Lab ends VAT charges on Premium subscriptions

secondlifeIn a further more to sweeten Premium memberships, Linden Lab has announced that with immediate effect, those Premium members who have traditionally have had to pay VAT on their membership subscriptions will no longer have to do so.

The announcement is coupled with a reduction in the Monthly billing plan for Premium from US $9.95 a month to US $9.50, and reads in full:

Being Premium comes with many perks, including a weekly L$ stipend, more privacy with a Linden Home, exclusive gifts and experiences, and now, live chat with the Concierge Support team at Linden Lab.

If you missed your chance to take advantage of our recent 50% off monthly Premium Membership offer – there’s no reason to worry! Now, we’re reducing the standard cost of a monthly Premium subscription to just $9.50 a month. Enjoy all the benefits of Premium Membership for less!

We will also no longer charge VAT for Premium subscriptions. If you live in a region where VAT applies, this means an effective savings in some countries of more than 20% below what you would have previously paid!

VAT payment were introduced by the Lab in 2007. At the time, there was a widespread  – and mistaken – belief that the Lab were having to pay VAT as a result of holding offices and European (notably Brighton, UK). Further misconceptions were voiced (and sometimes still are) about the Lab charging VAT “unnecessarily” on the grounds that they no longer have offices within Europe.

However, as Forbes noted in 2014 when changes were being made to the basic requirements, the EU has, since 2003, always levied VAT against the delivery of electronic services (which Second Life is) from non-EU countries, including the USA. The difference was that prior to 2007, the Lab opted to absorb the VAT charges rather than passing them on to their European customers – at last until things reached a point where it was no longer economically viable for them to do so.

With immediate effect, those Premium members previously liable for VAT on their subscriptions will not longer have the charge passed on to them by the Lab. In addition, the monthly billing plan for Premium is reduced to US $9.50 a month
With immediate effect, those Premium members previously liable for VAT on their subscriptions will not longer have the charge passed on to them by the Lab. In addition, the monthly billing plan for Premium is reduced to US $9.50 a month

With the announcement, it would appear that  – in part – the Lab is once again willing to absorb VAT charges, and in doing so, offer a very credible benefit for EU members who may have been put off upgrading to Premium as a result of the VAT surcharge.

Speaking as an EU resident, I’m more than happy to see my annual subscription reduced from US $84.00 to the standard US $72.00. Together with the perks and bonuses recently introduced – such as the move of Premium live chat support to the Concierge team, this is precisely the kind of creative thinking by the Lab which could go some way to making Premium membership more popular among some sections of the existing user base.

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Alchemy 3.8.2 release: VMM and OpenSimulator support

Alchemy-logoOn Thursday, August 20th, the Alchemy team released version 3.8.2.36473 of their viewer in the first of their promised monthly updates.

This release brings the viewer to par with the Lab’s 3.8.2 code base – which means Viewer-Managed Marketplace support. Also, and interestingly, the windows version of the viewer is now built using Visual Studio 2015 (this will generate a VS2015 Redistributable  message as a part of the installation process as core elements required for the viewer to run are installed).

Also with this release  – and the Alchemy team are calling it a release, rather than a “beta”, as with recent updates – is support for up to 2 gigabytes of texture memory; improvements to the build floater and right-click context menu option; some tweaks to Preferences; and the arrival of OpenSimulator support as well.

So, as a quick look at the main updates.

Alchemy now has VMM support
Alchemy now has VMM support

The SL VMM support offers the expected Marketplace Listings panel, found under the Me menu.

I admittedly did not play with it extensively (i.e. I didn’t attempt to create an entirely new listing, as I don’t have anything not already listed via VMM), but everything did appear to be working quite happily while I poked at updating listings, etc.

In Preferences, the Sound and Media tab gets two new sub-tabs. The first of these is for media, and entitled Sounds; it also includes a toggle for enabling / disabling audio stream notifications.

The second sub-tab is called Voice, and does exactly what it says on the label: provides access to the Voice options.

A minor update to the Setup tab sees the Use Built-in Browser option re-labelled to be more generic in recognition of OpenSimulator support (“in-world” rather than “Second Life”).

A new tab in Preferences, called Grids, provides access to the viewer’s grid manager for adding OpenSimulator grid details, which can then appear on the log-in / splash screen grid selection. By default, both the SL main (Agni) and  beta (Aditi) grids are listed, and adding further grids is the usual case of adding the appropriate URI, with the Grid Manager set to recognise the more popular destinations.

Alchemy 3.8.2 brings with it OpenSimulator support
Alchemy 3.8.2 brings with it OpenSimulator support

In testing I found everything working as expected, and I had no issues adding Kitely and logging-in. In addition to the new grid options, the OpenSim updates also include both hypergrid support, and support for OpenSim variable regions.

The build tool updates come in two parts. The first is an expanded build sub-menu available from the right-click context menu, which now includes the various script-related options (recompile, reset, set running, etc). The second is the addition of a check box to the build floater itself to automatically synchronise settings (repeats, offsets, etc), between materials layers on an object / object face.

Alchemy 3.8.2 brings with it expanded build options in the right-click context menu, and the ability to synchronise materials on an object / object face
Alchemy 3.8.2 brings with it expanded build options in the right-click context menu, and the ability to synchronise materials on an object / object face

All told a tidy update in which the OpenSimulator support could be very welcome. As always, for full information on updates, any known issues, etc., please refer directly to the release notes.