SL tier: Is it really too high?

Some recent events in my RL work, followed by a discussion with Crap Mariner, caused me to start thinking about the topic of SL land tier again. Let’s start by admitting that the cost of virtual land in Second Life is high. If you want a sim of your own (an OpenSpace sim, a Homestead, or a full sim), you have to pay a price that is rather unattractive to most users, especially if we are to compare it with OpenSim-based grids like InWorldz or Kitely. This price is often cited as one of the main contributing factors to SL’s on-going region loss, if not as the single most significant factor. It’s true, of course, that virtual land ownership in SL has been in a steady decline for quite a few years now, and I’m not going to tell you that the monthly tier (not to mention the initial set-up cost, if you are to rent directly from LL rather than a landlord) is not high.

But this is pretty much what the situation has always been like. The cost of virtual land in SL has been pretty much stable throughout the years that Linden Lab has been using the tier model. But, back in the days when SL was the darling of the tech media, people were far more willing to turn a blind eye to this high cost.

The role of RL economy (or it’s the economy, stupid)

Back in November 2013, I dared say that the global financial crisis (which was triggered by the Lehman Brothers collapse back in 2008) has played a significant role in the issue of region loss. I wasn’t the only one that attempted to say so. Inara Pey had done so, albeit several SL and OpenSim pundits opted to unceremoniously dismiss this explanation because it didn’t fit their own theories. Now they’re changing their tune, although I’ve yet to see one of them admit they were wrong.

Anyway, before the economies in RL took a nosedive into the current death spiral, people had more available income. They were earning more money than they do now: For starters, they had a job which gave them money. Now that the fundamentalists of the austerity camp have imposed their religion on us, if people are lucky enough to still have a job, they’re making less money than they did before. Maybe even 1/3 or 1/4 of the money they used to make – yes, it’s that bad. To this, I will have to add the massive tax hikes imposed on the middle and lower classes by the austerian fundamentalists (taxing the provocatively rich oligarchs is entirely out of the question, you see), which makes putting food on the table difficult for numerous people who, not so long ago, used to lead a comfortable life and saw their entire world come tumbling down overnight.

These people are (or used to be) the middle class. And, like it or not, they form a significant part of SL’s user base. To these people, SL is now a luxury. So, sooner or later, they abandon their sims or their parcels, they downgrade their accounts, or, in some cases, cash out and leave altogether. The tier was always high. Yet, when they had money and when they had access to extra liquidity, they didn’t mind this cost. It was manageable for them. Not anymore.

So, why doesn’t LL lower tier to draw more users in?

The short answer: It can’t. The long answer now… *sigh* Sadly, people who present a tier reduction as the way for LL to attract more customers are beginning from a false assumption. They assume that there are thousands, if not millions, of people out there who want to join Second Life and build the homes, islands, even entire continents of their dreams in it, but the only thing that stops them is the cost. To be honest, this is exactly the way I feel about recent predictions that High Fidelity and/or whatever virtual world evolves from the Oculus/Facebook collaboration will have a… billion users. Get real. Please.

Linden Lab's infographic on Second Life's 10th anniversary. 36 million accounts, eh? It'd be safe to say that half of them are throwaway accounts created griefers, trolls, bullies, scammers and copybotters.

Linden Lab’s infographic on Second Life’s 10th anniversary. 36 million accounts, eh? It’d be safe to say that half of them are throwaway accounts created by griefers, trolls, bullies, scammers and copybotters.

Inara Pey tried to explain that a reduction in tier would instantly reduce LL’s income from SL without any guarantee that this income would be covered by new land rentals. And do you know why? Because the number of people who want to join Second Life, or any other similar virtual world for that matter, is finite. Second Life does not convince everyone to join it, simply because it’s not for everyone. Second Life and similar virtual worlds simply do not offer everyone a compelling reason to join – and this goes some way to explaining the current low user retention rates.

If we’re to believe the infographic offered-up by LL at the time of SL’s 10th birthday, 36 million user accounts have been created so far, yet only about a million are considered to be active. Let’s consider here the fact that many of these accounts are throwaway (or stowaway for later use), accounts created by griefers, trolls, stalkers, copybotters and other lower forms of life (and SL, sadly, has more than its fair share of them). Let us also consider the fact that many users create a number of alts for legitimate purposes and not for acting like jerks. How many unique RL persons are in SL? Would you say I’m too pessimistic if I guesstimated that SL is used by about 500,000 unique RL individuals?

For all the investor-baiting talk of making SL and similar (existing or under development) virtual worlds “mainstream” (you have to love buzzwords like this), SL is a niche product/platform, and is more than likely to remain like this for as long as its type of virtual world exists. Not that there’s anything wrong with that. It can still be a niche product and thrive. Of course, I have to add that SL enjoys a rather poor reputation, and this makes a massive wave of new sign-ups highly unlikely. Examining the reasons for this reputation and what can be done about it is far outside the scope of this article, so I’m not going to dwell on it.

Why can’t LL lower tier?

Besides the fact that a tier reduction is unlikely to generate a massive wave of new user sign-ups or enough new land rentals to recoup the revenue loss that would result from a tier cut (especially considering the current financial situation worldwide), it is simply technically ad practically impossible, implausible and unreasonable for LL to reduce tier.

