The Future of the Second Life Mainland

This is a post about the Mainland, and more specifically, about an exciting and necessary change of direction we’re taking. I’m also going to talk about why we think the Mainland is important, what we feel the issues are and some of the ways that we intend to transform it for those of you that live or spend time there. This won’t be a short read, so grab a drink, make yourself comfortable and join me after the cut..

We have come a long way since those first 16 or so regions appeared back in 2003. These days we have inworld parties that are larger than the original mainland. At nearly 5000 regions the Mainland represents around 327 square kilometers of virtual land. If those regions were placed end to end, that is almost 800 miles to drive through and in terms of area the Mainland is now bigger than Malta. The Mainland is important, it has a history, it has roots. Many of you had your first experience of Second Life on the Mainland, you may have bought your first parcel, accidentally attached that first prim to your head, or added that first name to your Friends list there. These are the largest contiguous land masses we have, each of them incredibly creative and dynamic in their own ways and home to some wonderful communities. All of the Mainland Residents deserve as good an experience as we can provide.

It has always been a diverse and exciting place to have your inworld home, but in recent times it has also become a challenging and frustrating one. We have long had a policy of noninterference, instead applying the Terms of Service and Community Standards via abuse reporting. This made sense during the pioneer period of early adopters and rapid growth, but to echo Mitch Kapor’s recent speech at the Second Life birthday event, as our audience widens we have to take a more active part in guiding their experience. Unfortunately with the wonderful freedoms and creativity the Mainland offers have also come substantial problems that are unique to this area of the grid and so the time for change is now.

As Estate Manager for the Mainland continents, Linden Lab needs to become more involved. Much more. We have to actively work to provide the best experience for our customers just as the many wonderful private estate owners do for theirs. You can expect to see Linden Lab proactively resourcing, planning and taking action to better support the many mainlanders on our estate; we have a responsibility to our tenants and we take this role very seriously. We feel that this change is critically important and feedback from you tells us that you agree.

This change has actually been coming for a while. You can see the early signs of this new commitment, with projects such as the Dept of Public Works and the more rapid recycling of abandoned land. Both initiatives will continue to grow.

The problems on the Mainland are many and sometimes complex. We have Mainland land values that are less stable than we would like so we need to be more open, earlier, about how we intend to manage supply and what metrics we care about when making those decisions. We need to help you to understand why we make the decisions that we do. I’ll be blogging much more about that topic soon. We need to address issues regarding highly fragmented regions and areas of problem terrain, especially coastline. And then there is advertising..

It is hard to talk about the Mainland without talking about the issue of advertising inworld; it is, without question, one of the biggest issues we face. Through office hours, emails and notecards we have been gathering feedback from all sides of this issue ever since the initial change of policy earlier this year. That change helped but it didn’t go nearly far enough. Current policy allows adverts which ruin the view and depress land values for nearby Residents which is just not acceptable.

We need to professionalize all aspects of advertising inworld. This includes our relationship with the advertisers, the conditions under which advertising (especially by large networks) is controlled and the guidelines that we wish advertisers to adhere to. In many ways this is no different to how real life cities approach this problem, and our principal drive here will be on improving the quality of experience for our Residents. You can expect a much more thorough explanation of how we intend to handle advertising very soon but rest assured that this will change, because it has to.

Whilst many Residents love the ever changing aspect of the Mainland, for some Residents living there is just too dynamic and too unpredictable. We intend to provide more choice in the kinds of new Mainland continents that we make available because just as our customer base is very diverse, so are their land needs. To meet those diverse needs we plan to create different areas with different covenants in place that are actively enforced by Linden Lab; basically this means Zoning. This may include commercial areas, or residential only, or areas with no advertising. We hope to be talking more about how this will happen towards the end of the quarter.

Governor Linden owns a very substantial amount of land, and there is a lot we can do to make these parcels more attractive for the Residents living alongside. Obviously that will be a fairly long term project due to the high numbers of parcels involved.

I should probably wrap up at this point, before this post becomes a novel. But I’d like to get much more feedback on this post than the blog comments would allow, and also be sure that Residents in all timezones get a chance to give their views. So we have created a specific Forum area which should be available a few minutes after this posting goes out; so please take a look and let us know your thoughts there. To reiterate, comments are disabled for this post because we’d like your feedback on the forums please.

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