Future freedom loss creeps up unawares?

Above and beyond Second Life‘s many attractions, many residents prize the ability to make and enjoy user-created content. It is the main thing that separates Second Life from the profusion of other virtual worlds making their appearance, both recently and further in the past. Nonetheless, Linden Lab is pushing for a more “mainstream” approach. Does this spell out the demise of user-created content? During this push, does Linden Lab plan on cravenly sidling up to each step necessary to achieve this end?

It seems clear that Linden Lab is ready to start making changes, both in their business model and in their approach to the governance of Second Life. In “mainstreaming” the running of the Lab, one hopes that the plan is to move from a start-up model to a corporate model. Right now, the Lab seems to function as a conglomeration of start-ups, each of which has a large amount of trouble communicating with the other start-ups in the system. Improved communication between the parts should improve the overall capacity of the business to run efficiently and competently. In “mainstreaming” Second Life, the newly effective and better-resourced Linden Lab might have less trouble governing, even as they bring in tighter measures to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience for all-comers. Unless, of course, they continue in the current vein of slowly taking away our favorite toys and making it look like they’re hoping to keep the patronage of the current crop of residents until the money from future residents – “mainstream” residents – comes flooding in. Hey, Linden Lab? We’re adults – do you seriously think that we’re not going to notice if you pull the table-cloth out from under us, even if the flowers are still standing? Also, as mature-minded folk, we can accept that sometimes you need things for your own benefit – just don’t try to pass them off as things that are for our benefit.

It looks like the coming changes are destined not to be necessarily popular with current residents. Perhaps as the residents we should be concerned about this, about the welfare of our virtual tribes, virtual locations, and virtual hobbies. Linden Lab, perhaps, should not be concerned about our reactions at all. They have a business to run, and profits to be made. If this a major priority for them, they should by all means be looking to the future, to future residents and their desires. If this is the case, it would be nice to see two things happen:

1. A removal of the potentially hypocritical slogan “Your world. Your Imagination.” (or even “Your world, Your Way,” a trademark Linden Lab recently applied for);

2. For Linden Lab to “supercharge” the changes in Second Life and get it all over and done with as fast as possible. They should risk losing all the residents they have now, if that is their end goal anyway. Much better that to be strung along and hugely disappointed in the end.

Despite being supported by observation of the news and current events within Linden Lab, this is to some extent just speculation. Things are certainly changing within Linden Lab, but without more straight from the horse’s mouth, it is very difficult to see where the next few months might take us. I’d personally like to say to Linden Lab, “Don’t take away the thing that makes Second Life special. Let us keep our freedoms, and let us deal with all the consequences that come with them. We live in the real world. Virtual worlds can be a reflection of that reality, as well as having their own unique aspects of reality – don’t make it a sheltered thing, a lesser thing than it has been.”

Linden Lab has claimed repeatedly that they and the residents are partners in this world building – shouldn’t partners tell each other what is going on?


  1. I think we all have to recognise the difference between Second Life and The Grid that contains it. Linden probably need to mainstream The Grid to make it more attractive to business and education because the ‘be-bop’ nature of SL is NEVER going to work for those groups. I don’t care how positive a spin they try to put on what’s already happening in SL, education and business needs a different kind of virtual space and aren’t really going to take virtual worlds seriously until they get it.

    The Grid could give them that and could leave SL as the huge imagination-playground it already is. Think of Second Life as the capitol city of virtual worlds – a huge virtual melting-pot with room for all kinds of self-expression. As someone else has said – Second Life should be the Manhattan of virtual worlds. The best shopping, the most amazing places to live, the best clubs, a bohemian quarter, the cutting-edge designers, etc etc…

    Why do Linden have to make an either/or choice when they can have the best of both virtual worlds?

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