Tilia – a further look and a little more speculation

Logos © and ™ Linden Lab and Tilia Inc.

Note: this article is about Tilia Inc., as a business. It is not about the Tilia and how USD dollar balances and cashing-out from Second Life will be handled. If you wish to comment on those subject please refer to:  Linden Lab announce important Second Life account changes and comment there. Thank you.

On Monday, July 1st, Linden Lab announced important upcoming changes related to Second life accounts and credit processing, which linked to their subsidiary company, Tilia Inc. Full details of these changes can be found in the Lab’s official blog post: Important Changes to your Second Life Account – Introducing Tilia, which I also covered in my own post, Linden Lab announce important Second Life account changes, which includes additional links to the Lab’s comments posted in reply to questions on the forums.

But what exactly is Tilia Inc.?

Well, for a start, Tilia Inc isn’t actually something new – it’s been around in relation to the Lab since 2014 / 15; in fact, Second Life users might actually already be aware of it without realising it, as the Tilia Inc., logo appears on the SL web pages related to L$ account purchases (Tilia also drives elements of Sansar accounts as well).

In describing Tilia Inc., in the blog post noted above, the Lab give a fairly basic description of company’s function::

A subsidiary of Linden Lab that offers certain financial services to the Second Life community and helps Second Life comply with U.S. laws and regulations.

This is actually only a part of the story – the part that affects Second life users; there is more, some of which I speculated about when first writing about Tilia almost five years ago in November 2015 – see Linden Lab and Tilia Inc. – speculations on the Lab’s new subsidiary – and which would now seem to be correct.

That article came about as an extension of investigations fellow Second life user Vick Forcella, had started before punting things over to me to build on his work. In the course of my digging, I spoke with Peter Gray, who was then the Director of Global Communications at Linden Lab, and while he didn’t give too much away at that time, he did say something that resonated with me as I speculated about what Tilia Inc might hold for the future.

Tilia is a subsidiary of Linden Lab, focused on payments and the compliance work associated with operating virtual economies, and it will provide services for both Second Life and Project Sansar.

– Peter Gray, former Director of Global Communications, Linden Lab, November 2015

Back in November 2015, two things in particular struck me about Peter’s comment.

The first is pretty straightforward: Tilia Inc., was, and would remain, central to the Lab’s work in seeking federal and state registration as a US Money Transmitter and to comply with all US laws regarding the movement of money. This had been a stated goal within the Lab pretty much since Ebbe Altberg officially joined the company as CEO.

Secondly, Peter’s statement struck me as interesting in that its structure seemed to suggest that supporting Second Life and Sansar (then still “Project Sansar”) was part of, but also separate to, the overall goal of presenting Tilia as an entity focused on providing a robust payments and compliance system for operating (and managing) virtual economies to third parties.

Another option might be that the Lab be considering making the Linden Dollar and all its attendant services a pre-packaged solution / service they can offer to other companies wishing to operate a virtual currency, with Tilia Inc., as the nominal operating company for that service. After all, they have made much of their leadership in matters of virtual economies and compliance, so spinning it out and offering it to others might be a means of generating additional revenue, although admittedly, given the complexities potentially involved, this might be seen as a bit of a stretch.

– Part of my speculations, November 2015

Reading the Tilia Inc website, it seems that this is what Linden Lab plans to do – the main difference being that Tilia is geared to work with any “virtual token”, not just the Linden Dollar. Not only does the home page promote the company as a “solution provider”, so to speak, but it also includes a form by interested companies / organisations can register their interest with the Lab.

The Tilia Inc., home page promoting the company as a virtual economy solution provider to other businesses

(I’ll only say in defence of my linking Tilia and the Linden Dollar as the hip in 2015 was in part due to the Lab at that time hoping to use the Linden Dollar with Sansar, so it seemed logical to present they would offer it to others as part of the overall package.)

Some may well be upset at the idea of LL spinning off a business entity “at the expense of Second Life” (even though Tilia does and will have a bearing for both SL and Sansar, as noted). However, as noted in the quote above, it does have potential. There is already much more talk today about virtual currencies and economies  – notably focused around blockchain systems (such as Etherium), and the Lab does – as noted – have 16 or so years of running a virtual economy at scale and with users cashing-out up to US $65 million a year. Combine this with Tilia’s US-wide certification as a recognised Money Transmitter, and the Lab could have a robust business platform to offer clients.