The Lab’s personnel numbers nearly 200 people, most of which are programmers, sysadmins, engineers etc. They need to be paid, and also LL pays for their benefits etc. These people are responsible for the continuous development and evolution of Second Life and other LL products. Also, not only does LL have to pay its employees and fund the development of SL and its other products, it also has certain costs it cannot avoid if it wants to keep SL and its other products running. It needs to pay for the maintenance, upkeep and upgrade of its data centres, and it also needs to pay Amazon for its cloud services. Guess where the money to cover these costs comes from? Yup, it comes from your monthly tier, it comes from your premium account subscription, it comes from your L$ transactions, it comes from your content upload fees, it comes from your marketplace fees.

But the tier is still too high!

As said earlier, I’m not going to argue that the tier is high. It may be too high for you, and I must say I’ve occasionally had difficulty covering mine. This, however, is subjective, as this assessment is based strictly on each individual user’s priorities and available income. If we want to assess the issue of tier objectively, we need to understand what kind of services Linden Lab offers to its users.

I know many of you will say “oh come on, I can host my own megaregion on an OpenSim grid for much less money” or “I can host my own grid somewhere.” Fair enough, and power to you. But none of the OpenSim grids invest so much in infrastructure and server/viewer development as LL does. Furthermore, if you’re going to self-host, you assume full responsibility for your grid; you’ll have to manage and maintain it yourself, you’ll have to guard it from attacks, and so on. Oh, and if you host it on a dedicated server, you’ll also need to schedule regular backups to avoid data loss, as hard drives on servers do fail. And yes, you’ll still have to do all the admin work yourself.

The Lab’s people work to offer you a relative peace of mind. They do all the admin work for you. They back up things for you. They ensure that the grid is up and, whenever something goes wrong, they work to restore full and proper functionality as soon as possible. They work to ensure your inventory doesn’t magically disappear. They host your inventory, they host your regions, and they work so that you won’t have to get your command line-fearing fingers dirty. It’s a full managed service, pretty much like the one offered by the likes of Rackspace. If you want to see how much such services cost, here’s Rackspace’s pricing for managed dedicated servers. And that’s pretty much standard fare throughout the industry.

So no, the tier in and of itself is not too high – at least, not if we want to be objective in our assessment. It’s high, but it’s not too high, and it’s not the one and only reason why people abandon their virtual land holdings; it’s not even the most significant reason. Likewise, it’s not the one and only reason, nor the most significant, for the lack of new user sign-ups.

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See also:

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60 thoughts on “SL tier: Is it really too high?

  1. Well said.
    I do think that SL has a much larger potential user base and that we can ‘lure’ many more users to SL, but not by lowering tier.
    Tier is a problem for people who are already in SL and want to do something big.
    I agree that generally LL can not lower tier although they could offer more kinds of tier, discounts for those regions LL wants to have in SL such as educational sims that not only improve SL’s reputation but also lets a lot of new potential users experience it.
    And at the moment there are only 3 kinds of region available from LL directly, I reckon if they offered regions that are 50% or even 25% of a full region, more people might be tempted to buy one in stead of rent it.
    That is what RL big companies do, if people don’t all want to buy your best product, you start offering them more choice by adding a few cheaper versions.

    1. Marketing Second Life will be touched upon in an upcoming post. As for the region types, there are some problems that were caused by past decisions that have locked the Lab in a Catch-22. First of all, no region in SL can be larger than 256×256; the “256” number, as Simon Linden had pointed out in an older server/sim/scripting user group meeting, is pretty much hardcoded at the very heart of SL. He had experimented with making larger regions, but without success. And I’m pretty sure he wasn’t the only one. Then, there’s another problem: SL has two basic types of regions: full sims on one hand and homesteads and Openspace sims on the other. This means that homesteads and Openspace regions aren’t cut-down versions of the full sim, but an entirely different kind of beast. Essentially, a homestead is a beefed-up Openspace region… And the fact that there are two different types of regions means that, if you have a homestead and want to upgrade to a full sim (or vice versa), it can’t be done with a flip of a switch; you have to move to a different region.

      1. I thought you could turn a homestead into a full region.
        But I meant that LL could look into selling half a region or a quarter of a region, or perhaps create temporary regions, where you pay rent for the actual days you want the region to be online.
        I can imagine someone wanting to start a club but as it is only open in the weekends, the sim could be shut down during the week and thus use up fewer resources.
        I don’t know if that works, but in stead of lowering tier, LL could also look into creating different kinds of sims.

        1. Unfortunately, a homestead (or an Openspace region) can’t be turned into a full region, neither can a full region be turned into a homestead (or Openspace region). The Openspace fiasco has cost SL a much-needed degree of flexibility, among other things.

          Temporary regions? Let’s think about it for a bit. These regions would still cost upkeep, as the LL would still have to store and maintain that data; the only difference is that they’d only be accessible on certain days. It reminds me a bit of the Kitely model, but (a) it doesn’t seem like a plausible option, given the way SL is programmed, (b) I’m not sure Kitely continues with that model, either.

          As for half a region, or a quarter of a region… Well, the equivalent of a quarter of a region (as far as capabilities are concerned) is the homestead – to the best of my knowledge and understanding. Honestly, I’d much rather see LL produce different sims using the full region as a “model” for this. But, given the way things are right now… I don’t know how likely this is.

          1. Thanks for the information. Jessica Chung had told me (and she was not the only land baron to say it, actually) that, if I wanted to upgrade to a full region, I’d have to move to one. The procedure, costs and even the conversion period described in that knowledge base article, however, implies that what is done is far more complicated than a “flip of the switch” conversion. I want to ask you, though… On your original region, you had done some terraforming, had placed various objects etc. Did you end up having to do the terraforming and sim decoration all over again, or was it transferred?

