Tyche Shepherd’s 2018 SL Mainland census

Tyche Shepherd: 2018 Mainland Census

On Wednesday, January 16th, Tyche Shepherd published her 2018 Mainland Census, examining the overall state of Second Life Mainland, and it makes for interesting reading, as it offers the first “external” look at how Mainland is faring since the pricing restructure introduced in March 2018 (see Linden Lab announces SL Mainland price restructuring).

The overall view is neatly summed-up by Tyche thus:

As we’ve seen with Private Estates 2018 looks like a small revival for Mainland . Ownership is up (though Linden Home Ownership is down) and Owners are holding more land than before (Not surprising with the changes in Tier and Free Land Allowances) Larger land holders have tended to decrease their holdings but there has been a lot more active owners at the lower end. Abandoned land has significantly decreased and there has been some increase in Protected Linden land.

– Tyche Shepherd, 2018 Mainland Census

The Census covers all aspects of Mainland holdings – Linden and non-Linden. However, for this article, I’m focusing more on the Linden held elements of Mainland, specifically because of the changes made to Mainland pricing. Some of the key points of the census are:

  • Lab “ownership” of Mainland has decreased by 6.5% through 2018.
  • The total number of Mainland parcel was up on, with 132377 parcels held by 60388 unique holders (split between 49084 individual accounts and 11254 groups). This compares with 125010 parcels among 58244 holders at the end of 2017. 31056 of these parcels are directly owned by Linden Lab.
  • The mean size of parcels held by private land holders is 3366.5 Sq m, up by 82 sq m compared to January 2018.
  • Abandoned Mainland has fallen by just under 4% as a total of the available Mainland (from 22.9% of all Mainland to 19%) – the first such drop since September 2011, bringing abandoned land down to a level last seen in at the end of 2015.The cause of this is undoubtedly the Mainland pricing restructure, which lower tier rates by around 10%, doubled the amount of “free” tier to 1024 sq m and – equally importantly – substantially relaxed the rules for obtaining free land.
  • The rate at which land was abandoned also decreased in 2018, most likely again a result of the pricing restructure.
  • Total Monthly Mainland Tier, with the new tier rates applied, is estimated at US $630,786, down by 8.9% (US $61,479) on the January 2018 rate.
Abandoned Mainland fell by 4% as a percentage of the total Mainland, the first such drop since September 2011 – Tyche Shepherd’s 2018 Mainland Census

The number of occupied Linden Homes fell slightly in 2018, by 3.1, although the total number of homes remained constant. There is no direct evidence to support this being a direct result of the Mainland price restructuring; it could be part of a general sine curve of ups and downs in the popularity of Linden Homes. Unfortunately, past census reports no longer appear to be available to examine due to the SL Universe move in 2018.  However, I wouldn’t be surprised if the drop wasn’t in part fuelled by some people trading their 512 sq m Linden Homes to gain a full 1024 sq m of “free” tier.

The price restructuring does appear to have stimulated the “lower” end of the Mainland land market (i.e. among those holding smaller amounts of land), although overall holdings among larger land holders has, as Tyche notes, decreased slightly.

To be honest, given the Lab’s feedback on the popularity of the pricing restructure, I had been expecting a slightly larger reduction in the amount of abandoned land as a total of Mainland (possibly 6-8%). As it is, abandoned land still represents a significant amount of the Mainland product, which has – other than 2011 – tended to show a year-on-year growth since 2010. Ergo, any reduction is welcome.

Abandoned land as a percentage of Mainland, 2010-end of 2018 – Tyche Shepherd’s 2018 Mainland Census

In terms of looking ahead, 2019 presents an interesting year. On the one hand – and assuming no significant Mainland surprises are suddenly announced, there is no reason why the acquisition of abandoned land should not continue, even if at a slightly slower rate than may have been seen in 2018.

On the other, there are a couple of big “unknowns” that are to be unveiled in 2019: the alteration to Premium subscriptions, and the opening of the new Linden Homes continent (plus any plans to grow it). The latter in particular opens up a series of questions relating to Mainland size, abandoned land, and possible trends, as I noted in Second Life: state of the grid, 2018. Chief among these is the potential for abandoned land to increase in 2019 as a result of people both deserting their Linden homes in favour of the new offerings (which it turn raises questions as to what will be done with the existing Linden Home regions that might become sparsely populated), or even for other Mainland parcels to be abandoned in favour of the new Linden Homes.