Of course there are risks involved, such as the realities of this new market and how long it might take to grow, how LL might fair in the face of competition like decentralised blockchain system should these reach a similar level of certification, how much of any potential market LL might corner, etc. However, none of these mean the company shouldn’t necessarily try. Were Tilia prove to be successful over time, it could provide Linden Lab with an alternative revenue stream, possibly allowing them to do something else Ebbe Altberg alluded to in his Meet the Lindens session at SL16B: reduce their margins around SL and possibly lower fees.

But even if this doesn’t pans out, Tilia Inc., still means that LL are in compliance with US laws regarding money handling across state lines and borders, and so can continue to offer users the ability to generate and cash-out their own revenue through Second Life (and Sansar).

Which perhaps -for now – just leaves the question, ‘Why “Tilia”’? Well, possibly because, as I also noted back in 2015, tilia is genus of trees that encompasses linden trees.

Visiting Norddeich in Second Life

Hallig Norddeich, Nibbevegen 1; Inara Pey, July 2019, on FlickrHallig Norddeich, Nibbevegen 1, July 2019 – click and image for full size

Following a recommendation from Shawn and Max, we dropped into Hallig Norddeich, Nibbevegen 1. A Homestead region designed by Svenja Maass (MinAleiga), it offers a slightly untamed feel of a coastal region which, given the name, I couldn’t help but wonder if it took its inspiration from Germany’s East Frisian coast and islands.

I’ve no actual solid reason for stating that it does – other than the presence of Norddeich in the title (Hallig being “exuberant”), but should that be the case, then it would certainly be appropriate; the islands along that stretch of coast, together with their cousins along the more northern aspect of the Wadden Sea coastline, have given rise to the naming of a number of places in Second Life, including Norderney and Amrum, both of which have featured as destinations in this blog.

Hallig Norddeich, Nibbevegen 1; Inara Pey, July 2019, on FlickrHallig Norddeich, Nibbevegen 1, July 2019

While the physical world Norddeich is a coastal area, this one is quite clearly an island, one among a group that rise from the sea, although its neighbours are a good deal more mountainous in appearance – and a good deal more rugged than the Frisian islands (East or North).

With their rugged faces and lack of trees, these off-sim island give the region something of a Scandinavian feel; were that more joined, it wouldn’t be too hard to imagine this to be a remote island sitting within a fjord. Hence why, perhaps, the hint of Norwegian influence in the region’s name as well (being the name of the road leading up to the Geiranger Skywalk).

Hallig Norddeich, Nibbevegen 1; Inara Pey, July 2019, on FlickrHallig Norddeich, Nibbevegen 1, July 2019

The region is split into two islands – the smaller of the two forming the landing point, and the larger the main point of exploration / interest. Both are low-lying, a wooden board walk spanning the narrow channel between them. Save for the shack of the landing point, an old, bent tree and a few shrubs, the smaller island has little to entice visitors to stay, marking it as the perfect spot for the sea lions occupying a small deck on the island’s north side to enjoy a little peace and quiet.

Across the board walk, the larger island is equally low-lying. Ringed by a thin band of sedimentary sand, much of which would appear to be under water at high tide, the core of the island is buttressed by humpbacked cuesta, marking the point where the softer sediments of the beach give way to harder rock the sea is talking a lot more time to erode.

Hallig Norddeich, Nibbevegen 1; Inara Pey, July 2019, on FlickrHallig Norddeich, Nibbevegen 1, July 2019

On the west side of the island, the sea has had a little more success in cutting into the land, forming a shallow, sandy cove that has been set out with beach chairs, blankets and deck chairs, the flags fluttering above it indicating the area is safe for bathing but surf boards or other types of board-based spots / floatation devices are not permitted.

With few trees – the main vegetation being grass and hardy shrubs – the island offers a strange mix of buildings suggestive of this once being a place of work. Two of these sit towards the middle of the island, and have a definite industrial vibe to them. However, the larger – which may once have been a long storage shed – is now a bar, presumably here to keep those visiting the island for its beaches refreshed. Separated from it by a little outdoor drinking area and a greenhouse, the smaller of the two units has been converted into a cosy little home that looks out over a rutted track to where sheep graze in a large, fenced field.

Hallig Norddeich, Nibbevegen 1; Inara Pey, July 2019, on FlickrHallig Norddeich, Nibbevegen 1, July 2019

The track – one of a number rolling across ver the uneven landscape, runs past the two buildings to connect the beach to the west with a wharf to the east, a branch also connecting it with the board walk to the landing point. The wharf is clearly a place of work – the keel of a boat is being laid down inside the boat shed and a fishing boat with fish in its holds is tied-up alongside.