          2. In March I converted down – from a Full Region to a Homestead. It really was just a flip of a switch. All the terraforming, buildings, objects etc.stayed exactly as they were. I just had to make sure before the transfer that my Land Impact was appropriate for a Homestead.

            I believe that going from a Homestead to a Full Region would be the same without the worry about the current Land Impact.

  2. Only time will tell whether virtual worlds have more than a niche potential (I’m personally betting that they do, and that the next generation of technology will be based on virtual reality).

    But the situation that Second Life is facing now is the classic Innovator’s Dilemma from the dot-com era.

    A company has high fixed costs, and high prices, and a customer base that is willing to pay the high prices. Competitors are nipping at its heels with low prices and a low cost base and — initially, at least — lower quality products. If the company lowers prices to match the competitors it won’t be able to support its cost structure. If it doesn’t, then the competitors will eventually improve to the point where all the customers jump ship.

    Hayden Christensen’s “The Innovators Dilemma” used the case study of several generations of hard disk manufacturers to show exactly how this happens, and why companies go out of business even though they consistently make decisions that are good for the company at every single point along the path.

    After all, why throw away good, existing revenue streams in favor of future revenues that may — or may not — ever materialize? Why dilute your good brand name with a cheap product?

    Some companies ARE able to make the transition, however. IBM ditched its personal computer business, switched to services, and is still going strong.

    My suggestion has long been, “go big, or go home.” Either Second Life believes in a metaverse future and its role in it, or it doesn’t. If the former, then SL could provide the payment infrastructure to the metaverse, the marketplace for the metaverse (taking a cut of all transactions, of course), the messaging for the metaverse, the search for the metaverse, the central meeting point for the metaverse, and so on.

    As it currently stands, Second Life is shrinking. Its current business model is a slowly evaporating one and a way overpriced one. The cost of servers, storage and bandwidth has been steadily dropping over the past 11 years, but Second Life hasn’t passed any savings on to users. Meanwhile, management technology has improved, which *should* allow Second Life to do more with fewer people — again, reducing costs.

    1. You seem to be considering only the management/admin aspect, so I’ll start with that.

      While the cost of servers, storage and bandwidth has indeed dropped, the demands have gone up. So, if one is to keep up with the times, they’ll still have to keep spending the same sort of money on infrastructure as they did before, or even more.

      As for whether virtual land (i.e. managed server space) in SL is overpriced, I believe I’ve addressed that already. The way I see it, even if LL could (or wanted to) cut corners in server/viewer code development, the cost a land owner pays for a region is a mere fraction of what one would pay for a managed server with a diligent company like Rackspace.

      Now, to handle another aspect which you did not factor in… Development.

      You said Second Life could do more with fewer people. Let me remind you that most of LL’s personnel works on the development of the viewer and the server. There are numerous projects running and, due to the old, monolithic nature of the entire thing, even adding a “small” capability can be an effort that lasts one year or more. Materials took months, and they’re still not perfect. Monty Linden’s HTTP work has taken years. Group bans? I’ve been reading about them since 2012 and they’re still not available. And so forth.

      OpenSim, on the other hand, doesn’t really do any viewer development. Besides reverse-engineering the server, based on what LL’s official viewer (and the TPVs that are based on it) does, its development efforts are minimal compared to the ones undertaken by the Lab. So, it’s natural for grids that do little to no development at all to cost far less than SL.

      And, furthermore… You are still not addressing the fact that virtual worlds like SL and OpenSim don’t offer the majority of the people out there a compelling reason to join. In one of Drax & Jo’s The Drax Files Radio Hour shows, a girl named Pamela literally wiped the floor with Drax, single-handedly pointing out to him (although he wouldn’t listen) that she really doesn’t need SL or any virtual world at all. And this is a feeling shared by the overwhelming majority of the public at large; it’s what I’ve received from all the people I’ve spoken to about SL and virtual worlds in RL. What’s your response to that?

      Not to mention you’re overlooking the fact that a product can thrive perfectly well in a niche market. Need I remind you of Leica and its rangefinder cameras? For professional use, they’re nigh-on useless. They’re useless for wildlife photography, they’re useless for sports photography, they’re useless for macro photography, they’re useless for flash, they’re useless for architecture, as they can’t take perspective control lenses – they’re only useful for portraiture with available light and for street photography in the style of Henri Cartier-Bresson. OK, so they arguably have better wide-angle lenses, but, in the field, who cares? Not to mention they’re ridiculously overpriced. Yet, they have a fanatical following that pays exorbitant sums for cameras that are downright gelded compared to even a semi-pro Canon or Nikon DSLR, and for super-duper rare lenses that only have a very limited scope of use (honestly now: Who really needs a Noctilux?), just for the pleasure of owning these pieces of kit and for the smug pleasure of being part of an “elite” group of camera owners (because today’s Leica man rarely takes any photographs).

