New Version, new Drama

28 06 2006

So today it’s update day and the most critical changes have been announced in the latest blog post by Robin Harper of Linden Lab. In there she explains the these changes and how they require a new Terms of Service you have to accept when logging in.
But first for those who don’t know the whole story, here’s a little summary: The registration scheme for Second Life has been opened recently in that no identity verification (like a credit card) is required anymore. The reason for this change is according to Linden Lab to reduce the first barrier in order to get more people (and especially international ones) into the game. This also seems to be successful as recent numbers show (we will probably hit today the 300.000 resident barrier and have a 50/50 split of US vs. international residents now).

So these changes have raised lots of discussions and fear because the platform is now open to griefers and teens as no real verification is taking place (and thus teens might be confronted with mature content which might lead to law suits against Linden Lab. At least that’s the fear of residents. I am no legal expert..). In order to address this issue Robin Harper now explains that basically two features will be added:

1. The Second Life client will compute a hash based on the hardware setup of the computer it’s running on (for this the new ToS is needed I think. But actually I cannot find it in the new one). This information can only be accessed by Linden Lab employees and even just the hash, no actual information. This should address the griefer issue as certain computers could be banned based on this as well as one can check if there are multiple connects from these computers.

2. Profile pages will now get a new field which shows if the user has provided billing information to Linden Lab and if it has been used in the past.

Both changes are already producing lots of discussions in the forums. Regarding point 1 people call it Spyware although it is not true when implemented as described. So I don’t care that much about this issue. I even see it positively as they tell what they do publicly and what they do is actually not that much. Other companies do much more quite hidden. And if it can help with griefers, the better.

The other point is eventually more discussable. The fear of residents is here that Linden Lab is producing a two class system dividing the population in those can afford to pay something and those who don’t. As it’s also pointed out in Robin’s blog that they will add land banning based on this information in a future release this is seen as even more problematic.

I personally think that not many people will use that banning feature really. It will just drive people away and if it’s a mall it might even drive clients away (I wouldn’t want to sell in such a place). Also I wonder if it’s really producing a noticeable two-class-system. On flickr you also have pro and basic accounts and you can identify them as such. On there I don’t really see that people with a basic accounts are seen as less important people. It’s maybe just what people make out of that information.

Commitment?

The main problem I actually see is the wording here. Robin speaks of commitment and this implies that only people who have paid are committed. This is of course not true and there might be a variety of reasons why you don’t go premium. And beside that I though that the reason to add that field is because of (more) teens now coming into the grid and a means of identifying their age but now it seems all to be about commitment. I think I don’t get the reason behind that. I also don’t know of what use the knowledge of a commitment based on money flow is as I personally can usually find out pretty quick if somebody seems committed to the game or not.
I’d rather see them add more means of age verification as IMHO this is the only real problem to address here.

I believe that trust and a sense of commitment cannot be enforced by any technology as also my favourite video about Trusted Computing (homepage) states (and this seems to similar to the trusted computing issue):
Trust is the personal believe in the correctness of something.

It is the deep conviction of truth and rightness and cannot be enforced.

If you gain someone’s trust you have established an interpersonal relationship, based on communication, shared values and experiences.

Trust always depends on mutuality.
I am not yet sure what will happen but I doubt that very much will happen regarding a class system. My argument of my last post is basically still true: We had a two class system before: Those who have a credit card and can use Second Life and those who don’t.


Other changes

Well, not only has the profile been changed but we also have some changes on how you can list your land parcel in order to have a better search. Basically a new classification. Read the complete announcement of this change here and the release notes here.

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