Friday, March 18, 2011

The Rift Between The Second Life Community and Linden Lab II: The Openspace Fiasco

This post continues The Roots of the Rift Between the Second Life Community and Linden Lab

While the trademark policy was angering many Second Life residents in March 2008, another policy change was making many others very happy. Linden Lab began offering OpenSpace regions to estate owners at $75 per month, which was about a quarter of the price of standard private islands. The light-use sims supported 3,750 prims instead of the standard 15,000, with about one quarter of the processing capability.

The program was phenomenally successful. Perhaps too successful. By October, it was estimated that 50%-60% of all regions were Openspace sims. Instead of increasing revenue by allowing estate owners to add a few light-weight sims for oceans and forests, savvy owners were using them in creative ways to replace standard regions. It's likely that financial projections of this unintended consequence portrayed a drastic, possibly life-threatening decline in revenue for Linden Lab. So in October 2008, Linden Lab announced a 66% increase in Openspace pricing.

The trademark policy had only minor financial impact on a handful of Second Life residents. The Openspace price increase would cost the community hundreds of thousands of dollars per year.  Not surprisingly, the community was outraged.

Instead of admitting that they made a mistake and couldn't afford to lose so much revenue, Linden Lab blamed the community:
Openspaces are being used about twice as much as we expected, in other words being loaded with double the content/avatar load than we’d expect for a region that is supposed to be light use. Because they were never intended for that level of load this is causing problems. For some people this has meant a less than great experience with performance fluctuations. The overuse of Openspaces has also put additional strain on some of our network and database infrastructure at a much higher ratio than is reflected in the current pricing.‘
While the trademark policy strained the relationship between Linden Lab and Second Life residents, the Openspace fiasco blew it to smithereens. Although resident furor eventually led to Linden Lab offering an extremely limited version (750 prims, 10 avatar limit) of the $75 per month Openspace region, most owners ended up either abandoning their Openspace regions, paying the higher rate for the newly named Homestead sims, or converting them into standard private islands.

So if Hamlet's contention is correct and Second Life's survival is threatened by the community's hate and fear of change, this is another clear reason we have good reason to be cautious. What positive changes have occurred in the last three years to offset even this one calamitous change? And I've only covered 2008. The story will continue in an upcoming post. Stay tuned.


Bettina Tizzy said...

Linden Lab's on-the-fly OpenSpace pricing revision was the beginning of the end for me.

What were they thinking??

Tinsel Silvera said...

Granted Linden Lab could have handled the whole situation much better. Granted there were many residents who were honestly hurt by the whole fiasco. But the bottom line is that some people were taking advantage (and still are) of Linden Lab and they were pissed when they got caught. Virtually every time I am out exploring, I run into an Open Space &/or Homestead sim that is being mis-used.

Darrius Gothly said...

I was just beginning to "Awaken" when the change was announced. I'd started working as a for-hire scripter for several businesses that had rented these light-weight Sims to host their club or store. Needless to say, the collateral damage it did to their business plan took me with it .. or nearly so.

It wasn't just the front-line folks that were disillusioned. Their massive misstep echoed up and down the "food chain" and touched almost everyone that wasn't just a lookie-lou.

Again, this is another of their decisions that was implemented seemingly from a late Friday afternoon bull-session with no real attention paid to the deeper consequences.

We're a diverse community, with 10,000 hands to their 1. They need to remember just how diverse and how inventive we are, and spend the time to think each change all the way to its end before they roll yet another bomb out of the shed.

Miso Susanowa said...

Thank you for this series of clear and concise posts. I look forward to the next ones.

Botgirl Questi said...

Bettina: It's really puzzling. They keep making big decisions and then bailing out. The enterprise product and Avatars United are two other examples that come to mind.

Tinsel: People utilize technology all the time in ways the creators don't expect. It's the software company's job to build in systems to enforce limits. For instance, if you have a 2GB Dropbox account, when you try to upload more, you get an alert that you are at your limit. It doesn't let you upload more. And it gives you the option to upgrade. The problem wasn't that people were circumventing controls, but rather there was no governance in place to monitor compliance or even metrics to measure it on an individual basis.

Darrius: I don't know whether they just make fast decisions without thinking them through, or if they just don't have the expertise to do good analysis and communication.

sororNishi said...

This is almost a bookend series of posts to Lalos. .. whereas he documented the start of the grid as a historical exercise, so you are charting the huge credibility gap that has developed.

I hope you'll continue, too.

Lalo Telling said...

I second soror's comment [without promoting my history series, of course ;) ]

I can think of one -- count 'em, one -- positive change in the last three years: the inclusion of Windlight in the viewer. On the other hand, that did pretty much require a hardware upgrade...

iliveisl said...

this was the beginning of the end for my little estate as well

i was a good little consumer and converted all my openspaces (i had like 12) to full sims before Jack's deadline. then he extended it! i had stretched myself too thin with the conversion plus had lost 36 residents. i never recovered and a year later it all caught up

Pixels Sideways said...

Two more cons (or con jobs): Viewer 2.0 and doubling fees for non-profit and academic/edu sims.

One pro: My virtual boobs have an airy bounce now as if my av has built in flotation devices ;-)