“Dear Ebbe II” (on the subject of Basic account changes)

The Colder Water; Inara Pey, April 2015, on Flickr The Colder Water, April 2015

Update, June 1st: Following the amount of feedback concerning the planned reduction in the Basic account group allowance, Linden Lab has amnnounced this will not now be changing on June 24th, 2019. See: Group Limits Update: No Changes for Basic Members (Linden Lab) and LL reverse planned Basic account group limits reduction (this blog).

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Dear Ebbe,

Five years ago I wrote to you as you formally joined Linden Lab as the company’s new CEO. At that time, there was a certain degree of disillusionment among Second Life users about the platform, and I took it upon myself to comment on one area in particular: that of communications.

In the years since then, Linden Lab, Second Life and its user community have come a long way. It’s no exaggeration to say that things in 2019 are a lot different than 2014. Not just technically, but across a range of fronts, most especially that of the relationship between users and Lab.

You’ve seen this first-hand with regards to people’s attendance at Lab Chat and SLB Meet the Lindens events, where audience support and response has been positive and supportive to many of the programmes and developments the Lab has implemented, and towards the drive to increase awareness of, and involvement with, the platform.

True, things have not always been plain sailing; there have been hiccups along the way, but the Lab’s drive to improve SL and respond to many of the requests put out by the user base has been enormously appreciated. However, the most recent changes announced by the Lab with Land Price Reductions, New Premium Perks, and Pricing Changes (May 29th, 2019) have given me pause, and to take the time to write to you once more.

Throughout the last five years, I’ve personally appreciated the efforts Linden Lab have put into trying to meet the demand for lower land tier and to make virtual land holdings in Second Life more attractive. I also understand the need to offset such reductions with increases elsewhere to ensure LL as a company mains a good revenue flow. As such, while the fee changes announced on May 29th have caused me something of an “ouch!” reaction, I can understand the motivation behind them, and will learn to live with them.

However, what I feel is ill-conceived are the proposed Basic account changes.

Although I can understand there may well be technical reasons for doing this (load balancing to enable the increases to the same capabilities that are to be offered to Premium subscribers, perhaps?), the fact remains this these reductions come across as best as being punitive and at worse entirely mean-spirited towards Basic account holders. As my friend and fellow SL user Will Burns has noted:

One increases the value of a Premium account by actually increasing the value added proposition, not forcing the issue by reducing the value added of the free account.

I would therefore urge you to re-consider this move, and allow Basic members either retain their current 42 group limit, or as a compromise (and while I appreciate this is easier said than done), seek to allow current Basic member retain the current 42 groups cap whilst restricting those joining after June 24th to a maximum of 35 groups.

I am not the first Second Life user, Premium or otherwise) to voice concerns over this move. Please do take the time to consider what is being said the changes to Basic accounts via Twitter, in the SL forums and other social platforms, and how they could stand to significantly alienate a good portion of a user base that, while they may not pay subscription fees, nevertheless play an important role in both the economic and social fabric of Second Life, and who – like all of us engaged in the platform – want to see it continue to thrive and grow and remain a part of our lives.

My best,

 

Inara

Sansar R33 Give More Get More release overview

Courtesy of Linden Lab

On Thursday, May 30th, Linden Lab updated the Sansar Give More, Get More (R33) release. An official summary of the update is available, and please refer to that document for details of bug fixes. Highlights of the release key features reviewed here are:

  • Client Atlas updates.

Initial Notes

As with the majority of Sansar deployments, this update requires the automatic download and installation of a client update.

Client Atlas Face-Lift

R33 bring with it an overhaul of the in-client Atlas. The new format comprises three broad categories: What’s Happing In Sansar; Popular Now and Featured.

The new in-client Atlas Discovery panel

This appears to in preparation for changes to the Atlas outlined by the Lab in recent Sansar Product Meetings that will see the Atlas display three selections of experiences that have been previously defined as:

  • Three featured experiences reserved for the Lab’s content partners.
  • Three featured experiences that align with other internal goals the Lab has which “may or may not be obvious”. These might, for example, focus on live music concerts.
  • Three  featured experiences open to Sansar creators, and will be changed on a weekly basis, and selected through a new criteria mechanism (details TBA).

The Experiences category will switch to the familiar listing of Sansar experiences, complete with the sub-selection options (All, Friends, Favourites), search bar and ordering options drop-down menu.

The new in-client Atlas experiences layout

The final category option is Events, offering the familiar listing of upcoming events with the sub-categories for listing past events, those you are hosting, and your calendar of all events you’ve bookmarked, and which are rounded out by the button for setting-up new events you wish to host.

The updated Atlas Events category

Other Updates with R33

  • Gifting: transaction fees for gifting Sansar dollars are to be removed, so the full amount of Sansar dollars will be passed to the recipient.
  • Event creation  / experience caps: as per my Sansar week #20 Product Meeting notes, with R33, event versions of experiences will no longer count towards the total number of experiences a creator can have published. Creators will for now be able to create / host as many events as they wish without hitting the ceiling on the total number of experiences they are allowed to have published within their subscription banding.
    • This is seen as a “temporary” change, pending further revisions to the events system, including finding a means to link events back to the originating experience.
  • New Item inventory icon: new items purchased  / obtained via the Store will be tagged with a “new” icon in their inventory thumbnail image.
The “new” icon for new i(and previously unworn / used) items in your inventory
  • New progress bar scripting API: this enables creators to add a progress bar or countdown timer when an action is triggered in an Experience. Descriptive text may also be included with the progress bar.
  • Foot IK improvement: an avatar’s feet turn when it changes direction in desktop, just like in VR
  • New right click capability: this enables users to cut, copy and paste text on various text fields.