  3. As I know how easy and (really) almost at 0 cost, to host a region or several or even to create a grid, even if you have a 8 year old computer, i do think LL needs to bet on the only thing that makes it better then open sim.
    Not private regions for sure, that one can really have with nt limit (256×256, we can create mega regions or var regions on open sim, we can have a sim = to 16 sl sims, we can make the max prim per sim limit rise up to 100.000.
    The only real advantage, right now, of Second Life against open sim commercial or free grids is a simple word:
    Mainland.
    LL must bet on allowing premium members to get more m2 per tier level then now.
    Mainland users are the future (we run sill 5 regions since feb 2011 on OSgrid without a single usd of costs besides energy power, 24/7, still we are always in Sl, why? Cause we start getting mainland, using our premium membership to get them via auctions, requesting via tickets to acquire abandoned land (always promptly accepted by LL) til we manage to have places in all Mainland continents, many that we can reach by the use of a boat or a bike.
    As Bay city and the regions adjacent to the Blake Sea show, Connected regions where any can travel between, without the need to teleport and/or by using physical vehicles are always rented and the many that look for those places make the m2 increase up to insane (100.000 Linden per m2 is not hard to find on Zindra, Bay city or any region next to LL sea.
    As some Landlords already figured the best way to have their regions is on groups, big amounts of land, open to all, with water and roads.
    The times of one having the dream to have a closed private sim are gone, that role is much more welll done by Open sim!
    But in no other place one can have Bay city, Blake Sea, Lesbianna, North atlantic, Seychelles and so much more,

    1. Sorry, but the “host a grid at 0 cost” argument simply holds no water. If you host your own grid locally, you’re going to be stuck with a specific server/viewer combination, and with specific capabilities, with little scope for further enhancements, unless you start updating things yourself.

      If you read my post, you’ll see that LL offers constant server & viewer development. On this department, OpenSim (for the most part) simply rides on LL’s coat-tails, and even the most ardent OpenSim evangelists should fear the possibility that LL might one day cease to exist or stop developing SL. Without LL and its server/viewer development, OpenSim will run in serious trouble in six months maximum.

      So, with SL you get two very important things. One is managed hosting and servers: Even if you don’t rent land, you have someone ensuring your inventory doesn’t disappear. You have someone ensuring that you’ll find places to shop, dance, etc. If you try to do this by yourself, you’ll either pay extremely high costs for a managed server (whose storage space is pretty much set and finite, by the way) or much lower costs for a dedicated root server, where you’ll have to do everything by yourself and know that, if your server gets hacked or your hard drives get damaged, you may very well be shit out of luck. Or, you can go the VPS route, which is cheaper still, but what about its performance? The other thing you get with LL is the continuous development of the platform. Is the SL of 2014 anything like the SL of 2003? Or the SL of 2007?

      As for finding ways to attract new customers, or bringing back old ones… That’s beyond the scope of this article.

      1. Hi Mona,

        While OpenSim does currently rely on the viewer development that is done by Linden Lab, it has no reliance whatsoever on the server development that LL does. Every single line of code in OpenSim was written by one of the dozens of developers that have worked on that open source project. Some of those developers are still working full time on various components of the OpenSim platform.

        Kitely, has spent the last 5 years working on its solution and is one of OpenSim’s core developers. If LL went out of business OpenSim server development won’t slow down. It might even speed up as an influx of ex SL residents seek new homes in Kitely or one of the other OpenSim grids. Some of these people will be developers who will choose to help further develop OpenSim.

        As for the viewer, the LL viewer is open source and its development can continue without the involvement of LL. Even without that, writing an alternative viewer is not an unsurmountable task. Lumiya Viewer was developed by just one person from scratch. Speaking as a developer who has spent some time researching the issue, there are ways to get to a viable viewer much faster than the path Lumiya’s developer took.

        OpenSim gains a lot from the existence of Second Life but the number one thing that is hurting its adoption is the network effect that keeps SL residents from looking for alternatives. If SL were to cease to exist OpenSim adoption would grow significantly and with it the number of people contributing to the continued development of that open source project.

        1. It’s more complicated than that. SL also has content, and a set of very specific ToS which, although over-reaching as it is right now, give a framework of rules, especially w.r.t. intellectual property.

          Grid-based virtual worlds are already viewed in a hostile manner by many stock content providers, and OpenSim-based ones much more so than SL.

          As for whether OpenSim would benefit from a sudden disappearance of SL… I’m not sure how many people would want to start over from scratch in any of the OpenSim grids. And don’t forget the issue of content migration and the technical and legal implications; that’d be a whole can of worms.

          1. This is a conversation I’ve already had with many SL supporters so, to save us both time, instead of repeating it here with you, I suggest you read the following blog post. It was written by Nalates Urriah, who first responded similarly to how you’re responding now, and changed her perspective after we conversed at length: http://blog.nalates.net/2014/03/26/opensim-kitelys-market-place-second-look/

            If you prefer repeating that conversation in your blog, I’ll be happy to do that as well 🙂

          2. You’re pointing to something different. There is a considerable amount of content (regardless of whether it’s for sale or if it’s just content that decorates or otherwise enhances a sim’s appearance and/or immersive functions) that has been created with prefabs and textures whose EULA is “SL only”.

            And don’t even get me started with stock content providers like CGTextures and Renderosity (see what I had to say about them here and here). And trust me on that, Kitely is not immune to such heavy-handed and drama-whoring announcements. Remember, Turbosquid explicitly prohibits any use of its content in any grid-based virtual world, regardless of whether it’s SL, Kitely, InWorldz, AviNation etc.

            Transferring this content to any virtual world outside of SL could prove to become a significant headache for content creators who have used third-party content, even if what they created was not for sale.

