Second Mid-Life Crisis

Big changes are coming to the favorite virtual world of marketing trade pubs, according to a recent post on Jack Linden's blog. Second Life, which allows users an extremely high level of freedom compared to competing virtual worlds, is heading towards becoming more regulated.

The money quote of Linden's post: "Whilst many Residents love the ever-changing aspect of the Mainland, for some Residents, living there is just too dynamic and too unpredictable. We intend to provide more choice in the kinds of new Mainland continents that we make available because just as our customer base is very diverse, so are their land needs."

He continued: "To meet those diverse needs, we plan to create different areas with different covenants in place that are actively enforced by Linden Lab; basically, this means Zoning. This may include commercial areas, or residential only, or areas with no advertising. We hope to be talking more about how this will happen toward the end of the quarter."

One of the key areas that Linden Labs will be taking a firmer hand in is the issue of advertising: "It is hard to talk about the Mainland without talking about the issue of advertising inworld; it is, without question, one of the biggest issues we face ... We need to professionalize all aspects of advertising inworld. This includes our relationship with the advertisers, the conditions under which advertising (especially by large networks) is controlled and the guidelines that we wish advertisers to adhere to."

This isn't about the Second Life advertising that you read about in pubs like MediaPost. "Ad farms" have sprouted up in all areas of the virtual world, plots of land that serve no purpose other than to sell advertising space to networks, which have caused virtual property devaluations throughout the Second Life mainland, much like excessive advertising on the Web or in real-world cities.

Making Second Life a friendly place for non-early adopters seems to be the rationale for this move, but Metaverse Journal makes the point that Second Life hasn't been the home for early adopters for some time now, and Massively's Tateru Nino notes that Second Life's support staff doesn't seem to have the resources to handle their current set of rules, let alone implement a sweeping new set aimed at making the place more user-friendly.

Making Second Life a more welcoming environment is definitely a worthwhile goal, given that resident numbers do not seem to be growing. But whether these changes will attract more new residents than they alienate, or whether Linden Labs even has the staff to enforce them, remains to be seen.

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