Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg made a public appearance in Second Life yesterday during that virtual world's 13th year anniversary, and dropped this potentially unlucky bombshell about Project Sansar:
Ebbe was then asked if users of Sansar would have the option to chose their own names for their avatars, or would they be having to use real-life identities. Ebbe answered he was leaning to the latter, "I think what's best for Sansar is real names. ... anonymous identities makes things confusing."
I missed this press appearance, so it's possible that SL blogger Bixyl Shuftan misheard Ebbe on this point; I'm double-checking with Linden Lab now. But if that's accurate -- still a big if -- that's a pretty big potential showstopper:
Second Life has operated on pseudonymous avatar identities since inception, with the expectation that real and virtual identities should be kept separate by default-- so that would be a major deal breaker for SLers potentially interested in using Sansar. For that matter, I can't think of any major MMO or virtual world based around real life usernames, so this would be unprecedented. Even more concerning, virtual world-based stalking and harassment, especially of women, is a major, disturbing, ongoing problem. It's already a huge issue in Second Life where real and avatar names are generally kept separate.
Again, maybe this was a telephone game problem. Checking with the company, stay tuned.
Update, 6/23: Via Roblem, Modem World has audio and transcript from the interview, which confirms the initial report, but full context clarifies that this real name policy is still being decided:
Second Life is on, I would say, the far spectrum of the anonymity side; and on the other side you have what we call real names, real identities, like probably the most successful real system on planet Earth is Facebook.
And there’s a reason why they’ve been extremely successful with that; and there’s probably a reason why 100% anonymous networks like Twitter and Second Life run into some really interesting challenges. And there are pros and cons; and we’re trying to think of ways of potentially mixing these models, but we have not made final decisions yet.
I have a preference, some other team players have slightly different preferences, so we’ll see where it ends up. But I think what would be best for Sansar would be real names, and then the ability to have personas underneath that.
So I could go into a role-playing, or into an experience as an anonymous user in that context. But to the platform, I am not anonymous. And so, without making that too complicated and confusing, is that the right answer? We’ll see. But I think to, it would certainly help with griefing and other things. And it also supports a lot of interesting use-cases where anonymity is actually just really confusing, and actually gets in the way.
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