Obviously, all of this also depends on how the new Linden Homes are offered, again as noted in Second Life: state of the grid, 2018 – and what incentives are offered through any revamped Premium subscriptions that are offered, and which might encourage more users to go Premium and possibly invest in Mainland.

For the full breakdown of the census and charts – all of which make for interesting reading, please refer to Tyche’s post.

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Second Life: state of the grid, 2018

Black Bayou Lake; Inara Pey, October 2018, on FlickrBlack Bayou Lake  blog post

On December 30th, 2018, Tyche Shepherd tweeted a brief summary on the general size and state of the Second Life main grid.

The surface level reading in the summary is good: overall, the grid increased in size by 2.1% – the first such increase since 2011, leaving the grid at a total of 23,811 regions at the end of December 2018, compared to 23,337 at the end of 2017. However, where private regions are concerned – still the major revenue earner for the Lab – things were far more modest: just 14 regions up on the year, from 16,106 to 16,120 – a 0.1% growth. The rest came from Mainland, up 460 regions to 7691, thanks largely to the arrival of the SSP continent.

Taking the year-on-year figures for private regions from 2010 onwards (that being the previous year in which the grid exhibited a growth in the number of private regions), we get the following breakdown:

2010 2011 2012 2013 2014
24,483 23,857 20,994 19,273 18,600
Increase
%age
Loss %age
Loss
%age
Loss
%age
Loss
%age
810 3% 626 2.56% 2863 12% 1719 8.2% 673 3.5%
 2015 2016 2017 2018
17,775 16,783 16,106 16,120
Loss   %age  Loss  %age Loss
%age
Increase %age
 
825 4.4% 992 5.6% 677 4.0% 14 0.1%

Working on the basis of Tyche’s Full Private Region surveys I have to hand, a breakdown of approximate recent monthly revenues from private regions over the most recent five-year period might be given as:

  • November 2013: US $3,857,000 (+/- US $52,000)
  • March 2016: down to US $3,385,000 ( +/- US $43,000)
  • December 2016: down to US $3,162,000 (+/- US $39,000)
  • December 2017: down to US$ 2,970,000 (+/- US $36,500)
  • December 2018: approximately US$ 2,970,000 (+/- US $36,500)

Note the December 2018 monthly tier level reflects a growth of just 14 regions (most likely mixed between Full and Homestead), having minimal overall impact based on the margin of error.

The increase in private region is likely – as Tyche points out – due to the Lab’s downward adjustment in private region fees, announced in June 2018, and which came into effect as from the start of July 2018. Certainly, this was followed by an upswing in demand totalling 69 private regions over two weeks, although it might be argued that overall, the fee changes can’t yet be judged to have moved the grid into a sustained level of growth.

Private estate numbers downs and ups in 2018 – click for full size

In fairness, the reduction in costs for private regions wasn’t going to result in a massive upswing in demand. For one thing, the 15% reduction in monthly tier for a Full region  – as I noted at the time – wouldn’t see people stampeding to get a region of their own. Thus, outside of events, etc., demand for land still largely lays with those in the land rental business, particularly given Homestead availability remains tied to having at least one Full region, and how well they are perceived as passing on the lower fees through reduced rental charges to customers, which itself could be complicated. Although all that said, it might have been hoped things came out a little stronger by year-end than has been the case.

So, what might we see in 2019 in terms of land?

Well, it’s unlikely Linden Lab will move towards another reduction so soon after that of July 2018, simply because more time will be required to analyse the overall outcome in terms of overall outcome. However, there are other things that will be forthcoming in 2019.

As noted, the largest growth in regions is the SSP continent (384 + a testing region). It’s no secret this is likely the new Linden Homes continent, due to come on stream in 2019. What is still to be seen is how they will be offered, how they might help generate revenue, and what effect they might have on the grid. For example, will they replace the existing Linden Homes entirely and be offered within the current Premium subscription package and ultimately intended to replace the existing Linden Homes continents? Will they form part of a new Premium subscription offering, sitting alongside the existing Linden Homes continents? If they are to completely replace the existing Linden Homes over time, what might be the logistics for doing so and for “retiring” the existing LH continents? Might we see more than one new Linden Homes continent deployed in the coming year?

2019 may well also see a large part of the Lab’s work in transitioning Second Life to the cloud. Even if this is completed by the end of the year (which is probably optimistic given the massive complexity of SL, but we’ll see), it’s also unlikely to lead directly to any adjustments to land fees or the release of new products, simply because, again as the Lab has indicated, they’ll need time to bed things in and ensure everything is running as anticipated and – equally importantly – experiment to see what  (if any) kind of product options might be available and how they might be priced.

