Hamlet hates land. He's like a lot of geeks who hate land -- starting with Philip, who hated land with a passion.
They hate land as a commodity. They hate the land market. That's because -- and please listen here because I'm right about this -- they're technocommunists, steeped in the California collectivist idea that wants to turn land into merely a frame for content; to denature it; to make it "for free" as "a blank canvas" or to downplay it so that another model of virtuality is adopted -- the Croquet hoops and portals that Mr. Pixeleen (Mark McCahill in real life) favoured but desperately couldn't get to take off and become usable; the numerous identical instances on identical sims that the Electric Sheep loved and tested Copybot for originally; numerous sharded instances that enables thousands of people to be "at a concert together" at once (but really more like just listening to a radio or watching TV); some other model that will "scale".
Land is thought not to scale. But more to the point, when land is property -- *PRIVATE* property -- technocommunists loath it. With a passion. Because it means freedom. It means a base away from the government. It means an economy that people can trade among themselves without being dependent on the government.
That means not being dependent on geeks and the geek religion, ultimately, in our case. It means running your own car -- your own sim -- without the gas station attendant. Hamlet HATES our freedom. He hates that people acquire land; sell it; make businesses with it. Instead, they should be sitting on land endlessly rolled out like toilet paper discussing the works of Cory Doctorow and giving away everything for free.
Hamlet hates land! It unseats his manhood in a profound way -- he has talked about nothing since the early days of the "need" -- nay, the "demand" -- for Linden Lab to drop the land revenue model. Drop it as if it were uncool! Drop it as if it were retarded! Drop it as if it were preventing them from making more money!
Of course, the land model is what makes Linden Lab able to exist. No matter how much revenue they are getting from currency exchange and SL Marketplace commission grabs; no matter how much money they might make from selling SLE licenses or special licensed versions of the viewers for various groups; or even jewelery with the creepy hand-eye logo emblazoned on pewter (as they used to to) -- they can't make it without land. Black gold. Texas tea. You get the idea.
When Hamlet talks about this landless, sterile, Leninist future, he envisions that two things will happen -- 1) everyone will hook up their own server, sort of like having one of those Winnebago roundups you see the old folks do at Yellowstone or Grand Canyon and 2) everyone will be perched on public lands supplied by the company just to hang out in. Theoretically, if everyone can hook up their own servers or grids like those various things Maria Korolova is always hyping like her Hypergrid (so called because she hypes it all the time, see), or Adam's Open Sim, etc. then all those cheaper sims will flush out the land market of SL -- just like it will flush out the content and copybot it everywhere. Of course the edupunks, the communists -- they're all greedily awaiting that moment.
But...here's where Hammie's Leninist collective farm plan really breaks down. And then...and then...what replaces those millions of dollars in tier that we all paid, after we start using it to buy and connect our own servers?
Well, um...I guess it would be a "connection fee". A "hook up". Like what you get for your RV at the big truck stop when you stop to hook up to the pipe to drain your toilet and dishwater -- only in reverse, getting the stream of content from SL.
So...the Lindens are going to charge...what for that? Basically, a charge to access their asset server. An "Asset Fee".
How much will be assessed for this Ass Fee? The same as tier? So you think people who now have cheaper sims because they got them from them Marxists at the edupunks sims, or from Adam, or from HeatherDawnJune who has opened up FlowerFairy Grid or whatever, are now going to turn around and pay *the same* or about the same for hook-up? Well, of course not. If their sims are cheaper; if they are now paying their own hosting costs or hosting with someone else, they aren't going to want a hook-up fee from hell.
So that's where Hamlet's Leninist utopian vision just breaks down completely. There is no incentive to move to a hook-up situation like that. There are the currently unsolveable (due to lingering ideological hangovers from the VWRAP group) problems of interoperability (Zha! Call your office! No, your virtual office!) There are the content IP issues. But most of all there are governance issues -- which of course the Lindens don't like to do much. It's a chore, ajudicating disputes in the Metaverse. There's a reason Rodvik has joined Sharia Sluniverse -- it's easier to outsource judicial matters like Red Zone to the ayatollahs then have to have his own staff parse it -- they also work for free on the "legal" research.
Hamlet is also labouring under this strange notion that the land model can't last because it has some kind of built-in inertia. He has a terrible case of MMORPGania -- his mind only conceives of gaming structures. All content must be burned through. All games must get boring. All games must reach an entropy point where their makers end them or everyone leaves. It's software thinking and gamerz thinking that completely misses the point of a persistent versimillitude -- that people actually *like* having the same house on a sim for 6 years -- I have customers like that! That people actually *like* eternity without change that virtual worlds give them. That they actually don't "burn through content' or "get bored with the game". It's a male/female and gamerz/socializers dichotomy that Hamlet is just unprepared to understand.
In his latest screed, Hamlet puts forth a completely laughable, easily demolished proposition: he says that the people in the way of growth were the oldbies who hated Viewer 2.
There's of course a deep flaw in that premise. Let's suppose there was a group of say, 5,000 hardcore oldbies resistant to change who loathed Viewer 2 because the buttons weren't in the same place as they used to be, because there were no more pies -- whatever. They stood in the way of growth. But let's say the lovely Lindens had actually designed Viewer 2 for growth, were confident newbies would find it easier, and rolled it out -- and newbies had tremendous uptake of it. So that tens of thousands of newbies came pouring in, loved SL, and started shopping in the oldbie stores. Do you really think that if Viewer 2 actually brought in hordes of newbies who loved it that anybody would be left complaining?! There isn't a way to "stand in the way of growth" by "not liking Viewer 2" -- if Viewer 2 in fact grows SL! If newbies in fact log on, love it, and tell their friends. It's like anything. I don't particularly love zillions of horses everywhere -- one or two were always enough but now I have tenants with 50 of them! But if my old rental stalls or pastoral PG fields aren't moving for what last year's fad was -- turtles and chicken eggs -- and now people have horses, I'm going to start calling my stalls "horse stalls" instead and rent them that way. I don't have to look at the horses, I can just look at the rental money coming in. Oldbies hating on viewer 2 are now different -- if they saw zillions coming in the door, they'd drop their snark.
