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« The Path to NUX is Littered With Obstacles | Main | Linden Lab Does Top to Bottom Strategic Review »

December 25, 2008

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anna gulaev

My own predictions...

Concurrency will continue to grow in early '09 and then level off. Growth in concurrency will be entirely bot-related, but bot-supported businesses will begin to fold faster than they are formed. Concurrency will fall in the second half of the year. It will never hit 100K. By the end of the year it will be under 70K. Someone will do a study that says 60% of them are bots.

The grid shrinkage will slow a lot in early 09 as those bailing before or shortly after the first price increase leave. Shrinkage will pick up again as the second increase nears. Some will be surprised that the shrinkage continues after that, as it becomes apparent that full estates are shrinking, too.

LL will lower estate tier to $259. Sarah Nerd, having just gotten back into mainland in a big way, will be banned for three days for saying FU to the Lindens.

LL will create one new themed mainland area, and this will be all the new mainland regions that will come online. There will be some new tier structure or some other incentive for residents to consolidate their holdings into larger parcels in fewer regions. LL will make deals with some residents to entice them to move so they can consolidate abandoned land into full sims, which they'll auction off. Some residents will be forced to take these deals.

An additional resident group will be tapped to create "things to do". There will be promise of more, but mostly this will be an attempt to mollify as the real push becomes apparent: an external company will create some grand new "things to do" campaign.

A new premium package will be announced. It will include more free tier. Premiums numbers will continue to drop. LL will later drop the requirement of premium for mainland ownership, and then do away with premium.

Anshe will get into content creation in a big way, and assert more control over XstreetSL. Her estate business will shrink dramatically. She'll come up with some new entertainment outlet as "what to do" becomes the new mantra to save SL.

shop.onrez.com will fold. A new external shopping site will gain traction. XstreetSL will begin to fade.

Three new opensim grids will appear. Four will fold. One will gain traction and become a viable business, but there will be no real resident business. This will be a geek playground. It will be called by its proponents "the new SL" or "the real SL", and it will still suck.

M Linden will leave LL. Philip will take his place "temporarily". He'll start to wear black turtlenecks.

A few new resident-created things-to-do and best-of-SL tools will appear and be actually useful, but not being part of the viewer they won't amount to much in '09. They will begin to clump residents into fewer, larger groups, though, and already-popular stores will thrive.

Clubside Granville

I don't see any tier hike on the Mainland happening, and not just because I would leave Second Life entirely if it were to pass.

The Mainland represents the starting block for all new Second Life residents and we as Premiums shoulder that burden. The insanely few regions the Lindens host themselves do next to nothing to keep new residents occupied. In those first few hours when the new resident didn't come in at the behest of another there is wandering and interaction with the residents closest to their starting point. In order for these places to continue to exist, and serve the non-teleporting, non-searching new resident, the price should go down or at least stay the same. When I argue the cost of maintaining servers and bandwidth I repeatedly point to the reality of computing: prices go down, not up. Given current costs of the hardware and pipes necessary, full region (processor) tier at $75 a month would still produce a profit, and $95 would be acceptable. $195 is an insult, and $295 a crime.

The one other factor that I believe is the most likely reason Mainland tier won't rise is the reality of it: unlike islands, Mainland can't realistically "disappear". When a private island is no longer needed, its disappearance doesn't leave a hole in the grid. A 50% rise in Mainland tier would produce an equal if not greater abandonment of land in Second Life as it has in the OpenSpace debacle. Now with over 3,000 islands lost imagine the Mainland: nearly its entirety owned by Governor Linden and paid for off the top by the Lab as they can't just delete the regions. They can't afford the exodus of the hobbyist and less-discretionary-income user.

On a personal note, I continued to pay the current horrendous tier during my over-a-year absence both because of sincere obligation, belief that someday I might check in again (as I have) and the fact that honestly a couple hundred bucks didn't mean much. I may not have been happy paying twice what I thought was fair in terms of value, but I will not pay three times the cost of what I am getting.

With the hideous new front page pointing again to the more "social" aspects of Second Life's use, a raise in price to provide space for those activities is unwarranted and evil.