For my part, I suspect the sine wave we’ve seen in the second half of 2019 will likely continue, undulating between losses and gains, with a possible bias towards the positive side of the line. But that said, I didn’t foresee a fee cut for private regions coming in 2018, and actually expected numbers for the year to decline (albeit far more slowly than previous years); so what do I know?  🙂 .

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Lab takes an end-of-year look at Second Life

On Wednesday, December 19th, Linden Lab offered a look back at 2018 and something of a look ahead to 2019. There’s actually been a lot going on, although it is surprising to note that some of the bigger deliveries / anticipated deliveries actually first started to surface in 2017, when I reviewed / previewed them.

I’ll be taking a look through the major changes to Second Life myself in an upcoming blog post, so won’t delve too deeply into things here.

Unsurprisingly, Animesh is featured front-and-centre for the year’s delivery – although it’ll be early 2019 before we really start to see the impact this project has on the grid as a whole; many creators have yet to really embrace it, although there were certainly a lot of creative ideas put forward at the Content Creation User Group meetings.

The Lab’s post also focuses on the changes made to land pricing in SL – arguably the biggest set of changes in 2018. It’s fair to say  that overall, the response to changes both Mainland and Private regions has been positive. In fact, it could be one – and I emphasise one, because there are others – of the reasons people might be spending less: with limited disposal income, people may have diverted some of their Second life spending away from buying things and into premium memberships and  / or land.

For me, the big projects through 2018 and 2019 have been, and remain, the Environmental Enhancement Project (EEP) and the attempt to move Second Life to the cloud. The latter is hard to judge, as it is very much a behind-the-scenes move that has yet to really have an impact on the user-facing side of the platform. however, I fully expect we’ll be hearing more about it in 2019.

EEP, on the other hand, is something I think will help revolutionise the look of Second Life – even if not quite to the extent some may hope. As such, I’m actually more excited about this than Animesh (and have had great fun playing with EEP whilst it has been in beta testing).

In particular, it will finally bring environment control down to the parcel level, as well as allowing different environment settings at different altitudes. These two capabilities have, until EEP, been dependent on purely viewer-side support and limited to the use of the likes of Firestorm. With these capabilities now moving server-side, everyone gets to benefit from them, regardless of the viewer they’re using, and region / parcel holders finally get the opportunity to have users see their regions and locations as they desire (allow for people retaining the ability to override, viewer-side), and without having to request they change their viewer settings manually, or having to worry about whether or not the windlight they are using is generally available.

Again, EEP won’t be appearing fully until 2019, but the Lab’s blog post includes a nice little preview video by Silas Merlin that I’m taking the liberty of reproducing here.

For me, the most interesting part of the Lab’s blog post comes at the end, starting with a chart showing average concurrency over the last two years. It shows levels to be relatively stable.

Of course, there might be a temptation to offer contrasts between this chart and others that report more in the way of averages over shorter periods – such as those found on the Firestorm log-in screen or via infographics such as those shown on Tateru Nino’s stats pages (which appear to be recording again after having problems earlier in the year). However, given there is no actual benchmark for the Lab’s chart, such comparisons would be somewhat off-base; the chart isn’t designed to show averages or daily high-lows. It simply shows a 730-day period in which the peak daily log-ins (I would assume) have remained pretty constant, despite all the claims of falling numbers.

The Lab’s two-year concurrency chart

The flipside of this of course, is that equally, it’s hard to really judge such a broad trend like as this, simply because it is likely taken from one data point, be it peak daily log-ins or something else. For example: if it is tracking just peak log-ins, what were the daily minimums? How long per day were the peak periods? have there been any changes in this over the two years?

A more interesting stat is that for the amount of USD cashed-out. Put at $65 million, this is only $2 million less than that quoted for 2017, and still above the US $60 million for 2016. As such, it stands at odds with claims that the Second Life economy has been in some kind of slump during at least the second half of 2018, suggesting that things have been relatively stable overall. Which is not to say that some merchants haven’t seen a downturn in sales; but these could be the result of people shifting their spending habits more that not spending their money – see my comment re land, above.

The final two listings on the Marketplace and the Destination Guide make for interesting reading, but little more – although the fact that men’s apparel comes in 10th on the Marketplace  while women’s comes in second might be an interesting topic to plumb. Is it simply because there are fewer creators focusing on menswear, or is it a combination of fewer creators and male Second Life users perhaps being less driven by the demands of fashion?