          3. I agree it’s a current barrier but there are ways that can be used to automate the transfer of multi-user-created objects that comply with the SL TOS in both letter and spirit. I won’t go into the specifics at this time, but following LL’s new CEO’s recorded statement about people having the right to export their own creations from SL, we’re considering creating such a tool for the easy IP-respecting copying of items from SL to Kitely.

          4. It will also require a considerable amount of work in order to convince stock content creators and providers (and their lawyers) about certain matters. One other grey area is… What happens if the business that created the textures, sculpts and/or meshes has ceased to exist? Hunting them down to get a licence to transfer from one grid to another is certainly not going to be an easy task.

          5. The majority of items in people’s inventories are a combination of assets and objects that were created by a few hundred SL residents, most of which are still alive and inSL. Getting legal authorization for stock textures is a matter of getting to a business arrangement with the relevant sites. The approach we’re thinking about would work even if some parts, e.g. stock textures, are not copied but rather (automatically or manually) replaced by alternatives. Not perfect but maybe good enough to get a significant number of content creators to list their goods in Kitely Market, and thus (if they so choose), to sell them to all Hypergrid-connected OpenSim grids from one online store.

          6. Automatic texture replacement could produce unsightly results. As for making business arrangements with residents that created the stock content, I think it’d be best, rather than have each individual creator seek an individual additional licence from the stock content creators, to have the grid providers make the necessary arrangements, perhaps providing some motives if necessary. The biggest challenge, however, will be the “traditional” stock content providers (like Turbosquid).

          7. Automated texture replacement would only be done for certain types of textures and even then after a manual assignment where a human states texture A can replace texture B whenever it is encountered. Again, not perfect but may be sufficiently good. This could be part of Kitely’s existing content analysis and debugging tools. See: http://www.kitely.com/virtual-world-news/2013/09/06/tools-for-finding-and-fixing-problems-in-products/

            The goal is to make it as seamless as possible in order to eliminate the need for user-to-user agreement on a one-by-one basis. As for stock content, what can’t be licensed can be filtered out which creates an opportunity for content creators to fill the gap.

        2. A few more things… If LL were to kick the bucket tomorrow, the vast majority of SL’s users would say “WTF? All the things I made, bought, etc, all the money I spent, gone? That’s it, no more!” and they simply wouldn’t bother starting over anytime soon. So no, the idea that any OpenSim grid provider would reap benefits from such an event doesn’t have any footing in reality. We’re not talking car insurance, which is mandatory and, if your insurance company goes bust, you simply go to another.

          Second… Lumiya was based on the official viewer, with all the necessary tweaks, and also all OpenSim viewers are based on that. Like it or not, OS viewer development is a… byproduct of SL viewer development. Without LL, even maintenance of the viewers would be hampered by many factors.

          1. Even if 90% of the people who actively use SL were to walk away from VWs the remaining tens of thousands of active users could greatly enhance the viability of OpenSim. Many of the people I’ve talked to are more than happy to use OpenSim but just think SL currently offers them more community and content. If SL were to disappear the reason for them to not spend more time in OpenSim-based grids would disappear with it.

            As for your claim that Lumiya is based on the official viewer, if that is so then please direct me to a link where people can download Lumiya’s source code as required by all viewers that use the SL viewer code base. Or are you claiming Lumiya viewer is using parts of the GPLed SL viewer code base without releasing the code as required by that open source license?

            Most TPVs are currently based on SL viewer code but not all of them. Regardless, creating a viewer may be time consuming if done from scratch but there is no reason to build it from nothing. You can use Unity, libOpenMetaverse, and various other pre-existing software libraries to develop a working OpenSim viewer that shares no code with the official SL viewer.

          2. Lumiya does not use LL’s code, as it would be completely inefficient on the platforms it is used on, but Alina has looked at the code very closely and has made her own code to be compatible with that of the Lab’s. At any rate, Lumiya is made to conform to the standards of SL and its OpenSim clones, so yes, in that sense it is based on what LL and other TPVs have done, for compatibility’s sake.

            And, getting back to whether people would flock to OpenSim… Let me remind you that saying something is one thing. Actually doing it is another.

          3. There is nothing unique about the developers working on the official SL viewer. The only benefit they have over other equally competent developers is that they have experience with that particular code base.

            As game clients go SL viewer is far from being the best option upon which to create a VW viewer. Unity, with its more advanced graphics engine and orders of magnitude bigger developer base, would make for a much better choice. There are hundreds of thousands of developers with experience of building game viewers based on that technology. The only OpenSim/SL specific things you need (data structures and protocols) already exist as SL or OpenSim open sourced code. Even if LL were to vanish the code would remain with a usable open source license.

            Most SL users may not flock to OpenSim if SL closes down but the few percent which will are enough to be significant for OpenSim’s continued growth.

          4. How many people do you think are active, hardcore SL users as we speak? One million? That’d be an extremely optimistic estimate. Cut it down to half and you’d be in a far more realistic ballpark.

            At best, 10% of that user base would be distributed among OpenSim providers, i.e. 50,000 users. The rest would just say “sod it.”

          5. Given the average revenue per user that active SL residents generate for LL, an addition of 50,000 such users to OpenSim grids would significantly increase the amount of money being spent in the OpenSim ecosystem. With the revenue they generate in SL no longer being an option, SL merchants would also have a much bigger incentive to sell items to, the now increased number of, OpenSim users. That additional content will, in turn, help attract even more users to OpenSim-based grids.

