On Monday, April 13th, Linden Lab announced the return of Last Names to Second Life. Also known as Name Changes, the feature re-introduces the capability for (some) users to select a last name, as the blog post explains:
Back in the day, Second Life Residents were given the option at registration of selecting from a variety of pre-determined “last name” options. The use of shared “last names” helped build community among Residents who found instant kinship and bonding amidst these newfound virtual family ties shared with strangers of the same lineage. Similar to the commodity of dot-com domains, some “last names” held a special status in the community. Some were extremely rare and, in some cases, there were perceived attributes and reputations associated with certain last name offerings.
However, the capability is more about last names, as I’ll cover in a moment, but first:
The History Bit
When the capability was withdrawn in 2010, to be replaced by Display Names and leaving all new sign-up with the default (and largely invisible “last name” of “Resident”, there was widespread outcry, accompanied by requests and demands that the option for people to once more pick there last name be re-introduced.
Such was this demand, that by the end of 2011, the Lab was actually thinking of bringing the capability back, as the then-CEO, Rod “Rodvik” Humble announced on his profile feed:
Rod even went so far as to indicate Last Names would return in early 2012 (see Last names back in January? from 2011).
In the end, however, everything got bogged down in exactly how Last Names should be re-offered: should in be from a list again, or free form? (see: Last Names: don’t over-cook the baking). And so, in early March 2012, Rod admitted via a blog post (that is sadly no longer available, but you can read my thoughts on it in Rodvik blogs: No Last Names), that due to assorted complexities, Last Names would not be coming back.
Nevertheless, the requests / demands for the ability to select a last name persisted such that in March 2018, the Lab announced they were once again working on a way to bring last names back to Second Life ( see: Last names to return to SL and more – Linden Lab). Just how complex a task it has been to return them is perhaps made clear by the fact that it has taken two years from that initial announcement to the official re-launch in April 2020.
That said, and despite the title of the Lab’s own blog post, it’s important to remember the returning capability is about more than just last names; it’s about the ability to completely change your avatar’s account name, if you wish – last name and / or first name. This is why the project has generally been referred to as Name Changes, rather than “last names”.
As such, it comes with some important points that are (again) worth noting:
- It is only available to Premium subscribers, who may change their first name or their last name or both their first and last name whenever they wish.
- First names are free-form.
- Last names are selected from a list, with the available names updated periodically.
- Once a first name+ last name combination has been applied to an avatar account, it cannot be used by any other account (so “Josephine Bloggs” cannot use Name Change to become “Inara Pey”).
- It is possible for you to revert back to any previously-used name assigned to your account.
- There is a fee applicable each time the capability is used.
- At the time of writing, the free for Premium accounts is $39.99 per change (first name or last name or both first / last) or to revert to a previous name).
- It has been indicated that Premium Plus, once introduced, will likely have a lower fee applied for Name Changes.
- VAT at applicable rates will be added to accounts in VAT-paying countries.
- Name Changes is not replacing Display Names – these will remain available at no charge to all who wish to use them.
- Name changes are not being offered as a part of the sign-up process because:
- It is a Premium benefit.
- The Lab has data to show that asking users to pick a name from a list was actually a sufficient enough blocker to prevent many of them completing the sign-up process.
- If you are Premium and use the Name Change capability, then subsequently downgrade to Basic, you will retain whatever avatar / account name you have at the time you downgrade. You will not not “revert” to any past name you may have had, and you won’t be able to change you name again until such time as you re-up to Premium.
- Name changes are made via the Second Life dashboard, and you must be logged-out of Second Life in order to make sure any Name Change you make is correctly applied to your account.
- As it is now possible for users to change their account names, it is vital that any scripted means of recording avatar details (e.g. for the purposes of purchase redelivery, or within security systems and so on) do so by avatar key (UUID) and not avatar name.
While the return of last names has long been request, whether Name Changes will be seen as fitting the bill by all users is open to debate. Money is involved (and a not trivial sum at that), so that alone will likely raise objections among those who have not followed the progress of the capability.
The fee has been intentionally set at a level where for those who are attracted to it will not use it to excess. This is because Name Changes go to the very heart of a Second Life account, and thus touch every single element of the platform – from the name you see on the screen over an avatar to things like inventory data, land information, the things and products they make and / or sell, transactions they have made, the groups of which they are a member, and so on and so forth. As such, every name change impacts a range of services and databases which may sound “simple” in terms of field / array update – but which still have an impact.
Some might feel the left out by Name Changes being a Premium-only option, or just not worth the expense – and that’s why Display Names are remaining available.
I find myself entirely neutral on the matter. I’m fortunate enough to have an account name I’m unlikely to ever want to change, because after 13 years, it is very much a part of me. Even so, given the time taken to implement, the (albeit understandable) reason for the fee, etc., I actually cannot help wonder if Name Changes will actually generate the kind of return that will cover the 2-year cost of implementation. But then, if those who do use it are happy to have at least some means to change their name whenever they wish – does that really matter?