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Second Life

History

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In 1999, Philip Rosedale (known as Philip Linden inworld) formed Linden Lab. His initial focus was on the development of hardware that would enable computer users to be fully immersed in a virtual world experience. In its earliest form, the company struggled to produce a commercial version of the hardware, known as “The Rig”, which was realized in prototype form as a clunky steel contraption with several computer monitors that users could wear on their shoulders. That vision soon morphed into the software application Linden World, in which users could participate in task-based games and socialization in a three-dimensional online environment. That effort would eventually transform into the better known, user-centered Second Life. Although he was familiar with the metaverse of Neal Stephenson’s novel Snow Crash, Rosedale has said that his vision of virtual worlds predates that book, and that he conducted some early virtual world experiments during his college years at the University of California San Diego, where he studied physics.

On December 11, 2007, Cory Ondrejka, who helped program Second Life, was forced to resign as chief technology officer .

In January 2008, residents (including bots used to simulate traffic for better search rankings) spent a total of 28,274,505 hours “inworld”, and, on average, 38,000 residents were logged in at any particular moment. The maximum concurrency (number of avatars inworld) recorded is 88,200 in the 1st qtr. 2009

On March 14, 2008, Rosedale announced plans to step down from his position as Linden Lab CEO and to become chairman of Linden Lab’s board of directors. Rosedale announced Mark Kingdon as the new CEO effective May 15, 2008.

In 2008, Second Life was honored at the 59th Annual Technology & Engineering Emmy Awards for advancing the development of online sites with user-generated content. Rosedale accepted the award.

In January 2010, 18 million accounts were registered, although there are no reliable figures for actual long term consistent usage.

Classification

During a 2001 meeting with investors, Rosedale noticed that the participants were particularly responsive to the collaborative, creative potential of Second Life. As a result the initial objective-driven, gaming focus of Second Life was shifted to a more user-created, community-driven experience.

Second Life’s status as a virtual world, a computer game, or a talker, is frequently debated. Unlike a traditional computer game, Second Life does not have a designated objective, nor traditional game play mechanics or rules. As it does not have any stipulated goals it is irrelevant to talk about winning or losing in relation to Second Life. Likewise, unlike a traditional talker, Second Life contains an extensive world that can be explored and interacted with, and it can be used purely as a creative tool set if the user so chooses.

It also used to be for any age, but now requires users to be at least 18 years of age.

Residents and avatars

Main article: Resident (Second Life)

There is no charge to create a Second Life account or for making use of the world for any period of time. Linden Lab reserves the right to charge for the creation of large numbers of multiple accounts for a single person but at present does not do so. A Premium membership (US$9.95/mo., US$22.50 quarterly, or US$72/yr.) extends access to an increased level of technical support, and also pays an automatic stipend of L$300/week into the member’s avatar account (down from an original stipend of L$500, which is still paid to older accounts). This stipend, paid into the member’s avatar account, means that the actual cost for the benefit of extended tech support for an annual payment of US$72 is only US$14. However, the vast majority of casual users of SL do not upgrade beyond the free “basic” account.

Avatars may take any form users choose (human, animal, vegetable, mineral, or a combination thereof) or residents may choose to resemble themselves as they are in real life, or they may choose even more abstract forms, given that almost every aspect of an avatar is fully customizable. See Second Life Culture for more details. A single resident account may have only one avatar at a time, although the appearance of this avatar can change between as many different forms as the Resident wishes. Avatar forms, like almost everything else in SL, can be either created by the user, or bought pre-made. A single person may also have multiple accounts, and thus appear to be multiple Residents (a person’s multiple accounts are referred to as alts).

Avatars can communicate via local chat or global instant messaging (known as IM). Chatting is used for localized public conversations between two or more avatars, and is visible to any avatar within a given distance. IMs are used for private conversations, either between two avatars, or among the members of a group, or even between objects and avatars. Unlike chatting, IM communication does not depend on the participants being within a certain distance of each other. As of version 1.18.1.2, voice chat, both local and IM, is also available on both the main grid and teen grid. Instant messages may optionally be sent to a Resident’s email when the Resident is logged off, although message length is limited to 4096 bytes. If a message is sent to an offline Resident it will also be saved to be viewed when they log on.

Economy

Main article: Economy of Second Life

Second Life has an internal currency, the Linden dollar (L$). L$ can be used to buy, sell, rent or trade land or goods and services with other users. Virtual goods include buildings, vehicles, devices of all kinds, animations, clothing, skin, hair, jewelry, flora and fauna, and works of art. Services include “camping”, wage labor, business management, entertainment and custom content creation (which can be broken up into the following 6 categories: building, texturing, scripting, animating, art direction, and the position of producer/project funder). L$ can be purchased using US Dollars and other currencies on the LindeX exchange provided by Linden Lab, independent brokers or other resident users. Money obtained from currency sales is most commonly used to pay Second Life’s own subscription and tier fees; only a relatively small number of users earn large amounts of money from the world. According to figures published by Linden Lab, about 64,000 users made a profit in Second Life in February 2009, of whom 38524 made less than US$10, while 233 made more than US$5000. Profits are derived from selling virtual goods, renting land, and a broad range of services. In March 2009, it has become known that there exist a few Second Life entrepreneurs, whose profits exceed 1 million US$ per year.

