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Tuesday, June 28, 2011


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Adeon Writer

But can you walk around freely in it yet?

Ann Otoole InSL

has IMVU released 2011 financials yet? they were doubling in revenue annually and if on track equal or surpass LL revenue by now. Also IMVU is probably mostly kids who might regret giving up their 4th amendment rights in the future.

Scarp Godenot

Are these places really all that comparable? One a web based series of unconnected chatrooms and the other a fully functioning connected 3D Server based virtual world.

In most things in life. Higher quality means fewer users.

Scarp Godenot

One more thing. Facebook requires real life identity for ONE reason only: the huge rewards they reap from DATA MINING.

Is this something to be all that hopped up about?

Scylla Rhiadra

If IMVU has found that linking real and in-game identities is "not a big problem," that is perhaps because IMVU is, in essence, a virtual dating service. Find SL users who employ this platform in that same way, and you'll find that they too, for the most part, don't find linking SL and RL identities "a big problem": indeed, the linkage, in the hope of drawing a relation into RL, is part of the point.

What this overlooks is that SL is not *just* a virtual dating service: it is very, very much more. And because of that, merging identities IS going to be "a big problem" here.

Galatea Gynoid

"...Second Life, which had around 600,000 monthly active users in 2008... and has grown to just 800,000 now."

Funny, reading most Second Life blogs, you wouldn't get the impression SL has grown 33% since 2008. I suppose it isn't as headline grabbing or alarmist as pointing out how much it hasn't grown relative to Facebook. Of course, why anyone would compare apples to hammers is beyond me... (was tempted to write "apples to oranges" but it occurred to me those have much more in common; Second Life and IMVU is more of an "apples to oranges" comparison -- also bogus but not quite as bad).

Ciaran Laval

World of Warcraft is bigger than IMVU, how did their users react when Blizzard wanted to make the forum real names only?

Senban Babii

Hamlet, when are you going to realise that people DOES NOT WANT?

I don't link my meatlife to SL, I don't link my meatlife to EVE Online.

Just this very day I attended a meeting about virtual learning environments. It was clear from talking to both academics and students that while they were fine having *a* cyberlife associated with their meatlife, they were adamant that they didn't want their entire cyberlife associated with their meatlife, that they wanted clear firebreaks between the various aspects of their cyberlives and that they desired complete and absolute control over those firebreaks rather than trust control to companies, especially when those companies have lousy track records of keeping user data secure.

The simple truth is that people are attempting to sell the idea of linking all these aspects of our lives as a desirable service but in truth they are only interested in further commodifying our private lives for their own benefit and profit.

Hamlet Au

Senban, why do you think becoming a fan of a virtual world Facebook page connects your real name to your avatar name in any way?

"World of Warcraft is bigger than IMVU, how did their users react when Blizzard wanted to make the forum real names only?"

That's because Blizzard wanted to make it mandatory, not an option. On the other hand, there's two official Facebook pages for World of Warcraft with over 1 million fans. Despite Blizzard not making much effort to promote it (as opposed to IMVU.)

Kim Anubis

Had a quick browse through IMVU TOS. Seems to me that folks in a land where there's no Zindra or even cussing probably have fewer reasons to be anonymous.

Ann Otoole InSL

Hamlet, you need to research what happened with Kitely. That episode proved FB was tracking more than what people signed up for and was associating SL avatars with real life people without permission.

Sorry dude. What people have complained about is real. And you already know it.

Hamlet Au

I do look into the complaints, and they consistently turn out be serious misunderstandings or gross distortions of how Facebook operates or how it's intended to operate. I'm still looking.

Ann Otoole InSL

Well.. by agreeing to use facebook at all you agree to loss of all privacy and you also give up your 4th amendment rights as well since the government can acquire the data same as anyone else that buys it. If concerned about privacy then block all the fb spyware domains and don't use their services at all.

