Cloudera: Hadooping The Downturn

A group of Silicon Valley technologists are thumbing their noses at the down(turn)-talk and setting up a new venture to provide support to companies wanting to make use of Hadoop.

Bay-area based Cloudera will provide enterprise-level support for Apache’s top level, open source map reduce technology, which enables companies with large amounts of data to have significantly more detailed analysis and efficiencies related to this data.

The team includes Michael Olson, the former CEO of Sleepycat Software, makers of the open source embedded database engine Berkeley DB, which Oracle acquired in 2006.

Other founders include Jeff Hammerbacher, who led the data team at Facebook and Christophe Bisciglia, who created Google’s Academic Cloud Computing Initiative.

According to Venturebeat, the fourth founder, Amr Awadallah, is an Entrepreneur in Residence at Accel Partners – while this does not guarantee they will back Cloudera (ask former Linden Lab CEO Philip Rosedale – he was an EiR with them before they passed on funding Second Life), there is a good possibility they will tip into a round to get the company operational.

Is Google’s Lively A Second Life-Killer?

It’s almost a year to the date since I decided not to move forward with my virtual world startup Yoick. We were building what many fervently hoped would be a Second Life killer.

But our approach had been more focused on creating cosy spaces that were interoperable between 2 and 3d. The vision also involved an open-architectured platform with a closed commerce engine so users could buy and sell virtual and other digital goods through our system (Facebook‘s F8 Platform launched some months after we had constructed the blue print for this architecture and has become a great proof of principle for this model).

It was a hard decision to make, but considering the trends and the trajectory we were on I knew we would intersect the timeline at a point that wasn’t sufficiently ahead of the market to be a winner.

You see, many of the big corporates were diving into the virtual world arena, many with the wrong approach, but a few, the few that really mattered were chasing the same space we were.

Today we would have been venture backed, have built up a head of steam and burn rate that required refuelling and yet still have been too early to have released enough of a product to ensure sufficient traction to see us through a true gorilla entering the market moment.

Stage right: enter Google with their cosy spaces,
virtual world product – Lively.

The LA Times has a good write up:

Unlike popular virtual worlds such as Second Life, Lively doesn’t require you to download new software. All you need is a browser plug-in. The service is also more distributed than Second Life: Its rooms will live on Web pages on Facebook and other sites, so you might stumble across them when browsing the Internet. Rooms can be private spaces, with entry by invitation only, or open-topic rooms, where you can meet people interested in discussing topics you love, like Angelina Jolie, Jennifer Aniston or Google. It also ties into other Google services. You can stream YouTube videos into your virtual living room or post your Picasa pictures on your walls.

It’s definitely not a Second Life-killer. Sorry Michael Arrington, I totally disagree that this sucks for Second Life. It is a completely different genre — for one this is not a single, charded or otherwise, virtual world and for two it is targeted more at a mass market audience.

It does suck however for the other startups who were targeting this space. Many of them will have to totally rethink their go to market strategy. The glass half full view is that Google’s entry legitimizes the genre, but this will not be sufficient to assuage follow on investors…

Mobile Virtual Worlds: Android Takes Over Second Life

Tokyo-based Eitarosoft has developed a 3D virtual world service running on Google’s mobile platform Android.

Called Lamity, this virtual world can be accessed via any Android-mounted mobile device. In addition, up to 400 users can simultaneously access the same space on Lamity. This is more than ten times the number who can hang out together in the same place in Second Life.

Eitarosoft’s shareholders include tier one Japanese investment groups such as Japan Asia Investment, JAFCO, Mitsubishi UFJ Capital and Nomura Securities.

They have a strong background in mobile 3D, having developed the first i-mode application to display 3D graphics in 2002.

Lamity includes multiple and dual chat features. It also allows for web pages to be viewed simultaneously and stream video through a built-in movie function. A trailer for the movie “Vantage Point” was distributed through this feature ahead of its February premier.