Some companies generate US dollar earnings from services provided in Second Life.

Accessibility

Second Life has been criticized for its lack of accessibility as users unable to use a mouse or unable to see are excluded from accessing Second Life using the Second Life viewer. However, since the Second Life viewer was made open source a number of solutions towards making Second Life accessible have been developed (listed chronological order):

A modification of the Second Life viewer has been developed that allows users who are visually impaired to navigate their avatar using force feedback. Different object types are distinguished through different vibration frequencies.

TextSL is a text client developed by the University of Nevada that allows Screenreader users to access Second Life. TextSL allows users who are visually impaired to navigate, communicate with avatars and interact with objects using a command based interface inspired by the Zork adventure game.

IBM’s Human Ability and Accessibility Center developed a Web based interface for Second Life that can be accessed with a screen reader. This client provides basic navigation, communication, and perception functions using hotkeys.

The guide dog project developed by Virtual Helping Hands offers a virtual guide dog object that can be “worn” by a user’s avatar. The guidedog provides a number of functions such as navigation and querying the environment through a chat-like interface. Feedback is provided using synthetic speech.

A recent study shows that one of the biggest barriers towards making Second Life accessible to users who are visually impaired is its apparent lack of meta data, such as names and descriptions, for virtual world objects. This is a similar problem for the accessibility of the web where images may lack alternative tags. The study found that 32% of the objects in Second Life are called ‘object’ and it is estimated that up to 40% of the objects in Second Life lack an accurate name.

Localization

In 2007, Brazil became the first country to have its own independently-run portal to Second Life, operated by an intermediarylthough the actual Second Life grid accessed through the Brazilian portal is the same as that used by the rest of the worldwide customer base. The portal, called “Mainland Brazil”, is run by Kaizen Games, making Kaizen the first partner in Linden’s “Global Provider Program”. In October 2007, Linden Lab signed a second “Global Provider Program” with T-Entertainment Co., LTD., Seoul, South Korea and T-Entertainment’s portal called “SERA Korea” serves as a gateway to Second Life Grid. Previously, starting in late 2005, Linden Lab had opened and run their own welcome area portals and regions for German, Korean and Japanese language speakers.

Public chat within the world supports many different written languages and character sets, providing the ability for people to chat in their native language. Several resident-created translation devices provide machine translation of public chat (using various online translation services), allowing for communication between residents who speak different languages.

Land ownership

Main article: Real estate (Second Life)

Premium membership allows the Resident to own land, with the first 512m (of Main Land owned by a holder of a Premium account) free of the usual monthly Land Use Fee (referred to by residents as Tier, because it is charged in tiers). There is no upper limit on tier; at the highest level, the user pays US$295 for their first 65536m. Any land must first be purchased from either Linden Lab or a private seller.

There are four types of land regions; Mainland, Private Region, Homestead and Openspace. A region comprises an area of 65536m (16.1943 acres) in area, being 256 meters on each side. Mainland regions form one continuous land mass, while Private regions are islands. Openspace regions may be either Mainland or Private, but have lower prim limits and traffic use levels than Mainland regions. The owners of a Private region enjoy access to some additional controls that are not available to mainland owners, for example they have a greater ability to alter the shape of the land. Residents must own a region (either Mainland or Private) to qualify for purchasing an Openspace region.

Linden Lab usually sells only complete 65536m (16.1943 acres) regions at auction (although smaller parcels are auctioned on occasion, typically land parcels abandoned by users who have left). Once a Resident buys land they may resell it freely and use it for any purpose that it is not prohibited by the Second Life Terms of Service.

Residents may also choose to purchase, or rent, land from another Resident (a Resident landlord) rather than from Linden Lab. On a Private region, the built in land selling controls allow the landlord to sell land in the region to another Resident while still retaining some control. Residents purchasing, or renting, land from any other party than Linden Lab are not required to hold a Premium membership nor to necessarily pay a Tier fee, although typically the landlord will require some form of upfront and/or monthly fee to compensate them for their liability to pay the Land Use Fee charged by Linden Lab. However Linden Lab acknowledges only the landlord as the owner of the land, and will not intervene in disputes between Residents. This means, for example, that a landlord can withdraw a Resident’s land from availability, without refunding their money, and Linden Lab will not arbitrate in the dispute.