            In other words, 50,000 active users moving from SL to OpenSim may be enough to create a tipping point in OpenSim adoption.

          6. A 90% shrinkage would equate to an extinction of the market, because the content creators would no longer find it viable to continue their businesses. Well, alternatively, they could attempt to make up for the losses by increasing their prices significantly.

          7. A 90% reduction in the number of active users doesn’t necessarily mean each merchant will have 90% less business.

            First, some of these lost users will be competing merchants. In fact, if your theses is correct then there will be a higher percentage of merchants who decide to not start over than there will be non-merchants who decide to quit VWs. This means that the merchants who do move to OpenSim may not only retain the same merchant to potential buyer ratio they had in SL but even improve it.

            Second, there is a lot less content in OpenSim so people who come over looking for content have a lot less options than they do inSL. This results in higher sales per potential buyer for the merchants who do sell in OpenSim. For example, there were several merchants who sold more than $1000 worth of goods in Kitely Market during a time when there were only about 500 active users in Kitely and before Kitely Market started delivering to users in other OpenSim grids (it now delivers to all Hypergrid-connected grids). Those merchants haven’t sold anything close to $1,000,000 worth of goods in SL even though there were 1000 times more active users in SL and SL Marketplace has been open for business much longer than Kitely Market has.

            Lastly, there are already quite a few SL merchants who sell to other grids. Merchants who hesitate following SL closing will hear from those merchants how much additional business those 50,000 active users have brought them and decide to start listing some of their own goods in Kitely Market as well.

    2. One more thing, regarding the “closed private sim” dream and how it’s “better done by OpenSim.” I’m terribly sorry, but, again, this argument holds no water. Besides builders who first build in private OpenSim-powered sandboxes locally, and besides educational or other institutions that might need a private region over which they can have complete control, complete with a customised viewer, you, me, and the vast majority of the users simply don’t need such a thing. We make homes in SL to not only accommodate our virtual existences and to enjoy our dream worlds, but to share them with friends or the general public. Can you do that with a closed, private OpenSim grid? Also, SL has the content you need in order to dress yourself and your home up. That’s not the case with closed, private OpenSim grids.

      1. A private , own hosted grid, can be installed in less then 3 minutes, via Diva Distro, Simonastick or new worlds.
        Can be Hypergrid enabled, meaning anyone can teleport from any of these grids (and for sure many others).
        http://opensimulator.org/wiki/Public_Hypergrid_Nodes
        Meaning, you don’t even need to register on the grid you wish to visit, you can go there with your avatar and all the clothes you wear and the myth of Open sim content, free, legal, does not exist is just that, a myth.
        But to focus on Second Life and high tiers, I only wnat to say, again, that Second Life has only one thing that makes it of higher value and the main reason for me to keep spending money:
        Mainland and art and the venjues that support them.

  4. Let’s start small? Allow anybody to have an openspace or homestead sim without having a full region. Reduce the setup cost to basically nothing (but high enough to detract people from opening and closing regions all the time) — is $50-100 fair for a setup? These simple things won’t take away any existing income from LL.

    1. I, too, would like to see the setup cost being reduced to something manageable, but don’t forget that setup costs do exist everywhere. I’d rather see the setup costs being reduced to one month’s tier, personally.

      1. I was looking around a while back when having a similar conversation. In many opensim grids there are no setup fees for new regions. Or at least I didn’t see them on the main sign up pages (i didnt actually sign up). I think that to LL the ongoing 295.00 is more important than the one time up front. Drop setup fees for existing estates. Reduce the barrier for new estates (I like the idea of one months tier) or let people continue to transfer regions into new estates for even cheaper entry into estate ownership.

    2. This wont happen because the really large estates want to keep hold of this area of the business. I actually think that allowing anyone to hold a homestead reduces the number of overall regions as well because there are people renting land on full regions now, that would buy their own homestead if they could. Allowing existing estate owners to bring up homesteads in their estate on the fly, without setup costs would allow people looking for homesteads to find them in estates that they trust and have access to them quickly. The only thing they miss out on is estate level controls. But that is where finding an estate you trust comes in. And yes i think this way because I think it would hurt my business as well.

  5. This is a topic I feel pretty strongly about. I have to say I agree with Mona nearly 100%. The price LL is charging for what amounts to full service hosting is mostly in line with what can be had other places. If LL was to lower tier it would have to lower quality or service along with it. I actually do not think that the 295.00 per month tier is a real impediment though. I agree on everything you are saying about development and design happening at the lab. For all the LL bashing that goes on, they are making some pretty darn good improvements. I think the real issue is around the (perceived) barrier to entry.

    A little about my perspective on this. I am an estate owner with two current regions in the estate. Both are majority residential, and both are almost always at 90+% rented. Slightly more than 1/4 of one of the regions hosts a very popular Gacha Yard Sale. What keeps me from expanding my estate is not the 295.00 its the setup, transfer and maintenance fees. Full regions at $1000, homesteads at $375 and move/renames at $100 means that to go direct to LL today and get a new region setup is not cost effective. In October of 2012, I believe it was, LL had a special deal where they waved the setup fees on new regions for existing estate owners. I think that if LL extended that pricing to existing estate owners on a full time basis estate owners would be more willing to expand. I know I would. If LL were to remove this barrier I think it would not only give existing estate owners an incentive to expand, it would also give them an incentive to make larger connected estates.