With multiple spots located around the beaches where cuddles and seats can be enjoyed, the region also offers other little spots for shared moments, indoors and out (try the gate into the sheep field for example). There’s also a suitable sound scape to round things off, making this an enjoyable place to visit and photograph – the latter being added by the inclusion of a cloud scape as a part of the region’s off-sim landscaping.

Hallig Norddeich, Nibbevegen 1; Inara Pey, July 2019, on FlickrHallig Norddeich, Nibbevegen 1, July 2019

SLurl Details

Tilia Inc., and forthcoming Second Life account changes

Logos © and ™ Linden Lab and Tilia Inc.

Update, July 12th: this article has been updated to reflect comments made at the July 12th ton hall meeting at which Tilia Inc., and its role with regards to Second Life. A summary of that event, with audio extracts and video will be available in this blog soon.

Update, July 2nd: Linden Lab have started a new forum thread designed to directly address questions. Answers to questions will be placed in the original post in the thread to save having to scroll through question. The new thread can be found here: Official Tilia Q&A Forum Thread.

Update: some 90 minutes after this article was published, Linden Lab issued a further forum post on the subject. Among other clarifications, this further reiterates that L$ purchases, L$ balances, use of L$ to pay tier or Premium fees will all not be affected by these changes. 

Also, as clarifications are still being given, some of the wording in this blog post may be revised to match LL’s feedback so as to maintain the accuracy of the information given here. However, do please keep an eye on Lab posts to the forum thread, as additional information, separate to the points I’ve highlighted below may also be given.

On Monday, July 1st, Linden Lab issued a blog post announcing important changes to how Second Life accounts are to be handled with regards to the Lab’s subsidiary, Tilia Inc (which the blog post officially introduces for the first time) and credit processing.

Tilia Inc is a wholly owned subsidiary of Linden Lab, which was established in 2014/15, and focused on payments and the compliance work associated with operating virtual economies. Since its formation, the company has been involved in becoming a registered Money Transmitter throughout the United States, and many SL and Sansar users may have had some awareness of its existence as the Tilia Inc., logo appears on both the SL and Sansar web pages related to L$ account purchases and Sansar account management.

The blog post issued by Linden Lab, Important Changes to your Second Life Account – Introducing Tilia, should in particular be read in full and carefully noted by anyone who currently withdraws funds from Second Life through the credit process mechanism. This following is merely a short summary of the key points:

  • On August 1st, 2019, Tilia Inc., will assume responsibility for managing users’ USD denominated accounts, which will be referred to as their Tilia Account.
  • This means that users with US Dollar accounts and / or who cash-out (“credit process”) money from Second Life, will be required to agree to the Tilia Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Doing so will automatically create a Tilia Account that will be associated with the user’s Second life account and use the same user name and password.
  • Most importantly: users wishing to process a credit – that is, withdraw money from Second Life via their US dollar account – after August 1st, 2019 must be prepared to supply the following information directly to Tilia Inc: name, address, date of birth, and social security number (or government-issued identification for non-US citizen).
    • Note that if you have previously supplied this information to Linden Lab, you may still have to re-supply it to Tilia Inc.
    • This information should only need to be supplied once, and will be retained on file by Tilia Inc., (as is currently the case through Second Life at the moment)
    • Some users may be required to provide additional information to complete a transaction.
    • Again, only those cashing out of their USD balance are required to meet the ID verification requirements.
  • These changes should not impact the average time it takes for credit to be processed (around 3-5 working days) for most SL users, once the required identification documentation has been verified.
  • The fees for inactivity mentioned in the blog post, etc., are still TBD, but again, they only apply in cases where USD have been cashed out, but the account has been dormant (i.e. no cash-out / no logging-in) for 12+ months. They do not affect L$ balances.
  • These changes do not impact or change the purchase and use of Linden Dollars with Second Life or on the Marketplace. So you do not need to provide personal information in order to buy L$.
  • Additional information can be found in the Lab’s official Tilia Inc FAQ.
From August 1st, 2019, US dollar balances associated with Second Life will be handled by Tilia Inc.

The blog post has already led to a growing forum thread on the matter, which voices some genuine confusion on matters, coupled with no small amount of misunderstanding. This prompted the Lab to add further clarification, and additional replies many be forthcoming from LL over the next day or so to try to address additional concerns / answer further questions. Note that I cannot address specific concerns or answer questions posted to this blog, as I do not represent Linden Lab.

As an aide, I first wrote about Tilia Inc., almost five years ago. At that time, I lot of what I had to say was highly speculative. However, there is now more to say and consider – but to avoid conflating my commentary about Tilia Inc., with news of this announcement, I’ll leave that to a separate blog post.

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