Fee schedule

Second Life General Fees

Fee

Benefit

Free

Sign Up, Avatar Creation, Login ID, Access, Participation

US$1

250 Linden Dollars (variable) – brokered purchase; may go to LL or a resident seller

US$0.30

per transaction fee for buying Linden Dollars on Lindex currency exchange

3.5% of transaction value

per transaction fee for selling Linden Dollars on Lindex currency exchange

US$9.95/month

Premium membership (access to higher mainland ranges as below, 300 Linden Dollars per week, access to live and ticket support)

US$125/month

Land as below, plus Concierge service (live support access)

US$150

Island relocation

US$50

Island rename

US$100

Island interuser transfer (includes relocation and renaming)

US$500 plus 20 premium memberships

Unique avatar surname for an organization

Second Life Land Use Fees

Monthly Land Fee

Additional Land

Parcel Size (m2)

Square Equal Line Length (m)

Max Prims

US$5

1/128 Mainland Region

512

22×22

117

US$8

1/64 Mainland Region

1024

32×32

234

US$15

1/32 Mainland Region

2048

44×44

468

US$25

1/16 Mainland Region

4096

64×64

937

US$40

1/8 Mainland Region

8192

90×90

1875

US$75

1/4 Mainland Region

16,384

128×128

3750

US$75

OpenSpace

65,536

256×256

750

US$125

1/2 Mainland Region

32,768

181×181

7500

US$125

Homestead

65,536

256×256

3750

US$195

1 Mainland Region

65,536

256×256

15,000

+US$95

+1/2 Mainland Region (when already at US$195 level)

32,768

181×181

7500

US$195

Private Island on pre-2007 server technology (second hand purchase only)

65,536

256×256

15,000

US$295

Private Island on current server technology

65,536

256×256

15,000

For Mainland fees, the fee determines only the area of land available; the number of prims available is determined by the land itself. The values shown above are the norm but some rare mainland regions offer more prims in the same land area. For non-mainland fees, the fee sets both the land area and the prim count. (1 us $ is equal to approximately 1.6 Linden, otherwise known as sl dollars

Separate grids

In Second Life, there are two age-differentiated grids (one is for teens 13-17, one is for adults 18 or over). When a teen turns 18, he/she is transferred from the Teen Grid to the Main Grid. Linden Lab has received controversy for the lack of integration between teens and adults. Some parents protest that they cannot be on the grid together with their teenage children, and companies cannot market to both teens and adults in SL even if their products have universal appeal. Teen grid residents have spoken out in favor of merging the two grids with certain limitations to protect minors from adult content and predators on the main grid. This grid merge is widely supported by teen grid residents, although some also oppose it. It should be noted that the majority of those on the Teen Grid who oppose merger would want a separate “Teen Only” area, much like the recently-created “Adult” mainland in Second Life. Linden Lab employees (known as “Lindens”) have also been in favor of merging the grids, most notably Blue Linden, former teen grid manager.

The teen grid and the adult grid actually are technically parts of one grid called Agni. (Some of the Second Life grids are named after Hindu gods.) However, teen residents cannot access the adult regions, and adult residents cannot access the teen regions.

On 19 January 2009 Linden Lab, Philip Linden related (in an interview with Metanomics) an intent to merge the two grids into one. This immediately attracted uproar on SL’s private forums, largely from residents who feared they would be required to use the unpopular age verification system, and would be permanently under threat of a false sex-related allegation or lawsuit by a teenager or his/her parents.

The grids are made of regions each 256 meters square. Regions without servers appear as deep sea and cannot be entered and cannot be flown over, but regions with servers can be seen across regions without servers.

These regions’ coordinate numbers locating them within the grid can be from 0 to (220-1), giving in theory a total grid size of about 281.475 million kilometers square; but all or most regions with servers are in the extreme northwest corner of this vast theoretical area.

Underage users, who are under 18 in real life, are not allowed onto the main grid, and being an underage user there is an offense that can be abuse reported. However, Linden Lab places burden of proof on alleged underage users, and does not check to verify anything themselves. As a result, false underage user reports are filed by some residents as a form of griefing or for revenge.

Technology

Second Life comprises the viewer (also known as the client) executing on the user’s personal computer, and several thousand servers operated by Linden Lab.

Client

Linden Lab provides official viewers for Microsoft Windows 2000 / XP / Vista / 7, Mac OS X, and most distributions of Linux. A third-party version is available for Solaris and OpenSolaris. The viewer renders 3D graphics using the OpenGL technology. Since the viewer is open source, users may recompile it to create their own custom viewers; modified viewer software is available from third parties. One such example is the Nicholaz Edition. This viewer, produced by Nicholaz Beresford, includes bug fixes developed outside Linden Lab that are not yet included in the Linden Lab code. More recently a client known as Emerald, created by a group of residents who previously made their own clients yet have since banded together to work as one, has become popular among the user base of Second Life due to the large number of features they have added to the original client.