It boils down to personal ethics. If you don't care about the ramifications of participating in fb data collection (the like buttons, etc.) and only care about money then hey that is a personal choice. IMVU wanted more revenue so they leveraged facebook and adsense and got it. Facebook doesn't like secondlifers so LL loses. LL systems can't handle the load they have now. On the weekends SL pretty much croaks. So LL is at their peak and cannot grow anyway so why advertise?

Once the fb IPO goes through and they become public then I expect things to change some since they will be subject to regulations and shareholder votes they don't have to worry about now.

Just so you fully understand Hamlet, if you mainly frequent SL related websites with fb buttons then FB knows you are likely in SL and will recommend SL people, including their rl identity accounts, as possible friends. It is that simple. Don't like this reality? block all fb spyware domains in your hosts file and don't use fb. If you are into all the adult stuff in SL then be proud of it (like Stroker is very proud) or drop those accounts, change IP address, and get all shiny and clean and start over. Then it won't matter anymore. If you were dumb and already tainted your rl identity then too bad. Check back in a decade and maybe most of the bad stuff will have faded away. Pretty much how it is.

Now if you really want privacy then you will withdraw cash from an ATM for all purchases and use non trackable gift cards for internet purchases. The credit card business has all along been doing what fb does. They can predict a person has kids or is an alcoholic with ease just from systems like the Catalina Marketing shopping basket data warehouse. Which is why there is a push to deny non trackable gift cards on the internet. Gift cards are to credit data marketers as avatars are to facebook. No value.

The amount of effort and skill required to have an off the grid alias is rather high and probably not worth the effort unless you are a dissident in a country establishing or already established soviet union style controls. Which now includes the USA. Is all the hassle really worth it? A question each person must ask themselves. Our elected reps are owned by the big money corps and there will be no legislation making what fb does illegal.

Ah heck we will all be chipped and DNA registered in the next 10 years anyway when currency and a free internet becomes a thing of the past. Why worry?

Hamlet Au

Ann, none of that explains how becoming a fan of a virtual world Facebook page exposes your avatar name. Because unless you voluntarily list that account name in your profile, it doesn't. When you fan a page, all Facebook knows is you're a fan of IMVU, or Second Life, or World of Warcraft, or whatever.

Ann Otoole InSL

FB knows everywhere you went that had fb like buttons or any of the fb code snippets. fb correlates that to every alias you use on their network. fb knows everyone else that has a similar browsing profile as you. If you have a fb page for your rl and a separate page for your avatar (against fb rules) then fb can correlate. It is so incredibly simple. And the fiasco that kitely caused that resulted in outing rl identities of avatars proved it.

Now the best thing for a non technical person like you hamlet is to accept you are a data collection node for facebook and accept the fb data warehouse can figure out tons of stuff about you. You don't even need to like anything. The data about where you went was collected the moment the fb spyware urls loaded the fb widgets on a blog like this one. They got your ip address and the site where you loaded it. So you see it has nothing to do with liking anything. fb is tracking everyone that visits your blog (and millions more) whether they like an article or not. If they press like that is even better because it adds personality data against your ip address. fb then correlates your ip address to your account(s) on facebook. So fb knows who has secondlife interests and if they want they can ferret out the avatars. Which they indeed do from time to time when someone runs a report to list probable fake accounts.

So people worried about privacy either block the fb spyware domains or never go anywhere there is a fb widget. That is pretty impossible these days.

It is all too easy to do. And it is no different than what credit/debit card shopping basket harvesters do and have been doing for over a decade.

This is why zuck claims privacy is dead. And who better than him and those of us that have worked in the data warehousing business to know? It is the easiest thing in the world to do. The only challenge used to be storage space and processing power and we are way past that challenge now.

Oh, and seriously, you claiming to know how or what fb does or doesn't is amusing given the kitely incident proved it beyond all doubt. Didn't you cover that? Didn't kitely apologize and change how they do things because of the privacy invasion incident caused by kitely's tethering to FB followed by exactly what fb does as I described above?

If you want privacy then block fb and it's tracking systems. Also optionally block google adsense, doubleclick, etc. My goodness this blog loads like lightning when it is deprived of ad pageview tracking.