    I put that the barrier to entry was perceived earlier because you never have to pay LL the $1000 to add a new region or start a new estate. There are always people buying and selling regions. In that case you pay a minimum of $100 for the transfer fee. While I appreciate the after market sale of regions, it has two main issues for me. #1 people seem to be willing to send a region back to LL instead of taking less than their asking price. I appreciate that some people want to recoup part of the 1000 investment, but I am just not willing to pay people much for that. My general offer is to pay the paid tier+$100 transfer+$50 for the owner. I have seen my offers refused dozens of times and those regions go offline. More importantly though, is that the aftermarket takes time, and when I decide I want a region I want it now. I would like to see LL cut out this after market all together by making it easier and cheaper for me to just come to them when I want something. I have been asked numerous times if I would host a homestead for someone. My answer is always yes, but when I tell them I have to pass on the $375 cost to add it to the estate they have always backed out. If this was free to me, to all estate owners, to spin up regions as needed I would be able to rent out more.

    There is a cost to LL in man hours in this, but technology can and should be helping them in this regard. LL does have the development staff to automate things like moves, adds and changes. With the number of regions decreasing right now we know there is not a need to further capital investment in new servers as these regions can just fill in space where other regions have closed. I very much believe that small estate owners especially, can benefit and grow by removing these fees. I will add that just reducing the cost for these services will not have the same result in my opinion. It is the flexibility of free that wins out. Just think of all off the regions in SL uses for special events. I am sure estate owners would love to get in on that business. If LL is worried about being burdened by an increased number of requests add some limits and rules. New regions must remain active for a minimum of X months. Estate owners are limited to X number of free moves, adds and changes per month.

    As for open sim. I can’t go there. See my problem is that I don’t build. But I do create spaces, and I am told I create very nice places to live and visit. But I rely on a dozen or more creators in SL to supply me with goodies. OpenSim doesn’t have those things. zzpearlbottom said that the mainland is the biggest draw of SL, and I disagree. The biggest draw of Second Life is the amazing creator community, the amazing sale events, and the amazing opportunities that having these things in world provide to those of use that are not now or ever going to be good at making things on our own.

    On Mainland, I think Bay City is interesting in that it has strong leadership and inworld presence. For all of the theming it has though, it still seems very disjointed and messy to me (and old like most of the mainland). As for the Blake Sea, I think it is great that they were able to get a near monopoly on connecting to mainland regions and waterways. I would be happy to move my estate to connect to the same area, but I have no desire to do it under the rules they set forth. I do think LL should allow estates to connect to open areas of the mainland, but its really not a battle I am interested in fighting.

    Sorry for the long post. : o)

  6. OpenSim sims can have access control preventing unwanted people from entering them while enabling the people you do want to do so with the same ease as entering a private estate in SL. Those sims may even be connected to the Hypergrid, thus enabling people from many different OpenSim grids to interact with one another inworld without making the world publicly accessible.

    It’s true that there is a lot less content on sale in Kitely Market than in SL Marketplace but the number of merchants in our marketplace and the number of items on sale are growing daily. Besides the lack of a mainland, there really is very little you can do inSL which you can’t do in Kitely for a much cheaper price.

  7. I don’t know where Mona gets her info on OpenSim based grids, which differ in features and management from none to full.
    I missed in Tochner’s posts the valuable oar feature which allows me to take a developed region, in entirety, from a Windows Server R2 to a Debian LAMP server or to Kitely up and running within a few minutes.
    Mona’s SL mythical frozen beefed-up Homestead was surely posted for humor.
    Unless I am wrong, on location or name isn’t that just a record. the UUID is what counts. Where do I apply for that $100 job?
    TY for the topic 🙂

    1. *sigh*

      If only you had bothered to read the post… But that’s so typical of fanatics of either side. Yes, you can set up an OpenSim grid in minutes either locally or on a VPS or, or, or… But, if you self-host, all management and administration will have to be done by you. And trust me, you don’t want to be running things on a dedicated root server hosted by a company that doesn’t offer any real support when the server’s hard drives fail. If you were waiting for Ilan to tell you that OAR exists, then you clearly know even less about OpenSim than someone who’s never heard of it before. Your comment on the “mythical frozen beefed-up Homestead” confirms that you really, really didn’t read the post. A homestead is, actually, just a beefed-up Openspace region – from a technical standpoint. At any rate, that’s pretty much as much sense as I could get out of your comment. The rest is, unfortunately, a bunch of non-sequiturs.

      1. I won’t banter with outright fabrications placed on any blog as informative. To be direct; your thread response to Jo Yardley stating Homesteads can’t be changed to full was why I posted as I did. Perhaps with a few more years inworld and creating Virtual servers you will pick up enough technical knowledge to at least be somewhat factual. Research what’s true or false on issues.
        On topic… it’s what the market will bear.

        1. You could have pointed out the error, like Tatiana Dokuchic did, instead of being a holier-than-thou, self-important so-and-so. This is the last comment of yours that will be allowed here.