Improvements List

This list taken directly from the release notes:

  • Avatar related:
    • Upgrading an avatar caused the Marvelous Designer clothing to fit over whatever the avatar had on during the upgrade process.
    • Marvelous Designer clothing can now be adjusted with two hands in VR.
    • The Customise option no longer exists after upgrading an avatar that has been deleted from the user’s inventory.
    • Make an empty fist in VR without worrying about other controller actions from working.
    • The scale values now apply properly on avatars using avatar animations that were uploaded using a partial skeleton.
  • Decimated crashes triggered from the avatar editor and scene editor.
  • New fix for exposure metering on Nvidia RTX GPUs to correct the problem that varied the experience brightness from one video card to another.
  • Making changes to a group of similar script attributes no longer changes the wrong attribute of some of the selected scripts.
  • Assets that contained unlicensed information no longer prevent the gizmos from appearing when selecting object structure components such as containers, static meshes, or volume components.

Linden Lab announces significant SL fee changes

via and © ™ Linden Lab

Update, June 1st: Following the amount of feedback concerning the planned reduction in the Basic account group allowance, Linden Lab has amnnounced this will not now be changing on June 24th, 2019. See: Group Limits Update: No Changes for Basic Members (Linden Lab) and LL reverse planned Basic account group limits reduction (this blog).

On Wednesday, May 30th, Linden Lab announced further changes to Full private region fees, significant changes to Premium subscription fees and to credit processing fees, and changes to some Premium and Basic account capabilities.

As detailed in an official blog post, the changes can be summarised as follows:

Full Private Region Tier Change

Source: Linden Lab

The Lab notes that:

  • These fees are exclusive of VAT, where applicable, and do not apply to Skilled Gaming region.
  • Education / Non-profit (EDU/NP) discounted Full islands will be re-priced to maintain their 50% discount off the regularly priced Full island fees.

Premium Subscription Fee Increase

In the same blog post, Linden Lab have announced a re-structuring / re-pricing of Premium subscriptions as follows:

Source: Linden Lab

Notes:

  • The monthly fee increase represents an annual increase of 26.21% (from US $114 pa to US $143.88 pa).
  • The annual increase represents an annual increase of 37.5%.
  • Quarterly subscriptions are to be retired as an option for users wishing to upgrade to Premium, but will still be available to those already using this plan. The fee increase of US $22.50 to US $32.97 represents an annual increase of 46.53% a year (US $90 pa to US $131.88 pa).
  • Both monthly and quarterly subscription fees will be subject to VAT, where applicable.

With regards to these Premium subscription changes, the Lab note:

To help with the transition to the new pricing, starting June 3, we’re offering a limited-time opportunity for existing Premium members to lock in their current rates for one more billing cycle, including extending an existing monthly to use the current full year rate by upgrading now to annual. Simply renew before June 24th to extend your current Membership at the same low rate. For example, monthly members will be billed at the lower rate for one more monthly billing cycle, while annual members may renew (or monthly users may upgrade to annual) early to add one more year to your existing Membership at the current lower rate. We will update when the option becomes available on June 3rd. Until then – if you are not up for renewal already, you will not see the option to lock in your current price. Keep an eye out for updates.

Credit Processing Fee Changes

In what will be seen as a further blow to those regularly / routinely cashing-out from Second life, the blog post also announced changes to credit processing fees, to wit:

Effective June 24, the fee for processing credit transactions (i.e. paying real money into a PayPal or Skrill account) will be 5% per transaction with a minimum fee of US$3 (there is no maximum fee).  The fee is currently 2.5% per transaction. This fee change offsets increased regulatory and compliance costs to Linden Lab and is in line with our continued commitment to the long-term successful operation of Second Life.

Change to Premium and Basic Account Capabilities

In order to try to offset some of the negative feedback these changes have already cause (as per at least two forum threads, here and here on the topic), the Lab also indicated increases to a couple of perks available to Premium members, together with a decrease in the same capabilities available to Basic account holders, a per the table below.

Source: Linden Lab

Note that group membership will not be revoked for Basic members who are involved in more than 35 groups at the time this change comes into effect. However, Basic members will be unable to join new groups until they reduce their group enrolments to below the new 35 group limit.

In addition, the Lab indicate that further improvements to Premium memberships  will be announced later in the year, as will a new Premium membership level, “for those who want to get the absolute most out of their Second Life.”

Thoughts as Premium Member

As one who is a Premium Member, I’m not entirely sanguine about the pricing increase – although I appreciate that in trying to pivot revenue generation away from a reliance on virtual land fees, Linden Lab must ensure any potential shortfalls are adequately guarded against. I’m also aware that while the Premium fees increase does hurt – it is actually the first such increase I can recall for a long time.

How this effects Premium level overall remains to be seen; however, my personal feeling right now is that unless the to-be-announced Premium membership level is truly exceptional in terms of benefits and opportunities, it is going to be hard to justify making a leap to it based on the prices announced with these changes and what might be taken from them in estimating to potential cost of any new membership package.

Those who are likely to feel particularly aggrieved are those who do routinely cash-out from Second Life, given credit processing fees have seen a number of increases over the last few years. While the Basic account changes come across as punitive in nature.

Please refer to the official blog post for the full text relating to these changes.