Second Lifers Split on Linden Lab's Open Spaces 'Compromise'

Linden Lab oversees one of the most successful social virtual worlds in existence, but it is still struggling with residents about how Second Life should be governed.

Case in point: The debate over the use of "Open Spaces," a virtual world land type that the company designed for residents to use for, common sense would dictate, open spaces like forests and water. As residents took advantage of the lower-priced land tier and over-developed and over-used the land, Linden Lab took exception at the increased CPU drain on their servers, and raised prices.

The residents revolted in typical Second Life fashion. The protests were loud and graphic. The Second Life Herald noting that many of the protests were focused on well-known brands which maintain in-world presences, something that would be sure to draw the attention of Linden Lab as companies complained. Other protesters set fires and otherwise griefed residents in the welcome areas, including flying anarchy symbols and gunfire as shown in the video below.

Linden Lab posted its response to the user complaints Wednesday on the Second Life blog, acknowledging issues residents had with the pricing change, and introducing a new level of land ownership called "Homestead" that provides a less expensive option than the original level, yet costs more than the Open Space land.

Also as expected, response from Second Life residents on the user forums appears equally split, with approximately half applauding Linden Lab's response and the other half crying foul, blaming Linden for not realizing that users would abuse cheap land parcels at the outset.

While the protests may be amusing and the back-and-forth between residents and their corporate overlords trivial to those outside Second Life, what it really demonstrates is that virtual worlds are facing an uphill battle when it comes to self-regulation. While many users are happy to abide by a terms of service agreement, there will always be others who want to get as much as they can for as little as possible.

And that's the nature of the 'Net. Other social media sites have struggled with similar issues, ranging from blogs to Wikipedia. Until virtual world companies find a way to oversee users who can't seem to oversee themselves, we'll continue to see these types of disagreements and protests. It may very well be that virtual worlds need as much of a system of government as the real world does.

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