An independent project, libopenmetaverse, offers a function library for interacting with Second Life servers. libopenmetaverse has been used to create non-graphic third party viewers, including SLEEK, a text browser using.NET, and Ajaxlife, a text viewer that runs in a web browser and TextSL a text client inspired by the Zork adventure game that allows users who are visually impaired to access Second Life using a Screenreader.

In February 2008 a partnership between Linden Lab and Vollee was announced. In May, Vollee launched an open Beta trial for a Second Life mobile application that lets Residents travel and communicate in-world by logging in from a handset using an existing account. The service, introduced for free, requires downloading a thin client to a 3G or Wi-Fi enabled handset. As of June 2009, it seems Vollee no longer exists as their web sites are no longer available.

A special beta client is available, which has been updated and used for software testing by volunteers. The beta client connects to a “beta grid” which consists of a limited number of regions mirrored at regular intervals from the real grid. The mirroring process overwrites any changes made on the beta grid, and thus actions taken within it are not stored by the servers; it is for testing purposes only.

Server

Each full region (an area of 256×256 meters) in the Second Life “grid” runs on a single dedicated core of a multi-core server, Homestead regions share 3 regions per core and Openspace Regions share 4 regions per core, running proprietary software on Debian Linux. These servers run scripts in the region, as well as providing communication between avatars and objects present in the region.

Every item in the Second Life universe is referred to as an asset. This includes the shapes of the 3D objects known as primitives, the digital images referred to as textures that decorate primitives, digitized audio clips, avatar shape and appearance, avatar skin textures, LSL scripts, information written on notecards, and so on. Each asset is referenced with a universally unique identifier or UUID.

Assets are stored on Isilon Systems storage clusters, comprising all data that has ever been created by anyone who has been in the SL world. Infrequently used assets are offloaded to S3 bulk storage. As of December 2007[update], the total storage was estimated to consume 100 terabytes of server capacity. The asset servers function independently of the region simulators, though the region simulators request object data from the asset servers when a new object loads into the simulator.[citation needed]

Each server instance runs a physics simulation to manage the collisions and interactions of all objects in that region. Objects can be nonphysical and non moving, or actively physical and movable. Complex shapes may be linked together in groups of up to 255 separate primitives. Additionally, each player’s avatar is treated as a physical object so that it may interact with physical objects in the world. As of 1 April 2008 (2008 -04-01)[update], Second Life simulators use the Havok 4 physics engine for all in-world dynamics. This engine is capable of simulating thousands of physical objects at once.

Linden Lab pursues the use of open standards technologies, and uses free and open source software such as Apache, MySQL, Squid and Linux. The plan is to move everything to open standards by standardizing the Second Life protocol. Cory Ondrejka, former CTO of Second Life, has stated that a while after everything has been standardized, both the client and the server will be released as free and open source software.

OpenSimulator

Main article: OpenSimulator

In January 2007, OpenSimulator was founded as an open source simulator project. The aim of this project is to develop a full open source server software for Second Life clients. OpenSIM is BSD Licensed and it is written in C# and can run under Mono environment. In 2008 there were some alternative Second Life grids which are using OpenSimulator.

Applications

Education

Second Life is used as a platform for education by many institutions, such as colleges, universities, libraries and government entities. There are over one hundred regions used for educational purposes covering subjects such as chemistry and English. Instructors and researchers in Second Life favor it because it is more personal than traditional distance learning. Research has uncovered development, teaching and/or learning activities which use Second Life in over 80 percent of UK universities. At least 300 universities around the world teach courses or conduct research in SL. New educational institutions have also emerged that operate exclusively within Second Life, taking advantage of the platform to deliver content to a world wide audience at low cost.

Info Islands uses library programming sponsored by the Illinois’ Alliance Library System and OPAL currently offered online to librarians and library users within Second Life. Another virtual continent called SciLands is devoted to science and technology education. While initially centered on the International Spaceflight Museum, it now hosts a number of organizations including NASA, NOAA, NIH, JPL, NPR, National Physical Laboratory, UK, and a host of other government agencies, universities, and museums. In December 2008, the United States Air Force launched MyBase, a Second Life island overseen by the Air Education and Training Command.

Second Life’s usefulness as a platform for pre-K12 education is limited due to the age restrictions on the main grid and the difficulties of collaborating among various educational projects on the teen grid. New approaches to fostering collaboration on the teen grid, such as the Virtual World Campus, offer some hope of overcoming some of these obstacles. For now, however, the primary utility of Second Life for pre-K12 education is in the education and professional development of teachers and school librarians. Still, K12 educators use Second Life to meet each other and to create objects and structures that help them develop curriculum, as EnergyTeachers.org does with its Sustainability Energy Science Lab.

