Virtually Speaking

Second Life along with the First.

The Next Life

It’s been a while since I’ve blogged here.  Most of my posts have been over on the Grid Grind, where several writers have been keeping the discussion flowing and reporting on the latest Second Life developments.

Lately, the hot topic has been ID Verification. Within the next few weeks, SL residents will have the option of going through third-party firm Integrity  to confirm personal details such as name, address, and gender.  I understand that you will have the option of enabling some of these details on your profile.   Other residents will be able to see that you are “verified”, but you can also reveal your RL gender, location, and age if you so choose.

Linden Lab continues to stress that this move is meant to “build trust” in the community.  In one way, that’s true.  No longer will those who engage in adult activities in SL or who sell adult merchandise, have to worry about the legal age of their partners or customers.  Or so the theory goes.

But is that necessarily so?

I’m still waiting to hear how it’s harder for little Johnny to steal his Dad’s Social Security Number than it is to steal his credit card.  The main thing Integrity will give Linden Lab is some legal protection.  From their website: “merchants using Integrity, are indemnified for violations of laws relating to underage access“.

Naturally, that doesn’t indemnify landowners directly (indirectly? I’m not a lawyer, I’m open to input).  And that’s the real issue once this system goes into place. 

Says the Linden blog:

“If Residents and businesses choose not to do this, we expect that such behavior will be reported by the community itself. As has always been the case, Residents are morally, socially and legally responsible for their actions and content in Second Life.”

Translation: not only are landowners going to be held responsible for flagging their land as “adult” if it contains anything regarded as remotely questionable, but the Lab is issuing a blanket invitation to everyone else on the grid to go around looking for things they consider questionable.  An errant nipple?  Abuse Report.  One of George Carlin’s 7 Words you can’t say on TV?  Abuse Report.  Pink and blue poseballs?  Abuse report, youbetcha.  It almost sounds like a good idea to pre-emptively flag your land as adult even if you don’t have anything “broadly offensive”.  Lord knows if you own a combat sim, you’d better put your shields up.

I remember after the June of 2006 removal of verification requirements on signup, there were official comments about how the AR traffic wasn’t as bad as people made it out to be.  The problem was, that blog entry was based on one short week of data.  In the ensuing months, entire resident groups were banned and returned to be banned again.  Club owners reported such a rise in griefer traffic that the BanLink system came into being so that they could have some control over repeated griefing and share information.

Now, Linden Lab is about to do it again.  However many Lindens are working their enforcement desk,  they need to double the staff.  Of course, they won’t.  Perhaps the only thing that might save us as freedom-loving residents is that the AR load will skyrocket so badly that LL can’t check each and every one.

There is another ramification to this new feature.  One that some residents are applauding, but in my opinion will have a far more negative affect on the grid than they realize.  That is, the sex clubs and free sex areas are about to take a major traffic hit as are the combat and dueling sims (“adult content is that which is overtly, graphically, or explicitly sexual in nature or intensely violent.”).  We may not see every one of them closing the way gambling casinos had to shut down, but there will definitely be a reduction in their numbers.

No, I’m not saying that’s going to be a bad thing necessarily.  It won’t be the doom of SL.  But consider that for every 10 newbies who join to try out the sex clubs, more than one of them eventually get tired of the cybersex and come to realize that there are other things to do.  Some of them build.  Some of them start endeavors of their own — I remember one person who I met through Archan, who joined to see what the sex was about and ended up buying a sim where he offered help and cheap rent for residents under 90 days old.  Another one went on to develop his own line of aircraft for sale.  Another developed a very clever chat tool that has been sold widely.  Just because someone is curious about the sex doesn’t mean they have nothing else to offer.

So what happens when these people stop joining SL?  We’ll likely not see much of a decline in population.  In fact we may not really miss them, because we won’t know what we lost.  But it will be a loss.

How many of you honestly believe that the poseball business — the art of posing and animation that gives us non-sexual cuddles, lounging, and AO animations — would have ever been as lucrative and driven without a market in the sex biz?

The grid has been a marriage of the PG-rated and non-sexual with the deviant, the sexual, and the fetish communities for a long time.  Most members who belong to the latter also have strong ties and business interests in the former.  They are inextricably entangled.

I am one who will not miss the crowds of naked, prim-penis wearing newbies at some clubs.  But at the same time, I have to wonder how many of those could have developed into productive, creative Second Life residents.

We may never know.

September 6, 2007 Posted by | Second Life | Leave a comment