Prokofy

What I *have* to say Clubside, each time this argument comes up about "cost of servers comes down, not up" is that Second Life is not about the cost of servers. If anything, you and others should have realized that by now. Constantly focusing narrowly and obsessively on the cost of racks as you know them in real life, which house one-dimensional or two-dimensional data, text and images that are by and large not as bandwidth intensive, is not the cost of a virtual world.

The cost of a virtual world is software-as-service -- and more. I don't know what the received geek wisdom on the costs of SAS "should" be, but along with this raw server cost and the cost of computing, there is the cost of maintaining the billing, administration, content-production, governance, community management, etc. etc. that the Lindens do. That is pricey. That price does not go down, but goes up, as the cost of human labour doing things like this always does.

Geeks were always arguing that computers and the Internet would "save money". You "wouldn't have mailing costs". You could crunch numbers automatically that used to take rooms full of people. Except, now, every single household and every single office has a huge, expensive, non-sustainable budget now to struggle with, called their "IT budget". Whatever the cost of a hand-duplication by copier and bulk mailing in 1980, it was dwarfed overall for me by 2000 given the cost of purchase of PCs, networking, and most of all, *network administrator* who is the most expensive piece of the entire pie (and the one constantly telling you that you'll "save money" -- the way we are hearing now about virtual worlds -- because they don't factor in the cost of *themselves*).

This incredibly myopic view is simply not arguable. It is not how you reflect the cost of a VW. And the Lindens, who have alternately crashed and jacked their prices, have not overcome this myopia, either. One day they perceive Second Life as "the cost of servers which should go down as all technology costs go down"; the next day, they look over their vast mob of 300 workers where only yesterday there were 30, and say, "OMG, the cost of labour on virtual worlds has gone UP UP UP."

$295 isn't a crime; $195 isn't either. $295 is about what it costs to make themed continents, fill them with themed content, and administer them from griefing. Advertising also is a factor. In fact, $295 is a bargain.

The Lindens will likely combine the increase in mainland tier with a reduction in island tier -- perhaps Anna is right. They might make islands $250, and mainland $250, and get some islanders to displace to mainland (they will remove the grandfather on islands, too).

Well, as I sometimes have to say to my customers: prims have to come from somewhere; they do not come out of my ass; they have to be paid for by me, and that means you.

The cost of 300 Lindens has to come from somewhere. Even if you could prune some of them here and there, basically, they are sustaining the 1.5 million log-ons and 9 million try-mes, and that's not trivial.

As for the idea that raising mainland tier leaves holes, well, sure, we've seen holes before, that sit on the auction and don't get bids, but by and large, auctions of recycled land get snapped up. They might stage this as follows:

o no new mainland full sim auctions
o a delay in rolling out any new themed community that will go on the auctions
o announcement that increase in tier will take place in 3 months, which will be the longest lead-in they've ever had, along with some new advantage to premiums, i.e. 1024 of "free" tier instead of 512
o announcement of de-grandfathering as "only fair" because "we can't have" two classes of residents under socialism -- and the mainland will get some new aspect to its features (some little thing)

The Lindens don't care if you or I can't pay for our mainland, just as they didn't care if people could not pay for their OS sims. They have bigger fish to fry getting long-term, bulk purchase contracts from business, government, education, and they will steadily build that.

The management of 3,000 sims out of more than 30,000 is not something the Lindens can justify beyond a certain point.

Your certitude that newbies will always land on the Mainland, and there will "alway be an England" is touching. I used to think that, too. Not anymore. The distinction between island and mainland is now blurred and blurring more with the USS Sea of FIC project, and soon, newbies will land on patches that are in fact islands, where they get flat prices and the land is set a zillion minutes autoreturn to automatically clear them after 7 or 14 or 30 days. Desmond's idea is brilliant, they'll copy that.

Tammy Nowotny

One of my alts has 1024 sq m of free tier rather than 512. Darned if I know why... I don't think she has ever even talked to a Linden, let alone ingratiated herself with one. (I take that back: she did get a L$69 tip once from a guest at the Galaxy, whose profile hinted that he/she was a Linden Lab employee's alt.)