Needs to hold meetings of more people than can be supported by a region’s server, have prompted a behavior called “four-cornering”, i.e. meeting where four regions with servers all meet; this is unwelcome, as it tends to put excessive load on the system sending object and texturing information between those four regions’ servers.

Language education

Main article: Virtual World Language Learning

Language learning is the most widespread type of education in virtual worlds, with many universities, mainstream language institutes and private language schools using 3D virtual environments to support language learning.

Arts

Second Life residents express themselves creatively through virtual world adaptations of art exhibits, live music, live theater.

Art exhibits

Second Life has created an environment where artists can display their works to an audience across the world. This has created an entire artistic culture on its own where many residents who buy or build homes can shop for artwork to place there. Gallery openings even allow art patrons to “meet” and socialize with the artist responsible for the artwork and has even led to many real life sales. Numerous art gallery sims abound in second life. Most notable of these is the art gallery sim “Cetus”, which has been in continuous operation since 2006 as a planned, mix-use art community of galleries, offices and loft apartments for residents. Created by avatar Xander Ruttan, it has resulted in many collaborative efforts amongst artists, designers and builders from across the world.

The modeling tools from Second Life allow the artists also to create new forms of art, that in many ways are not possible in real life due to physical constraints or high associated costs. The virtual arts are visible in over 2050 “museums” (according to SL’s own search engine).

In 2008 Haydn Shaughnessy, real life gallerist, along with his wife Roos Demol hired a real life architect, New York based, Benn Dunkley to design a gallery in Second Life. Dunkleys goal was to design an interactive gallery with art in mind in a virtual world. “Ten Cubed” is a radical departure in art exhibition, a futuristically designed gallery showcasing art in a unique setting. On January 31, 2008, “Ten Cubed” was launched. For its inaugural exhibition, Crossing the Void II, owner and curator Shaughnessy selected five artists working in and with modern technologies. These artists included Chris Ashley based in Oakland, California, Jon Coffelt based in New York, New York, Claire Keating based in Cork, Ireland, Scott Kildall based in San Francisco, California and Nathaniel Stern originally based in New York, New York now in Dublin, Ireland. Real life as well as Second Life editions are available from the gallery.

The virtual creations from the metaverse are disclosed in real life by initiatives such as Fabjectory (statuettes) and Secondlife-Art.com (oil paintings).

In 2007, artists Adam Nash, Christopher Dodds and Justin Clemens won a AUD$20,000 Second Life Artists in Residence grant from the Australia Council for the Arts. Their Babelswarm installation was launched in Second Life and The Lismore Regional Gallery in NSW, Australia on April 11, 2008 by Australia Council Chairman James Strong. In 2008, the French Artist Fred Forest had entered the virtual world of Second Life to show his art project for the first time in his country. He inaugurated his “Experimental Center of the Territory of M2″ (“Centre exprimental du terrioire du M2″), where he invited politicians to discuss about sustainable development and digital identity card ( Capucine.net). In another art project, he discussed about art institutions in France in his action called “The Corrida of Art”.

Live music

Live music performances in Second Life takes place in three distinctly different ways;

With in-world voice chat, where the user dons a headset and microphone then enables a Second Life browse to “broadcast” his voice to other users, much like a telephone conference call.

With streaming, where vocal and instrumental music by Second Life residents can be provided with the aid of Internet broadcast software, such as Shoutcast. This is input, via microphones, instruments or other audio sources, into computer audio interfaces and streamed live to audio servers. Similar to webcast radio, the audio stream from the live performance can be received in Second Life for the enjoyment of other Residents on their computer speakers. This started with performances by Astrin Few in May 2004 and began to gain popularity mid 2005. For example the UK band Passenger performed on the Menorca Island in mid-2006. Another UK band, Redzone, toured in Second Life in February 2007.

With inworld samples, where sounds samples are uploaded and an inworld user interface instruments is made to trigger those. Unlike streaming, performing with inworld samples make use of the Second Life environment and creates a three-dimensional sound experience to the audience. The Avatar Orchestra Metaverse featuring among other composer Pauline Oliveros is the most prolific representative with this approach.

Linden Lab added an Event Category “Live Music” in March 2006 to accommodate the increasing number of scheduled events. By the beginning of 2008, scheduled live music performance events in Second Life spanned every musical genre, and included hundreds of live musicians and DJs who perform on a regular basis. A typical day in Second Life will feature dozens of live music performances.

In 2008 the UK act Redzone announced they would release their new live album only via Second Life.

Redzone also began choreographing and synchronising their performances via MIDI in October 2008.

Many amateur performers start their music careers in Second Life by performing at virtual karaoke bars or Open Mic, then progress to performing for “pay”, or Linden dollars, in-world.

Theater

Live theater is presented in Second Life. The SL Shakespeare Company performed an act from Hamlet live in February 2008. In 2009 the company is producing scenes from Twelfth Night.

