More Classic starter avatars for Second Life

The eight January 2019 start avatars (l to r): Gretchen, Monique, Trixie, Bitsy, Ashton, Leonard, Greg, Monty. Credit: Linden lab

As noted in an official blog post, Linden Lab has issued another set of new Starter avatars.

The eight new avatars are all of the “classic” type, using the basic Second Life system mesh, rather than dedicated mesh body parts (although they have mesh clothing items). Between them, they offer a mix of more “everyday” types – as the official blog post again notes, previous starter avatars heavy leaned more towards the fantasy side of things.

The eight characters are (in the order they appear in the Avatar Picker):

  • Bitsy (complexity 15,813) and Ashton (17,268): two twenty-somethings(?) with an up-and-coming urban air and style, complete with pet dogs.
  • Gretchen (complexity 29,332) and Leonard (10,656): two older characters in more formal wear.
  • Monty (complexity 19,016) and Trixie (14,732): two younger avatars with the look of teens or early twenties, Monty coming with an electric guitar.
  • Greg (complexity 10,733) and Monique (9,226): two possible ’70s throwbacks.

(Complexity figures include all attachments.)

All are, as per the Lab’s usual procedure, supplied with No Mod elements (although the shapes are Modify). Surprisingly, given recent additions to the starter avatars, no discernible AO are provided (although some have poses that are activated on wearing them), with Gretchen being the notable exception to this approach. This lack of AO leaves the avatars with the horrendous Duck Walk.

I also admit to being a little confused by the promo picture used for the avatars: it shows Ashton with his dog on a leash, but so far as I could tell, the only option supplied with the avatar is a “carry” version of the dog.

The January 2019 new starter avatars are the default choice on the Second Life sign-up page

As starter avatars, these new looks are directly available to new users accessing the Second Life sign-up page on the web. Those already in-world can take them for a spin from the Me (/ Avatar) menu, and then selecting Choose Avatar. This will bring up the avatar picker (shown expanded, below), which will automatically default to the eight new avatar styles, then simply pick on the one you want to try.

The eight January 2019 “classic” starter avatars in the viewer’s Avatar Picker

Selecting an avatar will see it replace your current look (so if it’s a new look you’ve put together and haven’t saved – be sure to do so first!), and add the avatar to your Clothing folder. Or, if you prefer, you can open Inventory and navigate to Library > Clothing > Initial Outfits > then right-click on the relevant folder name and select Replace Current Outfit. This will also cause the look to be worn and copied to your own Clothing folder.

Having a broad choice of starter avatars is a good thing; I’m just a little surprised these come largely sans an AO; in this respect they seem a little at odds to previous classic and mesh starter avatar updates.

 

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Bank of America user? Second Life might get you a cash back reward

R. Crap Mariner tapped me concerning a piece of information that might be of interest to those who use Bank of America credit Cards. I’ll let Crap explain:

Bank of America changed their rewards card 3% cashback category from gas to a user choice from a list. since I recently bought a plug in hybrid car and barely use any gas, I changed it from gas to on-line shopping. thought it would just hit Amazon purchases, but turns out that LL/SL counts too? hope it’s real and not just a glitch.

To demonstrate, Crap sent me a copy of part of his most recent credit card build, showing the 3% cash back against a Second Life payment to Linden Lab.

A Bank of America credit card payment and the 3% cashback earned on it. Courtesy of R. Crap Mariner

Crap continues:

It’s the first month of them doing the flexible categories at 3%. Most credit card bonus offers don’t treat it as on-line shopping, but BOA appears to, but they might close this loophole. We’ll see.

So, if you do have a Bank of America credit card you use for Second Life purchases such as payment of tier, you might want to check your statements or arrange to have any cash back option to on-line shopping / purchases.

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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Linden Lab confirm Second Life iOS client in the making

Logos copyright and Trademark Linden Lab and Apple Inc., respectively

On January 9th, 2019, and thanks to a pointer from Whirly Fizzle, I blogged Lab working on a Second Life iOS client? noting that a Bit Bucket code repository had recently been set-up by Brad Linden for just such a purpose.

In writing the piece, which includes some of the Lab’s recent commentary of the subject of mobile / streaming solutions for Second Life, I indicated that I had contacted Linden Lab with a series of questions concerning the repository and what it might signify, and that I’d provide an update on receiving any reply.

Being so early into the work, the Lab declined to comment on all of the questions I asked, but here is what they did say via-email in responding to my enquiry:

As you point out, we discussed at our Town Hall events last year that we’re actively looking at ways to extend the reach of Second Life to new audiences including mobile platforms. For example, we’re in the early stages of work on an iOS companion app for Second Life.  

Right now we’re focused on getting a prototype out to our Residents, at which point we’ll be looking for feedback and suggestions. In the early stages, we will not be tying the app to a streaming service. However, we don’t have anything to formally announce yet about the specific features, capabilities, and availability.

