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The spirit of 1776: Second Life's second revolution?

Tateru Nino

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Second Life users are already calling it Second Life's second revolution. Outside of Linden Lab's in-world Land Team offices, capacity crowds of users have been gathered through much of the day, though there's been nary a Linden Lab staffer in sight. People are cursing, newcomers are asking for protest signs, and there's angry chatter in over a dozen languages. There are a lot of Europeans here, which is not unexpected. They have to pay VAT on top of any additional costs.

There is talk about switching the signs and banners for flaming torches and pitchforks, because, if nothing else Second Life users find value in tradition. There are even discussions about picketing Linden Lab's Battery Street office in San Francisco.

All of this started yesterday at 6PM SLT (US Pacific time) when Jack Linden, head of Linden Lab's land team, announced a price-rise to void simulators (known to Linden Lab as Openspace sims). The reaction since then has been ... robust.

Void/Openspace simulators are low-capacity simulators that were once known as 'quad' simulators (because they ran four sims to the CPU rather than the usual one). Void simulators were used for coastlines, patches of ocean, rolling plains and other environments where there was a need for simulated space, but no need for construction.

Second Life pilots, sailors, sightseers and travellers used void simulators extensively. Bought in packs of four, they could add spacious regions for all these activities to private estates. That is, until March this year, when Linden Lab increased the capacity limits on those simulators, and changed the pricing model, allowing them to be purchased individually. People who valued space more than raw capacity snapped up the new offering, building out vast territories and themed communities.

If you've heard Mark Kingdon or John Zdanowski (Linden Lab's CEO and CFO respectively) talking at conferences and to the press about the boom in land area in Second Life lately, that seems to be a direct product of the Void/Openspace simulator market. The announced price-rise seems to shoot all of that PR in the foot.

Linden Lab has not apparently previously concerned itself much with changes that might cause users to sell their land or simulator space and abandon the platform. As they've said before, there is always a queue of people waiting to buy. What happens if that queue dries up, however?

The spirit of 1776

Since yesterday's announcement the Second Life blogosphere has lit up with angry posts, the titles of many of which we won't reproduce here due to crude language concerns. Many users are definitely angry.

Second Life users, and various Linden Lab staff are referring to this as 'a revolution', likening it to the original Second Life Tax Revolt in 2003, which was in a large part responsible for the formation of the modern Second Life economy as it stands today.

Between official and unoffical blog and forum responses, there have been several thousand negative reactions to the announced price rise so far. Operators of open-source Second Life alternative grids have enjoyed a surge of interest, and the open-source alternative 'opensim' (not to be confused with openspace/void simulators) has been getting more interest and more discussion among users than at any previous time.

On the Second Life public issue tracker, issue MISC-1776 is attracting comment-after-comment, and vote-after-vote protesting the price rises, at the rate of over a hundred an hour.

Rumors are already circulating that Linden Lab will capitulate rather than take a negative public relations hit over this issue, which is far from an unprecedented situation.

Linden Lab has yet to respond to any of the protests or protestors, and is not available to us for official comment.

Are you a part of the most widely-known collaborative virtual environment or keeping a close eye on it? Massively's Second Life coverage keeps you in the loop.

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