M Linden here. Many thanks to everyone who responded constructively with their concerns and suggestions about our Openspaces announcement. We’ve listened carefully and your feedback has led to some amendments to our original plan.
Before I jump to the policy amendments, I’d like to provide some insight into our decision and then recap what we’ve heard from you. When the Openspaces product was originally launched, Linden Lab offered Island owners the opportunity to add Openspaces to their land for light use only –- such as ocean or park land. But we didn’t build in and enforce specific, quantifiable performance limits on the Openspaces. Why? For two simple reasons:
1. As you know all too well, many things affect performance of a Sim in complex inter-related ways (i.e., scripts, prims, avatars, media). We were reluctant to limit the overall experience and your creativity by posing specific limits on all these variables – partly because Linden Lab has always been pretty free-form and believes in the innate goodness of Second Life Residents and partly because imposing limits require that we hire staff to enforce them.
2. We wanted to get this product to market quickly. Openspaces was wildly popular. Some Island owners added ocean and park land, as intended but many built empires – glorious builds, beautiful rental properties and other great things. Since land-owners co-habitate on CPUs, if one owner adds an ocean and one builds a carnival, the shared CPU gets overloaded. The ocean-loving Resident who followed the original intent suffers and we are called in to resolve the conflict. Second Life is much too large to do that.
When we sorted through the good and bad in the many conversations, comment cards, emails, and calls, you shared many things but there were three consistent themes we can work with:
1. Those of you who used the Openspaces as originally intended — for ocean or park land — want that product at the original price point and are willing to accept clear restrictions on usage.
2. Some of you have built businesses on the Openspaces product, set your rental rates or built your groups and although you acknowledge you built more than was intended for Openspaces, a large and rapid price change is too much for you to absorb.
3. Some of you created builds that were between an ocean and a carnival and want some kind of “normal region lite” product – a lower price point than a normal region but with the ability to build a certain amount of content.
We’ve launched three land products in the company’s history: Mainland, Islands and now Openspaces. Because we have complexity everywhere else, we’re loath to add a highly complex pricing structure. Nevertheless, it’s clear we have to build a product mix and pricing structure that offers more flexibility.
Here is how we are amending the price change:
1. We are going to retain the Openspaces product at its original price point and its original intended use (forest, water, etc.). We will have technical limitations to help regulate their use, initially avatar and prim limit restrictions, eventually event, classified and script limits. Those of you who chose to use the Openspaces as intended may stay at the US$75 rate, but will need to contact the concierge team to do so.
2. If you want more than an Openspace, we will offer you the choice of moving to a new product called Homesteads that is intended for light use such as low density rentals. For existing Openspace owners we will phase in the price increase for this new product over the next 6 months. Homesteads will also have technical limits for avatars and prims, and eventually script limits as well.
* January 5, 2009 – non-compliant Openspaces will transition to Homesteads and the maintenance fees will go from $75 to $95 per month. We will offer an educational discount to qualified educators on the new Homestead product. The discount amount will be the same as Private Regions, roughly 30%.
* July 2009 — the maintenance fees for Homesteads will go from $95 to $125 per month
For detailed information on these changes, please go to the Knowledge Base.
We believe this is fair. Jack and I will join you in the forums throughout the day today to discuss this. Comments are closed on the blog, not because we want to limit dialog or free expression but because this is a conversation with Residents and the forums require log-in. This is a policy we are going to follow moving forward with all major announcements. Blog the announcement, express and discuss in the Forums.
One thing I learned and others were reminded about in this process is that we have a very connected, passionate Resident base and we need to bring you into the dialog earlier, before putting forward these decisions. The input we received after Jack’s announcement was prolific and by-and-large very, very constructive. Second Life is at a size where 1:1 conversations are difficult and the forums are inadequate for full dialog. Office hours come up short, too. We have some thoughts on how to bring Residents into the dialog earlier which we will cover in a future blog post and Forum discussion.
I’d like to close on this thought: An area of concern for Residents over the past year has been platform stability. Through the hard work of many, many people, including Residents, we have made great strides that are very well documented. Crash rates are down. Substantially. Period. And until this price change, we were riding high in user satisfaction so we know you have recognized and appreciated the improvements we’ve been making. Our breakthroughs in stability improvement are particularly noteworthy because our land mass increased enormously this year. And, a good part of that increase was from Openspaces. However, the original plan was to expand land mass but expand load at a much lower rate. But, Openspaces — in many cases — have been overloaded with content, scripts and avatars so our very substantial stability gains have come even with the unplanned load increase. We are deeply committed to making this the best virtual world platform in the world and we are making great strides. We’ve also demonstrated we can deliver on our promise of continual stability improvements – even in the face of unanticipated growth.
I look forward to hearing from you in the Forum. Thank you for your candor, patience, restraint and willingness to work with Linden Lab and the Second Life community at large. Second Life is the wonder that it is because Linden Lab has always worked together – albeit sometimes imperfectly – with Residents to build this magnificent, bigger than life world we all love so much.