  8. Oars could be a real great offer from LL.
    To explain: A Oar is just a xml file with all the data of the contents of a region, from the landscape to all the itens it contains.
    LL could offer the chance to save on a data base a Oar per request. So if any had the need to leave Sl , it could still ask for the region to be stored, paying a small fee and for a period of time. After that time, Ll could just make that oar available for any that wish to start a region with already pre made content and landscape.
    The same could be done with iar’s (full inventory back ups).
    One user cold request the save of the iar and transfer to another account.
    And LL Tos, assuring that all the content used on SL belongs to them, would ensure nobody would be able to reclaim, cause of transfer of non transfer items.
    Now i must tell you Mona, don’t ignore or dismiss Open sim and its relevance in the future Years as Linden Lab is finally starting to realize.
    See on Lea, the connection already possible in between diff grids, (Second Life and Inworldz).
    A new future, the all we all desire (Of Second Life and its currency being the bridge and the center od a myriad of metaverse worlds can be at our doors, finally.

      1. So sorry, you can delete all my posts regarding this subject, they are useless to the post in itself, even the more m2 pert tier level for premium members and more auctions as you dismiss Mainland as being the only argument LL have against other competitors.
        I

        1. Nope, I’m not deleting any comments. If I did, the whole conversation would be missing huge chunks of information and readers wouldn’t be able to follow it and reach their conclusions.

  9. One thing I find extremely annoying about the whole debacle is tiers remain fixed while tier capabilities do not. at one time a a full estate SIM occupied “a” server. Then it became 4 SIM on a server, then 8, Each division of the SIM’s capabilities rendering it more and more unstable for use by more than a handful of avatars.

    How often do you go to an event now to find the SIM owners have limited entry to half of what they are purported to hold? I understand about the script & texture loads involved in hosting events for such things and asking or requiring people to minimize their impact on resources, descripting is a good thing for one and all. However, “back in the day” an estate in good health with conscientious citizens could get to 70 before the lag stick started beating them up.

    My point is we pay these tiers and our services are downgraded.

    As for arguments about “other” grids or hosting your own? Well, if you are going there to script or create, export & then import to SL, fine. If you are attempting to create an event or venue you expect people to attend, good luck with that.

    To my knowledge, InWorlds is the largest “other” SL style grid out there and how many people do you see there? Of all the times I have logged in I don’t think I’ve ever seen more than 40 maximum in world. So if you are a loner, it’s the place for you, or even SimOnAStick. If you want interaction with other people, a place to actually share your creativity or to make $L, SL is the place to be.

    1. A full region occupies a CPU, while four openspace regions are hosted on the same CPU and – I think – two homesteads are hosted on the same CPU. Now, CPU power has skyrocketed since SL first came to exist. However, there are other factors that increase lag, and most of them – whether we like it or not – have nothing to do with LL, such as avatars wearing super-duper high-poly mesh “because quality” and trinkets loaded with super-laggy 1024×1024 textures “because quality”, or builds made with super-duper high-poly mesh models and loaded with 1024×1024 textures, completely ignoring the Good Building Practices from SL’s official wiki. The services are not downgraded; what contributes to lag is that content creators (as has been succinctly pointed out by Jessica Lyon, Ed Merryman, Penny Patton and others) build to their high-end systems’ capabilities, ignoring completely the fact that their products will be used by people with lesser systems and, more often than not, on crowded sims (and telling people to yank their LOD setting to 4 – soon enough they’ll tell us to take it to go all Spinal Tap and take it to 11). You’ve hit the nail on the head when it comes to sim on a stick and the other issues, though.

  10. Well Mairead, you really should have tried when Sl was down for almost all afternoon.
    There where 481 users on Inworldz alone.
    But the fact is that Open sim only gain when Sl has issues.
    About the number of servers and its quality and how many are being used on Sl, for that i would really like to see a real correct reply, from LL, as far as i could Google, the last is from 2011.

    1. 481 users on InWorldz; typical concurrency in SL is over 48,000 users. Even now, SL is two orders of magnitude above the most popular OpenSim grids in terms of concurrency alone.

      Regarding the number of servers used by LL and their specifications, this is no longer relevant, as they host much of their services on Amazon’s cloud services, depending on the load. Furthermore, LL is under no obligation to disclose these specifications; neither is any other grid.

  11. And as much as i do agree with Penny arguments and for sure use them (how a simple change of camera fov settings can make an amazing difference in how we precept SL and how we build), the least SL needs now is Covenant rules besides the ones imposed by private state owners and Some dictating how one can and/or shall be wearing or building, or how much should be the height of our avatars.
    Linden Lab already changed the minimum requirements for a reason, Sl is not for old computers, even for modern laptops and for sure Sl go is not the right answer.
    And again, Open sim can handle and still have an use for those, lol.

    1. I thought dictating your own rules for your own private region that you pay for is part of what owning a private region is all about.

      As for SL Go, the main drawbacks it has for me are the camera settings (but I usually circumvent that with a camera control HUD), its lack of support for fitted mesh, and its poor support for custom windlights (which can be partly explained by the need to have strict control over what the user does on the remote machine). Other than these three drawbacks, SL Go is a perfectly adequate way to use the official viewer on an older machine.

      1. Sl G did not worked for my soul mate, she had to pass without her new put for a weekend and tried to use the old 1, that runs a osg region for over 3 years.
        No way, Sl go didn’t even started as it said that her system didn’t meet the minimum requirements, even if she can still login with imprudence pre mesh on sl at min settings..
        Enough to say she was jot able to login to Sl for the weekend, as imprudence experience was painful at best for one used to have all at max and run at 288m draw distance with more then reasonable fps at all times.
        (Im lucky i can run sl at max now on my 2 putters).
        So her opinion on Sl Go is obvious very different from yours, as mine that feel that nobody is noticing some much more important for the future of the virtual worlds, Pixieviewer!

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