browser-based access to the Second Life 3D virtual world. Linden Lab has characterized the layoffs as a necessary move to force the company to focus on fundamentals and to put the company on solid financial footing.

Although Second Life has managed to create a virtual economy unlike any other—the Linden dollar is tied to the U.S. dollar, and Second Life residents have conducted more than $1 billion in transactions—the virtual world has always suffered from serious retention problems (many people who try Second Life never come back) and has been dogged by issues of content theft and service reliability, as well as a recent major revamp of its client software that added new features but sports an interface widely disdained by long-time users.

A browser-based entryway into Second Life—likely based on WebGL—could make Second Life more accessible, and help the virtual world reach out to the rest of the Internet via tie-ins to social networking and media sharing services.

Linden Lab has not announced the terms of Rosedale’s role as “interim” CEO, or how the company plans to conduct a search for a permanent CEO.

[Image credit James Duncan Davidson/O’Reilly Media, Inc.; Philip Rosedale at the Web 2.0 conference in 2005.]

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