In 2007 Johannes von Matuschka and Daniel Michelis developed Wunderland, an interactive SL theatre play at Schaubhne am Lehniner Platz in Berlin, Germany.

In 2007, HBO hosted a comedy festival in Second Life, using live streaming audio. In March 2009, SL residents staged a two-day Virtually Funny Comedy Festival to “help build awareness for Comic Relief, Red Nose Day 2009 and of course, comedy in Second Life.”

In December 2008, The Learning Experience, a not-for-profit virtual education campus in Second Life, staged its first live theater events with the production of two short plays, A Matter of Husbands by Ferenc Molnr and Porcelain and Pink by F. Scott Fitzgerald. In 2009, the TLE theater company began producing full-length plays in Second Life, starting with The Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar Wilde in February, and followed by Candida by George Bernard Shaw in April.

Science

Second Life is used for scientific research, collaboration, and data visualization. Examples include SciLands, American Chemical Society’s ACS Island, Genome, Nature Publishing Group’s Elucian Islands Village.

Work solutions

Second Life gives companies the option to create virtual workplaces to allow employees to virtually meet, hold events, practice any kind of corporate communications, conduct training sessions in 3D immersive learning spaces, simulate business processes, and prototype new products.

Religion

Religious organizations have also begun to open virtual meeting places within Second Life. In early 2007, LifeChurch.tv, a Christian church headquartered in Edmond, Oklahoma, and with eleven campuses in the USA, created “Experience Island” and opened its twelfth campus in Second Life. The church reported “We find that this creates a less-threatening environment where people are much more willing to explore and discuss spiritual things”.[citation needed] In July 2007, an Anglican cathedral was established in Second Life; Mark Brown, the head of the group that built the cathedral, noted that there is “an interest in what I call depth, and a moving away from light, fluffy Christianity”.

Egyptian owned news website Islam Online has purchased land in Second Life to allow Muslims and non-Muslims alike to perform the ritual of Hajj in virtual reality form, obtaining experience before actually making the pilgrimage themselves in person.

Second Life also offers several groups that cater to the needs and interests of Humanists, atheists, agnostics, and freethinkers. One of the most active groups is SL Humanism which has been holding weekly discussion meetings inside Second Life every Sunday since 2006.

Embassies

The Maldives was the first country to open an embassy in Second Life. The Maldives’ embassy is located on Second Life’s “Diplomacy Island”, where visitors will be able to talk face-to-face with a computer-generated ambassador about visas, trade and other issues. “Diplomacy Island” also hosts Diplomatic Museum and Diplomatic Academy. The Island is established by DiploFoundation as part of the Virtual Diplomacy Project.

In May 2007 Sweden became the second country to open an embassy in Second Life. Run by the Swedish Institute, the embassy serves to promote Sweden’s image and culture, rather than providing any real or virtual services. The Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Carl Bildt, stated on his blog that he hoped he would get an invitation to the grand opening.

In September 2007, Publicis Group announced the project of creating a Serbia island as a part of a project Serbia Under Construction. The project is officially supported by Ministry of Diaspora of Serbian Government. It was stated that the island will feature Nikola Tesla Museum, Gua trumpet festival and Exit festival. It was also planned on opening a virtual info terminals of Ministry of Diaspora.

On Tuesday December 4, 2007, Estonia became the third country to open an embassy in Second Life. In September 2007, Colombia and Serbia opened embassies. As of 2008, Macedonia and the Philippines have opened embassies in the “Diplomatic Island” of Second Life. In 2008, Albania opened an Embassy in the Nova Bay location. SL Israel was inaugurated in January 2008 in an effort to showcase Israel to a global audience, though without any connection to official Israeli diplomatic channels.

Malta and the African country Djibouti are also planning to open virtual missions in Second Life.

Live sport entertainment

Popular forms of live entertainment have been making their appearance in Second Life. Many sports have appeared, allowing residents to watch or participate in many popular activities. Sporting leagues have sprung up in Second Life for cheerleading, American football, association football, boxing, pro wrestling, and auto racing. The Digital Championship Wrestling Federation (DCWF), founded February 2008, is a professional wrestling promotion in-world, providing live wrestling for residents regularly. It holds two main shows: Showdown on Saturdays at 12 noon SLT and Warzone on Wednesdays at 4pm SLT. It also hosts frequent exhibition matches and holds its monthly Main Events on the first Saturday of each month. The DCWF uses its own in-house wrestling system, provided free of charge to accepted applicants.[citation needed] RAGE Fighting Championships brings mixed martial arts to Second Life, allowing residents to have a virtual career as a professional prize fighter. Free training and equipment is available to get users started. Users can choose fighting disciplines including boxing, muay thai, kung fu, capoeira, kick boxing, and many others. RAGE Fighting Championships offers an extensive amateur circuit and events held several times each week. RAGE has recently added wrestling to its lineup of sports that take place as well in association with the Xtreme Wrestling Action organisation. RAGE Fighting Championships can be seen on Rezzed.TV.[citation needed]

Gaming

Perhaps the most widespread gaming application of Second Life is user-created multiplayer role-playing games. Each of these mini-MMORPGs is referred to as a “roleplay sim” even though some span 25 simulator environments or more, existing over several physical servers. Their storylines, players and factions, and weaponry or spells are very complex, involving hundreds of players and thousands of props. The virtual world component adds a new dimension to MMORPGs. Political strategy, secrecy, and manipulation, for instance, are as important as skill at combat in many of these sims.

