Linden Lab CEO: ‘We’ve got to increase the quality’

Reuters have published an interview with Linden Lab CEO Philip Rosedale from this weekend’s SLCC. Most of the interview is fairly predictable but it’s encouraging to see the acknowledgement of quality as the key driver into the future:

“We’re at a place where we’ve demonstrated that the virtual world can exist. Now we need to make it high quality so it does continuously support the activities and desires of the people who are using it. That’s what we’ve learned by listening for the last couple of quarters. We’ve got to increase the quality.”


Of course, I’d deluded myself that some mention may be made of further internationalisation of the servers but the only allusion to that came from Rosedale’s thoughts on open-sourcing:

“If you’re an entrepreneur, wanting to enter the virtual world and sell stuff to people, you’re going to want to find the largest possible audience. So you’ll be strongly drawn to set up your shop on the system with the largest number of people using it. There will be a tremendous desire by people to link those servers together and be on our network so they can have access to the largest base of people.”

Finally, on the legal issues around ageplay and gambling, he summarised Linden Lab’s intent to tie restrictions to avatars through verification of that avatar’s RL location. That seems the most sensible way of not forcing the whole grid into a universal lockdown in a range of sensitive areas.

If Linden Lab are planning some incredible revolutionary step in SL’s development, it’s certainly not apparent in Philip Rosedale’s thoughts. What would you have liked to have seen asked of him in the interview?

Blow up the pokies

Linden Labs have clarified in no uncertain terms their stance on gambling in SL – it’s not to occur, full stop.


The actual policy is:

“It is a violation of this policy to wager in games in the Second Life (R) environment operated on Linden Lab servers if such games:

(1) (a) rely on chance or random number generation to determine a winner, OR (b) rely on the outcome of real-life organized sporting events,


(2) provide a payout in

(a) Linden Dollars, OR

(b) any real-world currency or thing of value.

This includes (but is not limited to), for example, Casino Games such as:

o Baccarat
o Blackjack
o Craps
o Faro
o Keno
o Pachinko
o Pai Gow
o Poker
o Roulette
o Sic Bo
o Slot machines

It also includes Sports Books or Sports Betting, including the placing of bets on actual sporting events against a book-maker or through a betting exchange. Linden Lab will actively enforce this policy. If we discover gambling activities that violate the policy, we will remove all related objects from the inworld environment, may suspend or terminate the accounts of residents involved without refund or payment, and may report any relevant details, including user information, to authorities and financial institutions.”

It’ll be interesting to see how long it takes for compliance with the policy to be achieved. When I first joined SL in 2006 I was advised to pick up some free $L by using camping chairs. I still had a casino landmark saved from back then and I tried it this evening and took the pictures contained in this story. As you can see, this casino hasn’t done anything to meet the new policy as yet.

Whether you love or hate gambling in SL, the new policy will remove a cultural aspect of the grid. Maybe some will even miss the sight of rows of zombie-like chair campers:


Will you miss the casinos in SL?

Australian Federal Police: We’re Watching

Mick Keelty, Commissioner of the Australian Federal Police is quoted in today’s Sydney Morning Herald as saying that the AFP are aware of online scams in virtual worlds, including Second Life. Nothing particularly surprising there. Keelty is also realistic about the challenges of policing virtual worlds, admitting it will be “difficult”.


There’d be widespread support for their involvement with the Virtual Global Taskforce which has a strong child protection focus and comprises the Australian Federal Police, the Australian High Tech Crime Centre, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre in the UK, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, the US Department of Homeland Security, Interpol and the Italian National Police. The test for the AFP will be drawing the line between acceptable and unacceptable behaviour in a way that protects innocent parties whilst maintaining freedom of expression.

One thing is certain – any Australian believing their activities in Second Life are beyond scrutiny are deluding themselves to the highest degree.

What will the real world tolerate?

The response to Daniel Linden’s blog post last week has been forceful and fairly widespread, demarcating along ‘freedom of expression’ and legal compliance lines.

