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Upheaval at Linden Lab: Cory Ondrejka out

Who exactly is behind the reported decision is unclear, but it would be big news for Linden Lab and for "Second Life" users.

There's a major kerfuffle going on at Second Life publisher Linden Lab.

According to the virtual world blog Massively, Linden Lab CTO and employee No. 4 Cory Ondrejka has been asked by CEO Philip Rosedale to leave the company.

And Linden Lab itself has confirmed that Ondrejka is leaving, though it hasn't publicly explained whether he was fired or left on his own.

Either way, this is very big news in the Second Life world because Ondrejka has been there from the beginning, wrote the Linden Scripting Language and has been the engineering lead all along.

But according to an e-mail posted Tuesday by Massively that appears to be from Rosedale to Linden Lab employees, he fired Ondrejka over irreconcilable differences.

Here is the text of that purported internal e-mail written by Rosedale, which, it should be noted, was provided to Massively by someone presenting themselves as a Linden Lab employee:

"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."

If this situation is for real, it would be pretty big news. As any regular user of Second Life knows, the virtual world has many technical problems that have gone unfixed for years. Who exactly has overseen attempts to address those problems is not entirely clear to me, though Ondrejka, as CTO, certainly had some oversight.

On the other hand, as CEO, Rosedale obviously also has oversight over such issues.

All we can say for now is that Linden Lab seems to be in a bit of a state of chaos, and that's certain to last as the dust settles.

Stay tuned for more on this.

Update, 8:17 p.m. PST: In an e-mail response to a query from CNET, Linden Lab provided a statement. Further, a Linden Lab representative said someone would be in touch on Wednesday.

The statement, issued on behalf of Rosedale, read: "I can confirm that Cory Ondrejka, CTO, will be leaving Linden Lab at the end of this year, in order to pursue new professional challenges outside the company. I wanted to take this opportunity to publicly thank Cory for his tremendous contribution to the company and to Second Life, in terms of its original vision and ongoing progress.

"As it grows, the needs of our company are changing, and the role of CTO, or technical lead, has also evolved. Therefore, Cory and I are in agreement that our paths, at this point in time at least, lie in different directions. During Cory's tenure the engineering team has grown tremendously, and given the breadth and depth of our technical expertise, we do not foresee any impact on our development plans.

"Together, we've produced great things in the development of Second Life, and I know Cory will go on to achieve excellence in his chosen field.?