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.

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“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).

=======

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

High Fidelity changes direction: the reality of VR worlds today (& tomorrow?)

Philip Rosedale, High Fidelity founder and CEO (centre left) addresses the weekly General Assembly meeting in High Fidelity, Friday, April 5th, 2019. Credit: High Fidelity

On Friday, April 5th, Philip Rosedale stunned attendees at High Fildelity’s weekly General Assembly meeting (see the video here and embedded at the end of the article), when he announced that the company would no longer be sitting within the content creation / public space provisioning area with its platform, and that forthwith all public spaces hosted by the company, together with the large-scale events they have been hosting would cease as the company switches tracks to focus sole on software / platform development.

The news was greeted with a sense of shock by High Fidelity users, and the company certainly moved very quickly to follow through on the announcement, shutting down all of the public spaces it has hosted, included social spaces and their flagship Avatar Island, which opened just over a year ago as a means of showcase virtual commerce, shopping and the power of the platform’s micro payments capabilities (see Commerce in High Fidelity, this blog, February 2018).

One of the driving forces behind the decision is that High Fidelity is currently unable to gain major traction – and this despite major pushes to do so with some large-scale events pushed out to the media for promotion, and the former monthly stress tests of the system, trying to push concurrency rates up to determine just how well High Fidelity domains can handle multiple hundreds of avatars. Which is not to say all events are coming to an end: the platform’s popular bingo sessions are set to continue and – taking a leaf from Sansar’s book – High Fidelity is promoting coverage of the first operational launch of the SpaceX Falcon Heavy rocket with an in-world event on Thursday, April 11th.

High Fidelity have, until now, straddled themselves across the software development, content creation and event hosting environments in both trying to generate an audience for their platform and develop the platform itself. Going forward, they plan to focus solely on the latter

However, moving away from large-scale event hosting and hosting domains and environments to try to encourage user growth and instead turning to users and (I assume) suitable partners for audience-generating content, means the company will no longer be pulling against itself trying to both develop the software and platform and provide engaging content and events intended to acquire an audience and encourage their retention.

Which, when you think about it, is pretty much what Linden Lab have, for the most part, been trying to do with Sansar. While the company have provided various social spaces, for the most part they have left content development to users, or have facilitated content creation on behalf of partner organisations (Intel, HTC, the Smithsonian, OpTic Gaming, Roddenberry Entertainment to name a handful) through Sansar Studios – and it has recently been indicated that we’ll be seeing more of this in the future.

One potential benefit of the move for High Fidelity deomain creators is the move will hopefully spur more interest in their environments, as Rosedale noted:

By shutting down our public servers, I actually make the prediction that there will be… more people concurrent across the servers that you guys run than us. So I’m not saying that we’re giving up on the servers, I’m saying that I want you to run them.

– Philip Rosedale, April 5th, 2019

Another aspect of the decision is the slow growth of VR in the broader public marketplace. In this, High Fidelity is possibly more vulnerable than other platforms, in that while it has a Desktop option, it has largely marketed itself as “the” VR virtual spaces company. All of their major event activities; for example, the monthly One Billion in VR events, the FutVRe Lands festival, etc. (bold emphasis my own), have all been VR-centric in their titles, potentially spurring a feeling among a broader audience that High Fidelity isn’t for them due to the lack of any personal HMD.

One of the factors influence High Fidelity’s decision is the slow take-up of consumer VR

Which is not so say others platform built to try to ride the wave of VR don’t also face issues building an audience. For example, much is made of the “success” of VRChat (which can be played both in VR and via desktop), yet the fact is, its average and peak hourly concurrency is only roughly one tenth that of Second Life. But, having said that, the take up is likely to come in time. In fact, as I’ve noted in other articles on VR, right now there are clear niche markets / environments where VR can have a significant impact  – if someone can leverage them correctly: education; training / simulation; architecture / design / prototyping; healthcare; visualisation and computer modelling, etc. And in the future, as VR / AR (or more particularly MR / XR)  do start to gain a broader consumer audience traction, then opportunities for broader virtual environments will arise.

There is perhaps a broader take-way from the High Fidelity announcement: and that is, companies like High Fidelity, Linden Lab, Altspace VR, etc, are likely to face something of an uphill battle to gain an audience for their emerging platforms, even when VR does gain a firmer consumer foothold.

This is not Second Life in 2004. Second Life actually took off like a rocket, once it got working. Even though it had tons and tons of problems… but it took off like an absolute rocket. And the reason that it did, I think, was that this experience of bringing a lot of people together and letting them build things together live, well, in the time frame when we built Second Life, it had never, ever been seen by anyone …

The problem we have today is that that’s just not true. The internet affords us many, many, many, many different ways to be together as people, for example, or just to chat. And so one of the things we are up against here is that there is not as much of a genesis moment … Coming on-line you just don’t have the kind of meme in the sense of a grand or cultural meme kind of written out there like Second Life did. That doesn’t mean that we’re not going to make it. It simply means that we have to be more clever and the strategy that we use to get people in here has to be somewhat different.

– Philip Rosedale, April 5th, 2019

In other words, Second Life has been successful because, at the time of its birth and in the years of its initial growth, it was largely unique on all fronts in the way it captured people’s imaginations*, and its broadness of scope and its ability to embrace people’s imaginations and desires meant it could gather an audience to its shores long before anything came along to seriously challenge it.

This is no longer the case. Today, the digital realms we have at our fingertips are limitless, be they for gaming, socialising, sharing, entire virtual environments, and so on. Whatever we might be seeking, the chances are there is already something there to sate appetites. Even creators can build and mod for a range of games and environments and – through the likes of Unity and Unreal and so on – build environments, all without necessarily getting too hung up on arcane tools built-in to platforms.

Thus, and even if / when VR does become far more consumer mainstream, any attempt to build a world-girdling, audience-rich metaverse is going to face something of a challenge without a significant fiscal weight behind it. Not just in terms of developing the technology, but also into the marketing and PR and – most importantly – the licensing of content. To put this last point another way: were OASIS real, would all the models, characters, and so on from major franchises / brands seen within it really be user-built, or would they more likely be the result of hefty licensing deals that brings the content to the platform whilst protecting the rights (and royalties) of the licensors?

But this is looking further down the road. Right now, High Fidelity’s decision is worth marking; how much of a wider impact it has is a matter yet to be seen.

* Revised, from the original after Will Burns correctly reminded me Active Worlds predated SL.

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.

Related Links

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 2018 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 2019, and actually expected numbers for the year to decline (albeit far more slowly than previous years); so what do I know?  🙂 .

Related Links

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 🙂 .