Mai 15, 2007

Things to come

A few things to come in the future in my opinion, sooner or later:

  • income tax paid to your national government on virtual earned revenues,
  • more CAD tools like now this exporter named Henshin (AutoCAD to SL),
  • strict enforcing of this adult flag,
  • a 3rd party API to extend the client with plugins like importers, adding client side scripts etc.,
  • saving contents with LSL to notecards,
  • some sort of external backup,
  • regulation of the Linden Dollars, perhaps by the Fed, if it becomes popular enough,
  • some kind of interests on credits, defined by whomever,
  • more law rushing into SL (it has never been out of SL),
  • some kind of external grid/corporate grid, well new grids anyway,
  • the sale or IPO of Lindenlabs,
  • some bridge to existing instant messaging networks like ICQ, MSN or Jabber.

Growth has slowed down

When you take a closer look at the key metrics of April or make diagrams out of them like here by Tateru Nine, who has been interviewed here about the growth, you can only come to one conclusion: growth is still there, but it has stalled. 

What are the reasons? There could be many. Perhaps the bad performance – but that’s something you experience after you’ve created an avatar, so perhaps not really. I personally think that the times of the big hype as Second Life as Web 3.0 are gone now – the time for bashing Second Life starts now, meaning usage and new account creations are going down and after that somewhat up again.

The question is: is this a good thing for a while? Yes. It gives Lindenlabs more time to work on their next generation architecture and some air to solve out some big issues. It is bad still in business terms since land sales should go down a little now, so I wonder how this affects the income of LL at all.

Child pornography issues

About one week ago there has been a report that aired on German television about the depiction of child pornography in Second Life. It sent out massive waves through the whole community, the Lindens even wrote an article about the whole case on their own blog.

The whole case broke down into this parts:

  1. the depiction of child pornography in Second Life, meaning: an avatar in child form having sex in world with an adult avatar and
  2. the exchange of real life pictures of teens and preteens in questionable poses (nude and more heavy stuff, it seems) as textures in world between some avatars.

The first case is not illegal in all countries; for example in the USA some could just say "heck, those are virtual things and just adults playing behind the whole scene, no real child has been harmed at all while doing this, and it is not illegal, either, so what’s the ruckus?" The final decision on it has to be made by a judge.

But Second Life has people coming from all over the world, and in many countries the depiction of such acts – virtual childs or not – at all is already against the law, so already the first case is against German law. But of course this doesn’t mean this act has been conducted by Germans, that’s something for the Lindens to find out.

Even more serious is the second part – the real life pictures. Law is here more or less the same in all developed countries, posession of such things is against the law and therefore a case for the prosecutor.

The names of the avatars were shown in the report, by the way. If they haven’t been banned already, they would be so dead by now, since million of people watched it and the word spread out, you cannot have an idea about that!

Anyway, the investigations have been showed to Robin Linden and she looked really shocked in the report. Ok, she looked not too good at all in the interview, but we all know who medias can make you look bad if they just want you to, by using the wrong light etc.

At last the Lindens have reacted at lightning speed to this issue. Why? Because this is a real, real big threat to their business. At the moment many companies are rushing into the still hip Second Life. If Lindenlabs would have not reacted at all, it would have a big image problem by now, not only being considered as "virtual sex world", but as "home of virtual pedophiles" or something like that.

And it is hard to convince your CEO to invest into such a thing, this would drive many potential customers away, so they had to react and with force, being open about it and telling all and that’s exactly what they did.

Even if some consider the first part just "role play", I personally find that kind of "role play" disgusting, but like always, it is not going away, it is now moving more in the underground since the first case of such a thing has been made public to a big audience.

Age verification again

The next big thing in the community hasn’t been the upcoming voice features or the introduction of sculpted prims (which are going to have only somewhat limited use), but the introduction of age verification to the platform. I’ve also written an entry about it, too.

Now we know the company which is going to do it. Well, they had to choose one, anyway, and there are not so much companies in that field.

Many people have disgruntled by the fact they need to verify their age if they want to enjoy mature content. The whole verification is a paradigm shift of Lindenlabs, meaning they are using the community to keep the platform cleaner. Now that the battle has calmed down, we all can take a somewhat clearer and better look at it.

Most of the people, who already have got credit card infos on their file, don’t see the usage of it, since other sites take you as verified just by entering your credit card number. But this is not even sufficient and enough in the USA, so you need to provide other data.

What’s the reasoning behind it? To clean the platform, make it better for companies and to avoid possible lawsuits. At the moment something like this could happen: a mother finds out, that her 13 year old daughter is playing in RL, having sex, perhaps has even been raped virtually. So she can still say at the moment: hey, Lindenlabs, I am going to sue you now over that, you haven’t done enough to keep my daughter from the main grid!

With the introduction of lawful age verification, though, Lindenlabs just could say: well, we did all the lawgiver told us to verify the age of your daughter, it’s all your fault.

What is the impact going to be of this verification? I don’t think it is going to be such a big thing, most things don’t fall into that category, what you’re doing at home is what you do at home, but of course some places and services need to be tagged. If you just walk around most normal places you should’nt need it at all.

But age verification is only one step; since LL says always the main grid is for adults only it could either happen, that one day the verification becomes mandatory for all or all questionable content has been tagged. If all questionable content has been tagged, well, there could be the possibility of a merger of the teen with the main grid.

At the end, you can never be sure if someone is of legal age or not; LL just can do all the lawful things to prevent people underage to come to the main grid and that’s it. And, by the way, there are enough places on the web where it is documented how to construct certain ID-numbers yourself and so on.

All in all this is a very necessary and, don’t forget it, long overdue step, to get the platform a cleaner place and reduce the access to questionable content.