What does it take to have a second chance in improving our lives? In today’s real world, there might be some limitations to explore oneself’s identity; but not if you have used Second Life (SL). It is a virtual world developed by Philip Linden who formed Linden Lab in 2003. Here, users are called Residents where they could interact with each other through avatars. Residents can explore, meet other residents, socialize, participate in individual and group activities, create and trade virtual property and services with one another or travel throughout the world. There is also another version called Teen Second Life, which is specifically more used for teenagers.
There is no charge to create a SL for any period of time. It has an internal currency, the Linden dollar (L$) which can be purchased using US dollars and other currencies on the Lindex exchange. Users can earn large amounts of money from using it, which is later used to pay their subscription and tier fees. Its revenue model is based on premium services where members are required to pay US$9.95 per month or US$72 per year. This will provide access to an increased level of technical support.
The idea of today’s web services became more like a fashion trend that creates a highly reliable programming environments like Second Life. This is made possible by using Linden Scripting Language that is similar to C programming. It combines with XML-RPC and HTTP requests for adding functionality to objects and textures for clothing. Animations and gestures can be created using external software. It uses a 3D modeling tool based around simple geometric shapes that allows a resident to build virtual objects. Its RSS feed is running on a text board within their section of Second Nature Island as part of their continuing work to investigate real time or near real time.
SL has several competitors including Entropia Universe, OpenSim, IMVU, Active Worlds and Kaneva. Each has its pros and cons depending on how users adapt its scalability, simplicity and accessibility. Nevertheless, SL is still significantly popular for being multi-purpose cultural mediums. For accessibility, SL can now be used by visually impaired users by using force feedback , Text SL and Screen Reader on their avatar. The biggest barriers for them are its apparent lack of meta data such as names and descriptions for virtual world objects.
In 2007, Linden Lab announced a ban on in-world gambling, in fear that new regulations on Internet gambling. Consequently, there were in-world protests especially from virtual banks like Ginko Financial; whom later went bankrupt. They also ban Woodbury University, a California educational institution for not conforming to their Terms of Service requirements. Users who use a CopyBot or similar client will also be banned. The SL Terms of Service ensure that users retain copyright for any content they create, and the server and client provide simple digital rights management functions.
In January 2010, 18 million accounts were registered in SL; thus they do not have enough manpower to handle all their customers. Hence, it suffered from system instability, increased system latency and intermittent client crashes causing inventory loss belongs to their customers. Furthermore, they were challenged by an open source community. Consequently, Linden Lab is open sourcing the Second Life server code, dramatically altering the company’s business model.
The future looks bright for SL as to how they control the wisdom of crowd by providing inline help, FAQs for zero training and an ongoing valuable service. It supports many different written languages and character sets, thus the residents are able to chat in their native language. It also harnesses network effects as more users using it.
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