Ann Otoole InSL

Just to make sure you understand my objective position Hamlet: People can avoid facebook. But if they are running a business then leveraging facebook makes a lot of sense. So people that want reach will simply have to abandon adult/controversial activities on the internet and come out from behind the veil or watch others that do make lots more money. While some at LL may know you once had a naughty avatar nobody else will unless LL leaks data they probably don't store. Or unless you are proud of it and do like Stroker and not care who thinks you are a pervo. Not sure fb would allow stroker or other adult content businesses to operate openly on fb. I don't hang around on fb.

As for IMVU's rules? Well people can use other IM chat systems for stuff IMVU forbids while running those lap dancer animations for their monstrously hideous looking avatars. So sure they have loads of business. And they leveraged facebook to score loads of revenue.

Hitomi Tiponi

If you use Facebook and have an interest in SL then the data passed to Facebook WILL associate you - even if you don't join a SL group in Facebook. Facebook's business model relies on being able to offer targeted advertising to it's advertisers. The operators of Facebook do not really care about any individual links of course, but it all depends on whether you are happy that this information exists on their servers, and their use of it in the future.

Gwyneth Llewelyn

Aw Ann, IMVU's avatars are not "monstrously hideous looking". Not any more! Since dozens of thousands of 3D content creators moved to IMVU in full force, the first thing they did (well... the second ;) ) was to get rid of the ugly avatars and place SL-like avatars for sale. In many cases, they look as good as SL's (granted, not all; and it's hard to get a good non-human avatar in IMVU, it simply has not enough interest for the kind of activity it has), and, since IMVU is really a series of disconnected "chat rooms" (as in: limited spaces enclosed by walls!), it actually has far better performance than SL on underpowered systems (like mine!). Combine that with the appeal of virtual online dating — far more present in IMVU than in SL, if that's at all possible to imagine... :) — and I can understand that the IMVU owners like to connect their users to Facebook even more tightly than Linden Lab wants with Second Life.

Second Life is strangely the only online place where security and privacy are still important for Linden Lab — and thus still attracts a lot of privacy-conscious people. I guess you have to go through the experience of identity theft and/or RL stalking via your Internet presence (it's so easy these days...) to fully appreciate how important privacy is. Thankfully, LL has not dumped this concern from their policies (at least not yet).

The "privacy bomb" is still ticking, still unfused. One day there will be huge drama when we really find out what the main shareholder of Russian-based Digital Sky Technologies (which, in turn, owns a fair share of Facebook), headed by Alisher Usamanov, is doing with all the data collected by Facebook and other popular social networking sites bought through DST...

Senban Babii

Hi Hamlet. I'd reply to your question but Ann O'Toole has already done it for me :)

Interesting point. I have multiple FB pages (gasp shock horror call the interpolices!) They have absolutely no connections between them, no shared friends, no shared groups. So is it just a coincidence that my SL avatar's FB page is frequently suggested as a friend on my main FB page? Now how do you suppose they manage that little trick? Any thoughts Hamlet?

The thing is, I can only go by what my own feelings are and what I experience when I'm dealing with various academics and students. So when I voice an opinion, it's based not on some agenda but simply on what I am seeing and hearing every day in my job. Our academics are leaving FB in droves. We have a number of FB pages associated with our university, some official, some social. We have a hard time getting either students or academics to join them and interact because people do not wish to be exposed to their colleagues and students.

We have an SL presence and even offer classes and virtual meetings in SL and the same happens with those. People I speak with about this are adamant about maintaining firebreaks between their personal lives, work lives and so on. They are increasingly against having any kind of connection.

And they want to create and operate those firebreaks themselves. They don't trust companies like FB to separate out their lives so that this group can see certain aspects of my life but that group is kept out of the loop. They don't trust them! They want to take ownership of those firebreaks out of the hands of FB.

