The T. O. S. Controversy

I don’t think Linden Lab is trying to steal your stuff even though they are claiming the right to do so. I think it’s just the usual incompetence over there. In plain English, they have their collective heads up their collective asses at Linden Lab and anyone who has paid any attention has known this for a long time.

Might I be wrong about their motive? Yes. But it’s all a moot point really. The only thing that should matter to LL right now is that the new TOS has already proven to be one of their most colossal mistakes ever. And, as we all know, that is saying a lot. Whether LL really meant it or not doesn’t matter. Whether they have to fix a mistake or change a policy, all that matters is: they had better do it very soon.

It’s already right up there with any past LL stupidity you’d care to name. For example, I rate it on a par with pushing the educators out the door with their bait and switch on land pricing. A move LL finally had to correct. Too little, too late of course. Second Life will never recover from that fiasco.

LL can repeat history by leaving the TOS as is for the next couple of years until 80-percent of the content creators leave. Then they can close the barn door after it’s too late once again. Then you can add this to the list of things they will never recover from.

While I am aware that steps are being taken by the SL community to bring LL to its senses, anyone who is following the virtual world news and social nets or reading the forums of individual grids is already seeing evidence of creators and residents in related fields moving to other grids and OpenSim right now or taking steps to do so.

This reaction is happening incredibly quickly. Linden Lab does not have time to spare. Each day they are losing individuals and groups of people. Most will be lost to SL forever.


/me shrugs.

Worth a try.


Related article:

Bryn Oh resigns from Linden Endowments for the Arts

About Danko Whitfield

writer, explorer of virtual worlds. semi-retired time traveler.
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5 Responses to The T. O. S. Controversy

    • Reina Benoir says:

      Do you actually find that explanation sufficient? I’m not saying that LL is interested in taking everyone’s stuff but they certainly wrote the TOS in such a way as to give themselves equal rights to the person who created and uploaded the item. That’s not consistent with respecting the person who created it and it’s not necessary to run Second Life.

      To be honest I don’t care what they say nor do I care about their intent. Intent means nothing when the words in the contract (Let’s be real LL treats that TOS like a contract) say the opposite.


  1. Talla Adam says:

    There are people like Hamlet of NWN apologizing for Linden Lab and fan boys blaming the Opensim community for blowing all this up but it is not the case. SL residents are pushing this one because they are outraged and who can blame them? Anything said by members of the Opensim community is merely picking up on what is already out of SL loud and clear. This TOS issue is entirely Linden Lab’s making but I have read enough to know there is method in their madness and it doesn’t bode well for the Second Life community or the Lab’s employees either, as you rightly warn, Danko.


  2. Mary Wilson says:

    Left SL after the educator bait and switch land pricing thing, finally came back and here’s LL doing stupid stuff again. Sheesh, do they want people to leave??? On to looking at some other grids (Kitely’s my newest experiment, liking it so far).


  3. Half a decade ago or so I had the following theory: there are so many new subscriptions per day that Linden Lab doesn’t care if people leave or not because new residents are coming in all the time. Even back then, I warned that not all residents are created equal under God: if 100,000 content creators leave, to be replaced by 100,000 consumers in five days (every day, we get 20,000 new residents), it means they have nothing to consume. And it will take time for the new residents to acquire the skills to become proficient enough to output quality content, just as before.

    In 2013, the situation is completely different.

    First of all, those 20,000 new residents per day (actually, closer to 12,000 or so, although there are peaks) are very likely just fake accounts to spam the forums. Seriously. We don’t see them popping up on the forums because, fortunately, the system is a bit more complicated than forum spammers think. In reality, I’d be very surprised if we got more than 200 new residents per day, which would be consistent with the usual statistics — only 1% of the registered users ever log in and stay around. The rest are just forum spammers. (You’d have to run your own forum to understand how serious forum spammers attack your site.)

    Secondly, between 2003-2007, we lived in the Era of the Amateur. Since no professionals bothered to join SL — they had work to do! — it was the huge mass of amateurs who acquired new skills and provided consumers with products of mediocre quality, but, since it was all that was available, that’s what made the economy flourish. Also, there was a strong incentive to learn — if you did things minimally well, you could probably make a lot of money, since content was so scarce that even low-quality products sold well. And, of course, the exponential growth of the number of residents also meant that newbies could settle for low-quality products before they figured out how and where to buy better ones.

