Sunday, June 27, 2010

Will Cory Ondrejka Return? [updated: Cory says not returning as CTO at LL]

Cory Ondrejka headshotA common sentiment after the return of Philip Rosedale as (interim)CEO at the Lab, is that a lot of people want Cory Ondrejka to return too. If that is in the works remains to be seen. Cory's departure of Linden Lab in December 2007 was not one of his own choice. No, it was Philip himself who decided that they should part their ways over irreconcilable differences on how Linden Lab should be run. The rumours afterwards suggested that part of differences was about open sourcing the server code, implying that Cory wanted it to be done sooner.

This is the email Philip send to his employees, telling them Cory was going to leave:
"Cory is going to leave LL. He has been with us for 7 years, and was the fourth person to join. So this is a big deal. Cory has been a huge part of the company, having designed big parts of SL, hired many people, contributed greatly to the culture, and given a powerful voice to SL and LL. Among other things, he had the original design idea for the love machine, single handedly wrote the scripting language, and got us all doing A&Os back in 2001. Losing him will be hard for the company. I will miss him a lot. What's worse is that ultimately his leaving is my decision.

Cory and I have differences in how we think Linden should be run, differences that in the past few months have become irreconcilable. These are tensions that were more manageable when we were smaller, and there have been times that they have helped us do great work together. But now, as we change and grow as a company, I feel that we need a different set of strengths in engineering leadership. I strongly believe that this is the right decision, although not without pain, for both LL and Cory. Of course, I'm not going to go into the details of these differences. This is one of those times when, in having me as your leader, you will also have to trust me in my decision. I will hold a brown bag as soon as possible to talk about this with anyone who would like, and will schedule time both in-world and in person here in San Francisco. Please send any external questions you get about this change to Robin who will make sure they get answered.


An interesting fact you can get from the email is that Cory came up with the original design idea for the Love machine, which Philip developed as his star product at LoveMachine Inc in his time away from Linden lab. It is unclear to us if something unresolved is lingering there as well. In any regards, any differences left now would have to be reconciled first, and ego's kept in check. It might be difficult to come to a understanding where Philip and Cory could work closely together again.
CoryOndrejka 1
This does not mean that relations has completely cooled down though, recently on the 17th of June, Cory met with Linden Exes, hardly a week before M 'stepping down'. We can only speculate wildly about what was talked about in these meetings, though it seems reasonable to assume the recent past and future where discussed.

Cory made the following two statement on twitter about these meetings:
CoryOndrejka 2
"Today was a full collector's set of Lindens."
"For those who asked, no, u only get bobblehead collectable Lindens if u meet with execs."

More recently Cory seemed pleased that Philip replaced Mark Kingdon, by sending these tweets:
"good news for #lindenlab according to @slhamlet: it's welcome back Philip time"
"Officially official RT @SecondLife: Philip Rosedale returns to Linden Lab as interim CEO: #goodthings"

While some may want Cory to return, the question is why? Could Cory give a new inpluse to improve Second Life technology faster and better, or are the current technical developments(mesh,mono,plugins, etc) in excellent hands already?

What do you think?

Update: Troy McConaghy alerted me in the comments that Cory has updated his blog today. Cory list several projects he is involved in, and non are Second Life related, as if he was spurred on to do that by this blog post. A question arises though, why doesn't he say he is not involved with Linden Lab and Second Life. Or is this all a coincidence?
Cory's blog post: What's Cory Doing Now?

Update 2: 1:25pm(PDT) 28th june: I have since been told by Cory that the initial disagreement had nothing to do with open sourcing the server code. He also appears in the comments, saying the following:
"Cory Ondrejka said... Frans said:

"It is unclear to us if something unresolved is lingering there as well."

There's nothing unresolved there. LoveMachine's a cool company/project and Philip has done a fine job running with it."

update 3: 5:45pm(PDT): Hamlet on NWN is running a story on Cory today, where he quotes Cory saying:
"Haven't spoken with Philip since the announcement. Exciting to see him return as interim CEO -- he and the board definitely made the right call -- but I don't know what his plans are.

"I don't have any interest in returning to Linden as CTO."

Hamlets story on Cory on New World Notes.
Cory's recent tweets #1,#2,#3,#4
Dec 11th, 2007 - Massively breaking the news first
Dec 11th, 2007 - Second Thought with some historical anecdotes about Cory
Dec 12th, 2007 - New Worlds Notes on Cory leaving
LoveMachine Inc.