Virtual founder seeks Second Life

Philip Rosedale is stepping down as CEO of Linden Lab. Faced with the classic founders dilemma of continuing to evangelise and innovate versus running a business, the man behind Second Life has elected to find a replacement. This is often one of the hardest decisions for a founding CEO to make, and hats off to Philip for doing so in a considered way. Reading between the lines in this piece it is clear that he was supported in his decision by his board.

It is an interesting transition phase for the company, what with the CTO having moved on only a few months back. One can only hope they find someone of the right calibre to get the business firing again.

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Second Life Self-Regulates Virtual Financial Services

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Benjamin Duranske, the founder of the Second Life Bar Association, has only one criticism of Linden Lab’s move to self-regulate financial services within their virtual world, “It has been too long in coming.”

Calls were made for regulation to be imposed on banks and other financial institutions within Second Life way back in August 2007. This was a reaction to the failure of Ginko Financial, which Wired comprehensively covered.

Benjamin is otherwise extremely positive about Linden Lab’s announcement that:

As of January 22, 2008, it will be prohibited to offer interest or any direct return on an investment (whether in L$ or other currency) from any object, such as an ATM, located in Second Life, without proof of an applicable government registration statement or financial institution charter. We’re implementing this policy after reviewing Resident complaints, banking activities, and the law, and we’re doing it to protect our Residents and the integrity of our economy.

Since the collapse of Ginko Financial in August 2007, Linden Lab has received complaints about several in-world “banks” defaulting on their promises. These banks often promise unusually high rates of L$ return, reaching 20, 40, or even 60 percent annualized.

Usually, we don’t step in the middle of Resident-to-Resident conduct – letting Residents decide how to act, live, or play in Second Life.

But these “banks” have brought unique and substantial risks to Second Life, and we feel it’s our duty to step in. Offering unsustainably high interest rates, they are in most cases doomed to collapse – leaving upset “depositors” with nothing to show for their investments. As these activities grow, they become more likely to lead to destabilization of the virtual economy.

Benjamin’s view is that policies like this one not only acknowledge the obligations that should be imposed on all companies who choose to enable others to make real money in virtual worlds, but also serve to keep the collective virtual world grid healthy and free from externally imposed regulation.

He believes this will lead to the shutting down of “dozens of largely insolvent self-styled ‘banks’ in Second Life.” He does, however, fear that some legitimate operations may be caught in the net.

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One such legitimate operation is First Meta, a Singapore-based start up, which offers a full range of financial services focusing on credit products such as the MetaCard. This credit card does not offer interest or a rate of return on L$ invested or deposited.

I spoke with First Meta’s CEO, Douglas Abrams, and he fully supports the regulation of financial services activity in the virtual economy.

Douglas says, “We agree with the statement by Linden Lab that in-world banks…offering unsustainably high interest rates…are in most cases doomed to collapse – leaving upset ‘depositors’ with nothing to show for their investments.

“We believe that the removal of non-credible players from the financial services sector of Second Life’s economy will benefit all of its participants.”

Others remain on the fence about Linden Labs decision. CNet’s Daniel Terdiman comments:

Whether the move will stabilize the economy, or at least perception of the economy remains to be seen. But it’s pretty clear Linden Lab had to do something to stave off criticism related to banks that have folded, taking residents’ money with them.

But only time will tell whether the decision will have any meaningful impact. And for those residents who have used the banks for various financial purposes, it will be very interesting to see what alternatives they have available in the months to come.

Mashable’s Kristen Nicole has an interesting social media take:

Just as Facebook’s open platform lent itself to a flurry of advertising networks specific to the application train, Second Life’s money-making opportunities have made it more attractive to a wider array of people. More people means more diverse behavior, and that’s not always good. Second Life’s parent company Linden Lab insists that it’s not acting as a banking regulator, but it is a very important step to take for the legal securities of Second Life itself.

Personally, I second the views put forward by Douglas and tip my hat to Linden Lab for a good move.

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