Now consider SL. Ever since LL basically allowed various individuals and groups to start datamining the residents and matching up alts, they took away people's ownership of the firebreaks they had created between various parts of their lives. We no longer had a choice in the matter other than to simply log out and not return. I don't even have any alts but I didn't want any part of a platform that didn't respect its users' choice to separate out the various aspects of their lives. That was a major reason why I left.

Like I say Hamlet, I'm not arguing for the sake of it, I'm not pursuing an agenda sponsored by hidden backers, I'm not trying to reshape the internet in my own image. I'm simply telling you what I'm seeing and hearing every single working day at a university with thousands of staff and students. People are deliberately keeping the various aspects of their lives separate and they want to keep active control over it. Not through tools provided by the companies who they don't trust but by choosing for themselves how to manage their identities.

@Ann O'Toole
"My goodness this blog loads like lightning when it is deprived of ad pageview tracking."


Little Lost Linden

Senban, very good post. :)

It explains the way many people feel about this issue.

Perhaps some day Hamlet will understand. All we can do is wait. :)

Arcadia Codesmith

So IMVU isn't concerned about linking RL & virtual identity... because there's no such linkage taking place.

Well, that's compelling.

Pussycat Catnap

What Ciaran said about WoW.

That's how you fight these companies. WoW players got the RL info of blizzard's employees and families and where their kids went to school, sometimes with photos of the kids - and posted it.

Telling Blizzard, you want to out us, we'll get you first and see if you like it. Blizzard blinked, and let up, fast.

Ciaran Laval

@ Hamlet: "That's because Blizzard wanted to make it mandatory, not an option. On the other hand, there's two official Facebook pages for World of Warcraft with over 1 million fans. Despite Blizzard not making much effort to promote it (as opposed to IMVU.)"

Your headline relates to Facebook/Avatar link not being a problem, then people point out it is. Blizzard execs didn't think people would have a problem either, until they tried to link RL to WoW.

If IMVU tried to do that, I'd wager the response from IMVU execs would be different.

Kimberly Rufer-Bach

Facebook spams me with a list of people who have invited me to the service, along with a creepy list of suggested "friends", despite my efforts to avoid their service entirely. While I can opt out of receiving their spam, I cannot opt out of their snoopy tracking widgets or do anything about the data they have already collected.

We have protections against spam and telemarketers and peeping toms who peer through the windows. Data mining should be regulated, as well, for a variety of reasons, including the potential for some hacking collective to get that data and do whatever they like with it, including selling it to the highest bidder.

While there are ways to block tracking, the burden of avoiding surveillance should not fall to the consumer. We need new legislation to control data mining, something like the opt out lists for telemarketers -- but this time let's do it right, and make it opt in instead of opt out.

rawst berry

"Ann, none of that explains how becoming a fan of a virtual world Facebook page exposes your avatar name."
If you're a fan of it, someone on your friends list might take an interest and ask you what your avatar name is so they can meet you in world. If your SL identity is an escort at a bdsm club you may not like your RL friends and family to find that out. Obviously, all you have to do is just not "like" SL on facebook and that conversation will never take place.

People have the right to keep their online activities private. Why are you pushing so hard to make people accept Facebook, while at the same time touting that it's optional and this is why we shouldn't resist? Well, we're exercising our freedom of choice to not mix facebook with SL. Get over it- it isn't our job to do LL's marketing for them.

SL's lack of popularity is mainly due to the fact that it's actually a pretty crappy game. Sim crossings are completely broken which makes all the things I used to love- horseback riding, racing cars, boating- a huge annoyance unless you want to drive around in a little circle on one sim. Group activities like sporting events are nearly impossible because 15 people on a sim makes it lag. Getting exposure through facebook has given SL a slight popularity boost, but fixing these problems would encourage people to actually stay longer after trying it.


imvu pours lots money into google ads, I can see its ads everyday...everywhere..

But I've never seen SL's ads, not even once.

Alissa Bonds

Sounds like the play captures all facets of human despair. I specially like the skit featuring two people side by side, filming their videos for an online dating site. Loneliness is a form of despair we all feel. Humans are meant to connect!

alt com

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