– Brett Linden,  Second life Marketing Manager, via e-mail

Granted, it’s not a lot of information, but there are a couple of potentially interesting elements to the statement that might help contextualise things /  be indicative of some of the thinking still in place at the Lab. For example, the use of the term mobile platforms and noting that that the iOS work is offered as an example of this work.

This would perhaps suggests (and in answer to some of the questions asked following my original piece) that an Android client is still part of the Lab’s thinking. Certainly, it is something I’d anticipate, given both the popularity of the Android platform and the popularity of Lumiya and Mobile Grid Client*.

I also found the comment In the early stages, we will not be tying the app to a streaming service interesting, suggesting as it does that a future streaming solution is still very much part of the Lab’s broader thinking.

Again, this would make sense given the ongoing move of SL to the cloud. As well as providing the means to deliver SL as a whole to users, the cloud move further deepens the Lab’s relationship with AWS. This might in turn allow them to more positively and cost-effectively (to both the Lab and to users) supply a streaming service to mobile devices and web browsers at some point in the future. Perhaps this might even be part of a broader examination of their product offerings once Second Life is firmly established within a cloud-based infrastructure.

So, food for thought; in the meantime. I’ll continue to update on the iOS work as / if / when news emerges.

* I’m intentionally avoiding LightSight here, as it is questionable as to whether the app is still being maintained and the repeated complaints that users have been unable to log-in since the last update (October 2016).

Lab working on a Second Life iOS client?

We’re in the early discussion stages, so Grumpity and I – Grumpity who heads-up Product here for Second Life – we talk quite a bit about what it would mean to invest in a mobile Second Life experience or product. So we’re trying to figure out how to validate the idea, and how much would it take to do it, and what could the value be to us and to customers to do it.

– Ebbe Altberg, April 20th, 2018 Town Hall meeting

I’m leading with the above quote because in the early hours of Wednesday, January 9th, 2019 (UK time), Whirly Fizzle directed me towards a Linden Lab code repository on Bit Bucket, which reveals that work has apparently started on an iOS client for Second Life.

The repository has been posted by Brad Linden, and shows some initial code segments Brad has been working on.

Brad Linden’s Bit Bucket repository for the iOS Client. Note I’ve redacted his given last name and some other information in respect of his privacy (although I understand it has also been posted to the forums)

That the Lab could start work on a mobile solution has in some ways been heralded over the course of the past 12 months, with Ebbe and senior SL managers openly discussing thoughts and possible options.

In his April 2018 discussion, for example, Ebbe pointed out that at that time, there were still issues the Lab wanted to address in trying to develop a mobile client, including what kind of investment it would be, both monetarily and resource-wise, and what the return on investment might be gained for the effort, as well as trying to figure out how such a client might be used.

I think the main question is if it would really primarily be a companion for existing users, so therefore increase the time spent in engagement and commerce. Or would it be an opportunity to actually reach users who don’t even have PCs and Macs, and would that be an addressable market, is something we have to wrap our heads around.

– Ebbe Altberg, April 20th, 2018 Town Hall meeting

By June, and the SL15B Meet the Lindens talks, it was clear that the Lab was thinking long and hard about the merits of both mobile and streaming solutions, with Grumpity and Oz openly discussing both.

– Grumpity and Oz Linden discussing mobile / streaming options at SL15B, June 2018

Both the question of how a mobile  / streamed solution might be developed and used was also a topic Ebbe returned to in his SL15B session in June 2018. Like Oz and Grumpity, he pointed to a previous streamed solution, SL Go (Grumpity and Oz referenced Bright Canopy, which was founded after SL Go had ceased to be available).

– Ebbe Altberg  discussing mobile / streaming options at SL15B, June 2018

Whether the repository indicates the Lab has now answered those questions and is ready to go ahead with an iOS client, or whether it is another aspect of testing the water and seeing what can be done, code-wise is unclear. I also freely admit to being insufficiently versed in code to guess whether this work is geared towards a dedicated iOS client, or part of a larger streaming option.

Turning to the man who is fronting the project, Brad Linden joined Linden Lab a the time of the Windlight integration over 11 years ago, and since that time has been focused on viewer development, specifically in the area of viewer stability.  Interestingly, the first indication that the Lab might be ready to move beyond talking about a mobile client came in December 2018, when Brad changed his Second Life Display Name from Brad Linden to Mobile Brad.

Brad Linden changed his display name to Mobile Brad in December 2018

I have contacted the Lab about the repository and what might be coming out of it placed with the Lab, and will update should a reply be received.

In the meantime, until such time as Linden Lab do clarify the work, it shouldn’t be assumed any kind of iOS client is about to be released in the immediate future. However, that the Lab is working on code would appear to be a positive sign, again given Ebbe’s words at the April Town Hall.

I hope will come to the conclusion to jump in soon; so more to come on that.

– Ebbe Altberg, April 20th, 2018 Town Hall meeting

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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