Gwyneth Llewelyn

1. Oh yes. Definitely. That's a prediction everyone will continue to make and to meet :) Even if the ratio of new users might flatten out (as it has for several months), the total number of residents grows; hours-per-user grow; active users grow; and concurrency will grow, too, probably quicker than we imagine, specially if LL is in for a big overhaul of their servers and network bandwith (something which many — myself included — believe is one of the reasons why concurrency grows so much slower than anything else).

2. Very good idea on "robot abuse report for overusage of resources"! In fact, it ties neatly into M & Jack Linden's ideas that resources might be tied to parcels and land. No wait. That's actually *your* idea, from early 2005 ;)

3. Yes, Prok, I've heard that argument of yours from the local Mom & Pop groceries complaining how Government never does anything to prevent the megamalls to completely wipe out the small businesses...

Grow or die will be the next motto for SL. This means that SL, *if you wish to compete grid-wide* (and this is the key point here!), will only allow the big and powerful to manage a *global* presence.

But... don't forget the small, local, neighbourhood shops. The major reason they don't go away iRL is because it's far easier to cross the street to buy something there (specially if it's high-quality items) instead of driving to the next megamall. Also, very few "big merchants" in SL think about the international market: speak English, or go away. As we have learned from our Japanese friends, Japanese SL residents mostly go to their ultra-sophisticated shops (where you sometimes don't even get a clue of what is being offered for sale), and my, their content is *awesome* — and there haven't been any complaints from Japanese merchants, not yet at least.

So removing traffic will "hurt" SL's economy as allowing megamalls iRL to "hurt" RL's economy. What will cease to happen is artificial bloating of tiny shops crammed full with 'bots and selling useless, low-quality, or copybotted content... but they will *still* make sales from their neighbourhoods.

In fact, *if* LL gets rid of traffic, it *might* give rise to the birth of a new concept: "neighbourhoods" (not communities) where residents "shop around". This always existed to a degree, specially on the international communities, but it might just grow. In a sense, this might come close (but never *that* close) as SL during the telehub days...

4. Totally agree.

5. We'll see. LL is big enough that some rotativity of their loyal employees will naturally occur. It's hard to keep *30* employees happy all the time for years and years, and 300 is next to impossible.

6. That would be a quite good idea! Publishers, get on the queue and start making bids ;) Hammie actually writes books better than articles, IMHO, I hope Philip picks him as ghost writer ;) I can even suggest a name-catching title: "My Life — Biography of a Metaverse Architect" ;)

7. I don't see the "why" for that change, since all the other exchanges put together are just a fraction of the volume going through LindeX. The reason? The LindeX is *built-in* in the client. Granted, I could see LL allowing access to the client's in-built link to the LindeX (say, for international markets, where LL still persists in have limited options; did you see how they basically dropped PayPal support on the Teen Grid and thus totally prevented the Teen Grid to get new users outside of the US?). For 2010, it might make sense to integrate the LindeX with other OpenSim grid's currencies using your suggested approach but mmmh I think it's a bit too early for 2009.

8. It's possible. With the resources Anshe has, I'd just focus on the Chinese market, and compete with HiPiHi using OpenSim ;)

9. That's not compatible with 4. If they wish people to get back to the mainland, the mainland has to be *cheaper* than private islands, *and* have the same tools (preferably *more*). So, no, I don't think that will happen at all. Unless, of course, they're dropping the whole concept of private islands (ie. not connected in any way to the mainland) and lose 20,000 of them by the third quarter... ;)

10. LOL on Linux :) Remember, 60% of the world's Internet servers run open source software, and that number grows every month so I'm afraid your theories are not quite in tune with the reality :) but are just wishful thinking (oh yes, Google, Yahoo, and Facebook all use some sort of open-source software to run their servers — frankly, they had no choice). Oh, btw, Typepad also uses open source software to deliver your blog to thousands of readers every day — as reliably as 9 out of 10 of the most reliable web hosting companies in the world. I guess you should switch to Microsoft's Live blogging system instead, since it's the only provider of blogging software that does not use some sort of open source software...

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