Roleplay sims follow a theme such as Post-Apocalyptic, Goreans, Vampires, Steampunk, Pirates, Star Trek, Feudal Japan, Battlefield Combat, Wild West, and Ancient Rome. Most, but not all, are English-speaking sims. Mexico Monteray, for instance, is a Spanish roleplay sim. Favela Cidade de Deus is a popular Brazilian combat sim that recreates the violent slums of Rio de Janeiro.

Roleplay sims use one of several advanced roleplaying combat systems, most of which are based on Dungeons & Dragons game mechanics. These are web-enabled, using an API, to communicate data on each character. Character creation includes character classes, races, attributes, and proficiencies/spells/abilities. A system of hit points, which are reduced by damage incurred, is implemented through one of the many combat HUDs. It allows for PvP Melee Combat and Combat with NPC Monsters. It can be used to build full quests.

First-person shooter combat is also a popular gaming choice in Second Life, with many in-world military groups battling each other, vying for prestige. Combat is performed by most of these organizations through the built-in Linden Labs Damage system (LL damage) and not the above mentioned third-party roleplay HUDs & systems. The Second Life military community hosts many organizations dedicated to combat, research & development, and community. Initially, the community began as a small group of individuals seeking to emulate first-person shooter game mechanics within Second Life. It has since steadily grown to span across many simulators with many participants. There also exists non-English speaking groups like Commando Anti Terrorismo Internacional (sim: CATI Combat Zone), Tercio de Madrid (sim: Great Land), and Mercenary Brothers Commando (sim: MBC). All of these organizations have a simulator (or multiple simulators) dedicated as their home base with objectives to secure by other organizations in order to achieve victory.

Racing vehicles, be it motorcycles, cars, hovercraft, airplanes, or other, more fantastical craft is also a popular activity, with some courses spanning multiple simulators. Sailing using sophisticated simulations of real-world physics is very popular, especially since the creation in January, 2009, of the Blake Sea, over 46 interconnected sims of open water area. While the Blake Sea was created primarily as an area for sailing, it is also popular as an area for simulated flight in a wide range of aircraft. Board games, including chess, Go, and Mahjongg, also have many in-world incarnations.

Skill games such as Dragonz, Gempuz, Gem Sorter, Letterz, Pipz, Quince, Solo Dices, Sudoku, Syzygy and XMemory have come under attack due to a prohibition on gambling in Second Life enacted in July 2007 by Linden Lab. There are still many games that mimic the appearance of traditional “casino” games, but their payouts are ultimately based on skill.

The ability in Second Life for anyone to create objects, textures, and scripts has allowed just about every style of game to be implemented in-world, at least to some extent, by people who are passionate about it.

Criticism and controversy

Main article: Criticism of Second Life

Regulation

In the past, large portions of the Second Life economy comprised businesses that are now regulated or banned. Changes to Second Life’s Terms of Service in this regard have largely had the purpose of bringing activity within Second Life into compliance with various international laws, even though the person running the business may be in full compliance with the law in his own country. Typically, Linden Lab offer no compensation for businesses that are damaged or destroyed by these rule changes, which can render significant expenditure or effort worthless.

On July 26, 2007, Linden Lab announced a ban on in-world gambling, in fear that new regulations on Internet gambling could affect Linden Lab if it was permitted to continue. The ban was immediately met with in-world protests.

In August 2007, a $750,000 in-world bank called Ginko Financial collapsed due to a bank run triggered by Linden Lab’s ban on gambling, which halved the size of the Second Life economy. The aftershocks of this collapse caused severe liquidity problems for other virtual “banks”, which critics had long asserted were scams. On Tuesday, January 8, 2008 Linden Lab announced the upcoming prohibition of payment of fixed interest on cash deposits in unregulated banking activities in-world. All banks without real-world charters closed or converted to virtual joint stock companies on January 22, 2008. After the ban, a few companies continue to offer non-interest bearing deposit accounts to residents, such as the e-commerce site XStreet, which had already adopted a zero-interest policy 3 months before the LL interest ban.