  1. You state the facts. You don't speculate. You give us a bit of history and a bit of the present, too. I wish more people blogged this way.

    That said, even though I've read Wagner James Au's (aka Hamlet Au of New World Notes) book on Second Life... even though I rezzed in early 2007... I don't feel I know what Philip's management style is. He DID lead the creation of Second Life. He DID hire Cory and several other people I admire. His world bewitched hundreds of thousands of us, and speaking for myself, I easily logged at least 3,000 hours in world and I'm not even a builder or scripter.

    I'm afraid for the future Of Second Life. The world (and technology/entertainment) has not stood still while Second Life grew up. I've been spending more and more time in Real Life and despite my love for the people, arts, architecture and fashion in SL - I have to (sadly) admit - there are plenty of compelling reasons to do other things.

    I would like to fall in love with SL again, but I'm not sure what it would take. Yes, LL needs to bring in new people and retain them, but I would remind them of something I learned when I was a girl scout:

    Make new residents, but keep the old. One is silver but the other's gold.

    Can Philip do that? Can Cory do that? I hope so.

  2. Bettina I think you may have logged close to 10,000 hours and I am vary glad you did. Second Life is a place many have found a first. Thank you

  3. Thank you for your kind words Bettina.

    I don't know how many hours I have logged since January 2005. I know it must be thousands as well, especially the first two and half years.

    While I never was totally out of SL, it had become less, but since this spring I have been more enthused about Second Life again, and even Philip returns.

    I can't honestly say I know Philip's management style. I think that is something you have to experience from the inside. I do feel there was more transparency back in those day. But the company was smaller to, which makes that easier.

    I'm glad LL is going to focus more on the consumer again. Even though I co founded a Solution Provider, the Vesuvius Group, back in January 2007, and would like to keep doing business. I think the population has been to dissatisfied that it pushes any potential clients away.

    I hope Philip can make people believe the vision again, and make the users evangelists like most of us where.

    @Geo, I agree many discovered parts of themselves through SL, that improved their RL. Often that does result in less use of SL. But that's ok.

  4. Cory just wrote a blog post where he "answers" what he's doing now, sort of. It's at's next/2010/06/27/1700-what.html

  5. I am very pessimistic about the future of SL. It's not the change in leadership - although the essential abandonment of the community in search of the business dollar didn't help - it is that these things have a use-by date. I've seen so many online communities grow exponentially over a short period and then wither and die. It seems to be the natural course of events online.

    If SL is to survive it needs to completely rejuvenate itself while, as Bettina put it, retaining the old gold. That's a big ask. Doubly so with increased competition both in the form of other worlds as well as alternate technologies (ie augmented realities).

    Also the uncertainty over leadership and the recent sackings undermines both community and business confidence. Few want to spend money on something that appears as though it's about to go belly-up - and SL does have a serious whiff of dead cat about it. It doesn't bode well. I'd love to be proved wrong however.

  6. Frans said:

    "It is unclear to us if something unresolved is lingering there as well."

    There's nothing unresolved there. LoveMachine's a cool company/project and Philip has done a fine job running with it.

    1. Ok so I take it you'd only return as CEO then...
      Which we would have to create a coup with Director of the Board, to oust the current Chairman.

      At this point, with the latest blunder of this week, by both a Linden and the CEO himself. I'd frankly consider it.

      PS: What I somehow read from you is: "The Love Machine was my idea, his new hobby is to play around with novice programmers on the cheap designing a clunky piece of software which doesn't stand a chance... which kinda reminds me of realplayer".

      Sorry for putting words in your mouth. XD

  7. Thanks Cory for clearing that up!

  8. Thanks for posting that original email from Philip at the time Cory was let go. Very interesting.

    A couple of years ago or so I ran across a blog post by Cory on the 1 year anniversary of his leaving. It was clear that it was still a painful memory even a year later. He said he was fired in an email. I think that 's common knowledge.

    I sat next to Cory all day at Metaverse U at Stanford in February 2008. He was one of the speakers. I was star struck the whole time. :-)

    Here is the tweet that Cory addressed to you and me and others, Frans, after we inquired about whether he might return to LL (me to him on twitter).

    CoryOndrejka Jun 27, 8:04pm via Brizzly
    what I'm up to (for @frans, @phaylen, @DelindaDSL, @ldinstl_chimera, and others)

    In case you missed it. Sorry he isn't - would have been way cool.

    ==Chimera Cosmos==

  9. Thanks LDinSTL. Yup I saw his tweet too. It is nice of him to respond.