As noted, I’ll have more on the technical and other updates to Second Life in an upcoming article, and for now will leave you to read the Lab’s summation in peace 🙂 .

LEA announces restructure

On Thursday, November 29th, 2018, the serving committee of the Linden Endowment for the Arts gave notices that the LEA will be undergoing restructuring, which will include – for the initial part of 2019 – the closure of the 20 Artist In Residence (AIR) regions currently held by the LEA (LEA 10 through 29).

The core part of the announcement reads as follows:

Come January 1st 2019, the Linden Endowment for the Arts, known as the LEA, will be temporarily closing its Artists in Residence regions (LEA 10 – 29) to allow for a major restructuring.

Over the last seven years, these regions have been open for artists who apply to build their dreams, each for a six month grant. We have seen many great installations here – and some that have attracted controversy.

The nine Core regions (which include the Theatre, the Sandbox and Photohunt) will remain for the present, and short-term grants will still be available in these regions for community-inspired arts projects.

Discussions between the present Committee and Linden Lab about the future form of the LEA are ongoing, but it is anticipated that there will be a new organising committee when the AiR regions re-open.

KÖMA – LEA 22, November 2018 – read here for more

While it is undeniable the LEA has done a huge amount of good for art and artists in Second Life, particularly those who would not otherwise be able to amount large-scale events, it has also not been without its own controversy and for – in some circles – gaining a reputation for being something of a “star chamber” in terms of the committee’s method of operation.

For example, in 2013, just 18 months after the LEA was formed under the tenure of Mark Kingdon as the Lab’s CEO, the former Community Manager, Mark Viale, was forced to step-in after public concerns and reported irregularities with how the LEA was being run. That resulted in the formation of the LEA Committee bylaws. Intended to offer transparency, the bylaws perhaps resulted in the opposite by allowing what were effectively closed-door meetings, few of which generated public transcripts or notes. The bylaws themselves became in part a subject of controversy in 2015, when they were quietly removed from the LEA website when the committee of the time was challenged under them, after a committee member griefed an art gallery (for the record, the bylaws can still be seen via  the Wayback machine).

Second Life 1999 / 2017 – The Story – LEA 25, 2017 – read more here

Given this, some might feel reviewing and revitalising the LEA is something that is well overdue; a view I would share. I would certainly hope that any new committee – allowing for any ideas Linden Lab may have – would seek to better engage with the broader arts communities across Second Life, and seek to go about its work with greater transparency with meetings and through the keeping of public records.

In the meantime, those wishing to apply to use one of the core regions, which are available for 3-month grants (longer by arrangement) can do so via the LEA Core Sim application page.

Thoughts on Flickr changes and Second Life, with a little advice from Berry

via Flickr.com

Update, November 5th: Today I received an e-mail from Flickr support which may be of interest to quarterly Pro account holders: The 30% one year discount on annual Pro subscriptions (available through until the end of November) is also available to those who opt to  switch from the quarterly plan to the annual plan. 

Quite a few people have registered disappointment over the recently announced changes being made to Flickr free accounts by new owners SmugMug.

Personally, I admit to finding Flickr has been good value for money as a Pro member. I’ve enjoyed unlimited storage (and could continue to do so) and – more particularly – ad-free browsing of the Flickr site, as well as a good level of support. True, I am a little narked that in August Flickr removed the grandfathered rate for Pro users (introduced when Yahoo decided to up free accounts from 200 photos to up to a terrabyte of storage) without apparently e-mailing all Pro users about the change; but, at the end of the day, even the increase still represents pretty reasonable value for a dedicated service that offers a solid platform for image sharing.

Further, the upping of Pro fees puts Flickr on a par with SmugMug’s Basic offering, allowing a fairer comparison between the two for those who might want to have a potentially more flexible approach to how they organise and share their images. For example, SmugMug’s offering includes customisable web page options for displaying images, a greater video length (20 minutes / 3Gb per video, rather than Flickr Pro’s 10 min maximum).

Of course, we all hate paying for something: but like Second Life, Flickr is a business, and as such, SmugMug need to ensure it remains viable. As such, the revisions to the free account are, at the end of the day, something of a reasonable balance: the provision of 1,000 free images is still 5 times the volume originally offered to free account holders at the time free accounts were extended to 1 Tb of storage, allowing what SmugMug to see as the majority of the free account users going without forcing them to upgrade, while it is not so excessive as to have Pro account holders looking elsewhere for a home given that the grandfathered rate for long-time Pro users has been rescinded.