The United Protest forum contains the full transcript of a chat with Daniel Linden’s colleague Robin Linden, in response to the concerns raised after Daniel Linden’s post. Robin goes to some lengths to emphasise that there’s been no change in approach in regards to freedoms within SL.

For me, the challenges arond the whole issue are encapsulated in two statements attributed to Robin Linden:

“I have to tell you though, that we can’t address every single corner case or possibility”


“In part because the real world hasn’t decided which of these things they’ll tolerate”

There are essentially two camps on the issue: those who believe that SL is a totally different medium and therefore conducive to re-evaluating what constitutes acceptable sexual expression and those essentially applying real world mores and taboos to the virtual world experience. On top of that are the legal requirements of Linden Lab. It’s a messy, complicated mix and one that everyone will continue to grapple with. And like it or not, it’s the real world that will be the arbiter in the end, hence Robin Linden’s comment:

“so we’re working with various governments to understand their individual concerns “.

It’s not hard to imagine there’s going to be a growing amount of governmental consultation going on in order to head off an all-out witch hunt once a morally dubious in-world issue arises, with widepsread community demand for action.

Linden Lab draws deeper moral line in the sand

The official Linden blog was the forum today for Linden Lab to encourage SL residents to report a range of issues:

– acts involving or appearing to involve children or minors
– real-life images, avatar portrayals, and other depictions of sexual violence including rape
– real-life images, avatar portrayals, and other depictions of extreme or graphic violence


It’s hard to imagine a significant backlash against such restrictions although defining terms such as ‘extreme’ or ‘graphic’ is always fraught with inconsistencies. With tens of thousands of people logged in at any one time, following up complaints is also likely to be difficult. The hope is that the ‘haven of creativity and social vision’ desired doesn’t just drive the worst aspects of SL underground either within SL or elsewhere.

Update: veteran SL resident Prokofy Neva has written an extensive article on pedophilia and its SL implications.

Icons under scrutiny

As reported on, there’s increasing scrutiny of iconic Aussie landmarks in SL and the copyright implications of their use. The two under the microscope at this stage are the Sydney Opera House (found on both the BigPond islands and the Australia sim) and Uluru (on the BigPond presence).

The article asserts that Telstra have confirmed they didn’t approach the traditional owners of Uluru for permission, so this is a grey area that may to attract a lot of attention. An article in the Sydney Morning Herald however, quotes Telstra denying breaching any copyright. Either way, the resolution of the issue will set a precedent that will hopefuly provide some clarity for future development.

What are your thoughts – should people be free to replicate iconic Australian landmarks in a virtual world? And if so, under what conditions?

(Thanks to the Mindtracks blog for pointing to the story)

Child Pornography – Linden Lab’s firm response

The Official Linden Blog carried one of its more serious topics today – allegations of child pornography. The blog post details the chain of events. Linden Labs’ reaction certainly demonstrates their belief in stamping out anything related to child exploitation and they deserve commendation for that.

Based on the blog post, I took the opportunity to use the SL search functionality and typed in ‘child’ – the result was everything from anti-child pornography groups through to childrens clothing and body-shape stores. The second location we teleported to contained the following images:


Another location appeared more innocuous but still contained body shapes like this:


We’re not asserting that the locations we saw are involved in child pornography. However, these images are obviously of under-18’s. I saw another picture of a child-like body shape for sale in nothing but panties which contained a sales description of ‘pert preteen body’.

That on its own may not constitute pornography but it’s difficult to rationalise the use of child body shapes beyond some very unhealthy intentions. There are people in SL who want to be carefree and live like a child, but arguably this isn’t the majority of the market.

We’ve contacted Linden Labs via their PR company for comment and we’ll report any response.

Update (November 2007): Reuters is reporting that the UK have undercover police investigating pedophilia in virtual worlds including Second Life. Second Life Insider is also running a story on Wonderland sim and Sky News’ reporting on it.

Update 2: Croga is an excellent site that provides confidential information to those concerned about their viewing of child pornography online.

Previous Posts