But...that didn't happen. Without any oldbies prompting them, newbies fell away in droves like flies as they always have, obviously at a worse rate than the 9 in 10 that the old viewer prompted (!). So it's absurd to blame the hard core for "getting in the way of growth" -- you can only say, ok, Lindens grow away. Turn on that Viewer 2 and away she goes.
But it didn't happen. And then because of search and events being borked people who bothered to log in even with difficulties began to drop away along with the newbies.
Hamlet taunts Rodvik with the idea that the land model is outdated, uncool, unworkable. *But he has no viable replacement*. And in fact, the land model isn't at all the horror Hamlet imagines; in fact people like land; if the servers can scale be added one to another like plates to the Cat in the Hat's balancing act, then there's not a problem.
When the Lindens stop hating land, they will sell more of it. It's their ambivalence that harms that growth. For the longest time, they actually distributed notecards at the welcome areas telling people "You don't need land to have fun" -- a very deepseated belief by the sort of oldbie sandboxers who hated land and would propagate this message among newbies with enormous zeal. Of course you need land to have fun, and Lindens finally after five years decided to make it possible to actually buy land and have fun right away -- they used to make newbies tortuously hunt for it and fight rapacious land barons to get and keep their special cheap "first land" for newbies -- anything to actually discourage people from gaining their 40 acres and a mule away from the socialist state. Of course, many of us found that hunt fun, but we were used to the Sims where you did that too -- not everybody is, so one has to concede their path to "assisted living".
But Hamlet hates land; hates houses on land; hates all the little boxes of ticky tacky that spell mass culture that he as a technocommie geek finds bourgeous and tasteless and "not a model".
Of course it's a model, however. A million houses is exactly what the Lindens need to build online. If they can keep adding servers, they need to do that, making it easy for people to get them.
What we might see is another cost reduction, but I actually don't think so. They are going to do something to glut the land market again -- now all abandoned land will dump off its prims after 3 days grace for the original owner, then go to sale for $1 inworld for bots or scavengers like Weedy Herbst.
The thing is, $1 isn't enough to fetch a bot these days anymore; some land has to be priced even lower to attract a bot. Of course people are protesting that they should script it so that owners of land on the sim have a crack at it first, but apparently Andrew Linden has already announced that won't happen. (Why these land market issues are being discussed in his wonky scripters' group is beyond me, but they renamed it "Simulator Users" group instead of "Andrew Linden's Office Hour" and that means it inevitably is about land.)
Even if Rodvik, as a geek who may well be a technocommunist himself (I haven't ascertained this -- certainly his removal of the vote from the JIRA looks like a confirmation that he could be), decides that the evil land model must go because bourgeois capitalist pigs who re-resent servers and pay the Lindens too much money for them in the first place "must go" because "the people" must have their sandboxes -- well, he'll pause. Like Lenin, he will install NEP. He will say "I must sell the capitalists the rope on which they will hang themselves..."
And then, like the Communists, he can only spend the next 75 years selling off the motherland's natural resources from the hunter-gatherer economy -- oil, caviar, furs, that sort of thing. The equivalent is land, SL Marketplace content, currency fees. That's what there is. There isn't some *different* customer or some *different* thing you sell here like, um, "aps". Or..."premium content" in the form of an evening with Arianna like at Huffpo.
There were some things the Lindens could have done to make land work better -- like making the auctions transparent so that people's names were on record and the practice of jacking up prices to force up the market and extort people needing land on their sim could be mitigated.
If the Lindens are going to move to a system where all abandoned land reverts to sale for a $1, they are either going to have loads of Governor Linden land for sale sitting there, or a very glutted land market (probably the latter) and they will basically wash out the margins that make a few bot businesses still able to cling to land sales as a business. Scavengers who look for better choices might still make a little, but the auction metaphor, which made the world market "more real," once removed, will help push it to that toilet-paper status that Philip always wanted it to be.
Of course the market of rentals and sales of homesteads and islands and some choice Mainland might still persist -- people tend to sustain markets and engage in capitalism even when the most ruinous communist exercises are inflicted on them, that's always our hope -- the inworld user-to-user market. We'll see.
But even if the Lindens deliberately ruin the Mainland land market, something they've long hoped to do (because they hate land; it scares them; they fear it; it means private property away from their state), there's still their own need to sell island servers and those island landlords' need to get people to rent. So the land model in that sense will not die -- because the Lindens definitely do not have anything to replace it.
Again, there is nothing wrong with the land model -- Hamlet is wrong, and maliciously so, of course. Land is fun, and people like it. They are willing to pay for it, and it is worth it when it comes hooked up to the rest of the world with events and search and other people. Land, to the Google engineer, may merely be a trigger for the real profit center and payout, which is search and payout of ads in search. But the Lindens will take a very, very long time trying to get key word sales or ad sales in the dinkie viewer of search as they have conceived and executed it now. Even if they fix the optics of search's interface, they can't expect to get *tier-like* fees for key words and ads next to search results, i.e. to give big merchants servers for free, never collect rent and then expect them to buy key words.
So again, the second concept of "what would replace land" -- search like Ad Sense fees -- is not viable either.
What I do hope is that the Lindens will get over their visceral technocommie hatred of land, come to love it, and -- if their servers don't fall over -- let it roll.
People value land. They will pay for it. Don't get in the way of people who value something and are willing to pay for it.