Why Katharine Quit: Teen Second Life's prodigy explains exit from Teen Second Life
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:
When I say "impossible," I should say "Impossible for anyone outside the United States or Canada who happens to have an appropriate phone."
As shown by the above screenshot, the only usable verification method is "Mobile Phone." If you don't live in the US, there are no mobile providers. As such, signup is impossible for the vast majority of people. This has been the case for months, and should really be fixed.
Upgrading to Premium impossible
I (and judging by reports, nobody else) can't upgrade to Premium, and have been unable to for several weeks. If you use their website to do so, you get a blank page. If you try to force it in-world by buying land, you get this screen:
I'd imagine the TG is even less profitable if they disable most new accounts, and disable upgrading to premium for existing accounts or successfully created accounts.
No website update in two years
Take a look at teen.secondlife.com. Then take a look at a copy from February 2006. It's actually unchanged since 2005 (I think), but the Internet Archive refuses to show things properly before that date. In that time, as I'm sure you're aware, the main SL website has been updated repeatedly.
This point is fairly nicely illustrated by SLurl. Visit this one. Notice you don't get any pictures. That's a longstanding issue that many of us would like fixed.
Forum PMs/Profiles - never been enabled, despite them being handed a patch to enable it a while back (meaning 2005.)
BBCode - I know this affects the MG too, but we'd really like it turned on. Please?
"Summer Party" - all concierge members on the TG were sent invitations, but (of course) couldn't go. Some more care in their mailings, or actually holding a party on the TG, would be nice.
I'm sure there are others, but I can't think of them now.
What it would take to bring me back
So, what I want is for Linden Lab to fix any two of the following: MapAPI, website, signup, forum profiles or erroneous event invites. Or just merge the grids.
Or simply pay more attention to us-- in some obvious way.