As I write this, several dozen Residents are encamped outside the entrance of the Linden Estate Services office, most waving protest signs, some engulfed in flames. It's part of a larger backlash against last night's announcement that the Lindens will significantly increase the land use fees of "Openspace" regions (or in Resident vernacular, void sim), from USD$75 to USD$125 a month, starting next January. Designated by the Lindens for "light use", Openspace regions, as the name suggests, were intended to emphasize open landscapes and water bodies, with little or no homes or other objects. Instead, land manager Jack Linden claims, these regions "are being used about twice as much as we expected." Hence the price increase.
To give this a real world analogy, imagine that the Lindens were the US government, and they sold off large portions of Federal parkland to citizens at bargain prices, with the understanding that the private landowners would preserve their estate in more or less the condition they bought it. In response, there's an unexpected demand for this land, while many existing owners begin converting much of their pristine land to real estate. So the government suddenly increases the cost of new parcels, while greatly raising the property taxes on previously purchased regions.
If that happened, Washington D.C. would probably be overrun by protesters, too. Especially if it happened now, during the height of global economic uncertainty and recession.
Reaction across the metaverse blogosophere has been thorough and generaly heated. Here's a sample:
"Many of us will be out of business, or have to change openspaces back to normal estates, because the difference in tier is going to be very large... Anyone working for LL should realize that their paycheck is blood money, squeezed from small people who wanted to make money here by creating and selling. It is time for me to go. I will convert this blog into my creative writing blog."
- From Lillie Yifu, major landowner and blogger
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"Linden Lab has destroyed credibility with its latest surprise announcement to 'jack-up' the prices on more than 50% of the grid's monthly fees... Linden Lab has been touting its land 'growth' for the last 5 months since Mark Kingdon joined as CEO. I called it a misleading charade when in fact the growth was a conversion of full to void sims--actually lowering the number of prims on the grid. I called it a bubble. But never ever, did I imagine that Linden was pulling a bait and switch move on the entire land market."
- From RightasRain Rimbaud, major landowner and CEO of NWN partner Rezzable
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"Linden Lab is within its rights to make this price increase, no matter how much it riles people. But wouldn’t a better approach be to use the metrics they must be collecting to track down the violators and boot back all/part of the prims on those lands?"
- Harper Ganesvoort, Around The Grid
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"Today, we are faced with a very different economy and a multitude of entertainment choices. We're also in the midst of an economic downturn that may take us a decade of hard work to fight our way out of. Linden Lab would do well to remember that... The consequences of this action are more than a little dire-- not for Second Life as a whole, but particularly for sims that rely heavily on open spaces for not just an aesthetic, but their day to day activities. Sims like the Second Life Sailing Confederation, or the Wild West sims, or Caledon, or Antiquity, all of which have significant open sims that being used as an essential aesthetic for community activities.. the draw, if you will."
- Hotspur OToole, SL steampunk blogger, Hibernia on the Skids
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"Reacting in a knee-jerk 'SCREW SL!' way isn't the answer right now. Be angry, fine and yes, but as we have seen in the past, our being ticked off at something they've done (gambling ban, SL5B, trademarks, land devaluation) hasn't made a damn difference, now has it? ... The way I figure it, in the end we hate these kind of policies, but we really do like being here despite it all. Oh, my Las Olas home is a rental on an openspace sim. Am I screwed? Yup, probably, maybe."
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"I believe Linden Lab have really dropped the ball on this one, and what was already a fragile Second Life economy will suffer even more now. More designers will drop out of selling their wares in Second Life, land barons will get fed up and leave and we will generally see spending by residents drop as a result of the increase."
- Prad Prathivi, Metaversally Speaking
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"If the 'abuse' of open space sims that Jack Linden refers to is the real problem, then Linden Research should:
1. provide realistic, explicit guidelines for what appropriate use is (number of avatars? script resources?)
2. provide metrics tools for use by landowners (at a minimum) and other residents
3. throttle performance on open space sims (hard limits to number of avatars and script time)"
- Otenth Paderborn, Tenth Life
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"The whole RL world is currently in the throes of a financial downturn (how deep or long, it’s anyone’s guess at this point), and despite indications to the contrary, the SL world is not immune from RL’s effects... Much as I hate to see anyone screwed over by LL, the fact remains, if they go down, all of SL goes down with them, and we’re all screwed. And maybe that poisons the dream of a 'real' Metaverse for years, or decades."
- Erbo Evans, Erbo Avenue Exit
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"Everyone knew that OpenSpace sims were being used for all sorts of things apart from Sailing and Occasional Walks In The Park. The Forums were full of advertisements for them as residential, and in fact, complaints were regularly raised that OpenSpace areas were being passed off as full-fat Sims in sales - because on first glance they appear fine, and even on subsequent glances, and in fact they are fine in a lot of cases where certain types of scripting or high occupancy are not involved. Please - the idea that this is an issue that has suddenly appeared out of nowhere is not credible."
- Ordinal Malaprop, An Engine Fit For My Proceeding
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"Openspace sims being used for homeowners, and stores is a bad thing; it hurts those whom rent regular sims and those on the mainland. The rise in Openspace sims creates less of a push for mainland and regular sim rentals forcing business people to change their business model for cheaper Openspace spaces or forcing people out of the rental market because they are unable to compete."
"I know many of you are exhausted, angry and disheartened. As recent events have demonstrated again, and given that many of you feel that we have come to depend on Linden Lab to act unreasonably, I want to encourage you to begin developing an intelligent exit strategy, but please don't forget to stay in touch with the contacts you have carefully forged over the years. We want to stay in touch with you."
- Bettina Tizzy, NPIRL
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"As a resident since 2005 I feel like it is my duty, and the duty of all
residents who agree with me on this, to vote and protest this!"
- JIRA feature request ticket created by Catherine Night
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Much thanks to NWN cub reporter Patchouli Woollahra for alerting and teleporting me to the heart of the protest!