    Then things changed. Professional content creators entered the scene, as SL provided them a marketplace for their high-end content, and the quality of the content increased dramatically. A consequence of this is that the amateurs started to struggle to output content of their own, at lower prices, in order to still get some sales done. While the resident growth was exponential, this meant that demand was bigger than supply, and amateurs still had a fair chance to make a living. Once the growth became linear, and later stagnated, the whole economy changed.

    Now we entered the Era of the Professional. The market grows only marginally, or not at all, and an increased number of talented professionals compete ferociously to make sales. As a consequence, we now get incredibly cheap, high-quality content. In 2005, an outfit was done with two Photoshop textures and could be sold for L$5000, just because the designer was able to make the seams invisible (which was something not immediately obvious for an amateur). Today, we get meshed dresses for L$150 for a quality that would be unthinkable — and lower quality meshed clothing is available as freebies. This means that basically the amateurs were driven out, being unable to compete.

    Amateurs are replaceable. Anyone spending a few weeks in SL can become an amateur. So, LL’s strategy in 2003-2007, which was to impose unpopular rules, knowing that perhaps 10% would leave, but more than that would join SL in a few days or weeks, and soon replace the ones that left — doesn’t apply any longer. A professional 3D modeller, who has invested a decade of their lives refining their skills and develop the ability to apply their talents to producing high-quality content cannot be easily replaced by a John Doe who can’t even spell “three-dimensional” properly and thinks that “PhotoShop” is a shop that sells photos.

    But apparently LL pretends that this is indeed the case, which is an insult to all of those content creators out there.

    So far, they have been lucky. Because the high-end content creation business is incredibly competitive, if a few leave, the remaining ones will aggressively fill the niche. In fact, we have seen this with the move to meshes, and, specially, to rigged clothing. Good fashion designers who managed to acquire skills to create sculpties were not good enough — or fast enough to adapt! — with rigged meshed clothing, and, as a result, they quickly became “second-rate” designers, while the sharks at the top quickly filled the niche. This is true and works for a while.

    Let’s say that there are a hundred top content creators in SL, who account for 95% of all content sold in SL. What if all of them leave because the terms of service are unacceptable for them? Well, at a first glance, we might expect that a thousand “second-rate” designers will replace them. This means a sudden drop in the quality of the content available, but at least we, the consumers, will still have some choice left. It won’t be as good as before, but we’ll survive.

    However, what LL is doing with the ToS will affect all content creators, not only the top 100, nor the top 1000, or the top 100.000. All of them will be affected.

    So LL is doing a gamble here. They’re betting that among all those content creators, greed might be more important than principles. The most greedy ones will not care about the ToS, at least not on the short term. They will actually enjoy having less competition and expand their own business, replacing the missing top content creators, and rising on the pyramid for a while. But then LL’s true colours will be shown, and even the most greedy will be forced to leave.

    Then LL has a serious problem. These people are irreplaceable, even if SL were expanding its resident base exponentially. Since actually the reverse is true, what will happen is that, after a while, consumers will suddenly find out that there is no more quality content to be bought in SL. They will still have access to crappy content, to their friends, to their favourite events — but that’s all. They will stick to their old, high-quality content for a while, sigh about the good old times where they could buy a new pair of excellent boots, but will still enjoy SL.

    Meanwhile, the top content creators, by leaving SL, will also stop paying tier for their shops and remove their content from the Marketplace. The landmass will shrink even more and LL’s revenues will drop. This also has a psychological effect, but the real one is that, without readily-available new content, and all top shops closed down, the economy will very quickly grind to a halt.

    I’d say that LL is either taking a huge risk, which, if I were a shareholder, wouldn’t allow them to do. They’re gambling that sheer greed will keep enough content creators around to keep the economy going. But this can definitely backfire, because the perception of how evil LL is, is something completely irrational and tied to public opinion. Content creators might not be willing to listen to reasonable arguments explaining why the current ToS changes were necessary. They will pack and go — and while this is never the dreaded scenario of “mass exodus” from SL, the point is that we don’t need a mass exodus for SL to fail: we only need all the content to go away.

    And that may very well happen soon.

    So it’s time for LL to wake up: they’re not in 2007 any longer. And gambling with greed is something that can truly backfire.

    Meanwhile, on an OpenSim grid near you, people are working out the last kinks of the hypergrid cross-grid permission system. It’s almost perfect. Who knows how many disgruntled SL content creators might be giving OpenSim a try? After all, the only tough work they need to do is to re-upload their meshed content (for free!) and some textures for their vendors…


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