Technical issues

Due to Second Life’s rapid growth rate, it has suffered from difficulties related to system instability. These include increased system latency, and intermittent client crashes. However, some faults are caused by the system’s use of an “asset server” cluster, on which the actual data governing objects is stored separately from the areas of the world and the avatars that use those objects. The communication between the main servers and the asset cluster appears to constitute a bottleneck which frequently causes problems. Typically, when asset server downtime is announced, users are advised not to build, manipulate objects, or engage in business, leaving them with little to do but chat and generally reducing confidence in all businesses on the grid.

A more disturbing fault, believed to be caused by the same issue, is “inventory loss” in which items in a user’s inventory, including those which have been paid for, can disappear without warning or permanently enter a state where they will fail to appear in world when requested (giving an “object missing from database” error). Linden Lab offers no compensation for items that are lost in this way, although a policy change instituted in 2008 allows accounts to file support tickets when inventory loss occurs. Many in-world businesses will attempt to compensate for this or restore items, although they are under no obligation to do so and not all are able to do so. A recent change in how the company handles items which have “lost their parent directory” means that inventory loss is much less of a problem and resolves faster than in recent years. “Loss to recovery times” have gone from months (or never) to hours or a day or two for the majority of users, but inventory loss does still exist.

Second Life functions by streaming all data to the user live over the Internet with minimal local caching of frequently used data. The user is expected to have a minimum of 300 kilobits of Internet bandwidth for basic functionality, with 1000 kilobit providing better performance. Due to the proprietary communications protocols, it is not possible to use a network proxy/caching service to reduce network load when many people are all using the same location, such as when used for group activities in a school or business.

Fraud and intellectual property protection

Although Second Life’s client and server incorporate Digital Rights Management technology, the visual data of an object must ultimately be sent to the client in order for it to be drawn; thus unofficial third-party clients can bypass them. One such program, CopyBot, was developed in 2006 as a debugging tool to enable objects to be backed up, but was immediately hijacked for use in copying objects; additionally, programs that generally attack client-side processing of data, such as GLIntercept, can copy certain pieces of data. Such use is prohibited under the Second Life TOS and could be prosecuted under the DMCA.

Linden Labs may ban a user who is observed using CopyBot or a similar client, but it will not ban a user simply for uploading or even selling copied content; in this case, Linden Lab’s enforcement of intellectual property law is limited to that required by the “safe harbor” provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which requires filing a real-life lawsuit. Although a few high-profile businesses in Second Life have filed such lawsuits, the majority of businesses in Second Life do not make enough money for a lawsuit to be worthwhile, or due to real-life work commitments cannot devote enough time to complete one; thus, they are effectively unprotected.

There have also been issues with the use of false DMCA takedown notices. Once a DMCA takedown notice is served, reversing it requires an individual to expose his personal information to the filer (filing a notice does not require this); for the penalty of perjury to be enacted, a lawsuit is required (anything less, the false DMCA claimer can just claim it from a different account every week causing legitimate business unlimited losses). In addition, the technical process of removal and re-instatement of content on Second Life is subject to failure which can result in content becoming unusable to its owner. This does not effectively prevent content theft; a thief who is subject to a DMCA takedown notice will not challenge it, but will simply create a new account and re-upload the content, often releasing it with all permissions available to maximize propagation out of spite.

Most users in the world as paying, private individuals are, likewise, effectively unprotected. Common forms of fraud taking place in-world include bogus investment and pyramid schemes, fake or hacked vendors, and failure to honor land rental agreements. Some residents have claimed that there is also a high incidence of sales of content to users unaware of its value (for example, weapons which would require the buyer to own a private island, as firing them in any other area would violate the terms of service; or avatars which appear to represent advanced roles but which, in reality, are nothing more than party costumes due to the inability to support those roles in a world with free social behaviour[clarification needed]).

References in popular culture

Main article: Second Life in popular culture

Since its debut in 2003, Second Life has become increasingly referred by various popular culture mediums, including literary, television, film and music. In addition, various significantly-popular personalities in such mediums have themselves used or employed Second Life for both their own works and for private purposes.

Competitors

Second Life has several competitors, including Entropia Universe, IMVU, There, Active Worlds, Kaneva, and the Red Light Center.[citation needed]

Further reading

Kaplan Andreas M., Haenlein M. (2009) Consumer use and business potential of virtual worlds: The case of Second Life, International Journal on Media Management, 11(3).

Kaplan Andreas M., Haenlein M. (2009) The fairyland of Second Life: About virtual social worlds and how to use them, Business Horizons, 52(6).

John Zerzan, Telos 141, Second-Best Life: Real Virtuality. New York: Telos Press Ltd., Winter 2007.

See also

Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Second Life

Virtual reality

Simulated reality

Social simulation

Cyberformance

Emerging Virtual Institutions

Interactive online characters

Active Worlds

PlayStation Home

Linden Scripting Language

CyberTown

References

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