In my piece covering the announcement by SmugMug I offered a link to Toms Guide’s recommended photo sharing sites for those SL users on Flickr free accounts who might be considering their options. Whether people decide to move or not is entirely a personal choice. But it is worth that given Flickr’s track record on frequency of changes, it’s likely there will be few additional pricing updates to the platform in the near future; thus, Flickr does still represent good value for money. Less that US $5.00 a month when paying annually, and US $6.00 a month for those on the quarterly plan (with the ability to make a swap to elsewhere with greater ease than annual subscribers are able to enjoy).

Even so, for those remaining with Flickr (either by limiting themselves to the free account or upping to Pro), there are some understandable concerns. In blogging about spam on Flickr, SmugMug came close to sounding as if digital images from the likes of Second Life would no longer be welcome. However, Don MacAskill, SmugMug’s CEO, has made it clear this is not the case.

Black Bayou Lake; Inara Pey, October 2018, on Flickr
SL images uploaded to Flickr should be labelled “Screenshots” to meet SmugMug’s Terms of Service requirements. Strawberry Singh has provided instructions on how to do this – also see the video below. Image: Black Bayou Lakeblog post)

But, as Strawberry Singh points out, in an exceptionally clear and concise blog post, in order to ensure SL images do not run afoul of SmugMug’s Terms of Service, it is essential they are correctly labelled as screen shots). Strawberry provides clear instructions on how to do this in her blog post. In addition, she also provides some important advice to Second Life Flirckr group owners, and for SL content creators using Flickr; as such I strongly recommend reading her post if you do intend to continue to use Flickr.

Berry has also produced a video on making the required changes to meet SmugMug’s TOS (together with other information), so I’ve taken the liberty of embedding it here for those who prefer a video guide to what needs to be done.

 

Private region price reduction: 2 weeks of grid growth but still early days

Strawberry Lake; Inara Pey, July 2018, on FlickrStrawberry Lakeblog post

It’s been two weeks since Linden Lab introduced the new pricing structure for private regions, and as Tyche Shepherd reports, her Grid Survey shows the grid has experienced its second consecutive week of net private region growth since the change came into effect.

In the week immediately following the introduction of the new pricing structure (Monday July 2nd through Sunday July 8th), the SL grid saw a net increase of 34 private regions, while in the week Monday July 9th through Sunday July 15th, the net increase was 35 private regions.

As Tyche indicates, these increases have helped slow the overall rate of private region attrition to just 0.3% – a net loss of 52 private regions between January 1st, 2018 and July 15th, 2018. By comparison, some 326 private regions were lost to the grid between January 1st and July 16th, 2017 (with an overall net loss of 667 private regions through the entire year).

The two weeks following the private reduction pricing changes have seen net increases in the number of regions on the grid. However, it’s still too early to call this a trend or draw significant conclusions. Credit: Tyche Shepherd

So, have regions losses turned a corner as a result of the price change?

Frankly, it is too soon to tell; two weeks is only two weeks – we need to see how things trend out over a longer period before anything can really be determined. A lot here will depend on how much of the tier reduction land rental businesses pass on to their tenants in order to make private rentals more appealing; something I noted in passing in Looking at the new private region and L$ fees. Plus, a simple count of region growth isn’t the entire story here.

Simply put, the private region pricing restructure will have seen the Lab take a reduction in monthly revenue generation. It’s questionable whether such a modest increase in region numbers, even when coupled with other options for increased revenue generation such as the Mainland price restructuring (with its possible attendant increase in Premium subscriptions) and the US $0.50 increase on L$ purchase transaction fees, has wholly overcome the immediate deficit of the tier rate cut.

Thus, while the uptick in private region count is a positive turn, it is too early to be celebrating. We’ll need another 4-6 weeks before we can start to get a genuine feel for how things are going as a whole. It will also be interesting to see how long new regions entering the grid remain in place or whether we see some rapid comings / goings month-to-month. I’m also curious as to how the restructuring affects the Full / Homestead product ratio on the grid, so will be looking to see if Tyche can provide some updates on this in the coming weeks / months.

In the meantime – and totally off-topic as far as private regions are concerned – I wonder if Tyche has had time to have a bop around Mainland to see how the abandoned land situation there is fairing? As of January 2018, abandoned land stood between 22% and 23% of all Mainland; it would be interesting to see how it now stands, some four months on from the Mainland price restructuring.