Last July, an unassuming British girl named Katharine Berry created AjaxLife, Second Life's first Web-based viewer, beating several real world companies (as here and here) to that goal by many months. Her offhand innovation was widely blogged (as here, on Boing Boing), and it's not an exaggeration to say that what Katharine created substantially changed the entire Internet industry's perspective of Second Life as an online world, and a business. (My reasons for saying so here.) For all the Lindens' efforts back then, it was not chiefly them, but this 15 year old member of Teen Second Life, who kept the world relevant. (At a time when so many were apt to dismiss it, no less.) It's not surprising, then, that the Lindens recently flew her to San Francisco to attend a user feedback session, and also presented her with an Innovation Award honorable mention.
What is surprising, perhaps, is what Katharine Berry just announced on her blog: she's leaving Teen Second Life. Work on AjaxLife will continue, but she'll no longer be part of the world her software provides access to. "Linden Lab continues to neglect the Teen Grid," she wrote there, listing her reasons, "[and] I actually can’t afford the extra 17.5% due to VAT." (With no advance warning via anonymous e-mail, the Lindens recently imposed the EU's Value Added Tax on European Residents, sending economic and cultural shockwaves through the entire Second Life community.)
Her announcement was so surprising, the loss of her presence so staggering, I contacted Katharine to explain further. She replied in detail with a set of reasons that might also explain another mystery: the unbelievably low population of Teen Second Life, while other teen-centric online worlds are so huge.
"Since the list of problems probably makes little sense outside the Teen grid," Katharine Berry began, "I shall expand slightly on my points. With screenshots, because I like those." Katharine's illustrated essay (lightly edited by me) followed: