A further look at Tilia and their new client, Upland

via Linden Lab / Tilia

In preparing my piece on Tilia Pay and the changes coming to US dollar transactions related to Second Life (see: Tilia Pay to handle all Second Life USD-related transactions), I had the opportunity to take a look at the updated website for Tilia Inc., Linden Lab’s wholly owned subsidiary.

For those who may not be familiar with it, Tilia Inc, was established by Linden Lab in 2014, focused on payments and the compliance work associated with operating virtual economies, including Second Life and Sansar. And now, as shown within the updated Tilia website, it is to provide its services to its first client not to have a direct link to Linden Lab, the property trading game Upland.

For those unfamiliar with Upland (I was until I looked them up), available via browsers and on Android and iOS, it is a trading game in which players buy, develop, sell and / or trade virtual properties that are based on real-world addresses.

The Upland… mascot(?)

Currently focused on the city of San Francisco, Upland is built on the EOS blockchain protocol. It entered a closed beta in June 2019, which ran through until the end of that year. During that period, the company added their own virtual currency – UPX – in August of that year, which users could collect as a reward and in return for collecting properties.

At the start of 2020, the game entered an open beta available to any wishing to play it, and added the ability for users to purchase UPX using selected cryptocurrencies.

The partnership with Tilia means that from later in 2020, Upland will be adding the ability for users to trade their virtual properties (and, I understand, goods associated with those properties) for fiat money (this is, US dollar values), through the Upland marketplace and to cash-out those US dollars, with Tilia Pay being the mechanism by which they do so.

In add the use of fiat money is seen as providing a further layer of value to the game, as Upland’s co-founder Dirk Lueth explained to VentureBeat’s Dean Takahashi in an article that went to press while I was drafting this piece:

By using fiat currency, Upland can stay in compliance with money transmission regulations in the U.S. And in this way, players can actually own the digital goods and properties they buy in Upland … If the game ever shuts down, the players will theoretically be able to take their property and move it elsewhere, in contrast to other games where players don’t really own the objects that they build or trade.

It is Tilia’s ability to provide services fully in compliance with U.S. regulatory requirements, including anti-money laundering, sanctions monitoring, and fraud prevention that could well make it a popular potential partner among companies offering their users to buy / sell virtual goods, as it provides said companies with the ability for their users (and themselves ) to profit in real terms from such virtual transactions.

I’d actually first speculated on the potential for Tilia being used by companies other than the Lab itself back in November 2015. It was was a subject I returned to again in July 2019, again referencing comments made to me in 2015 by the Lab’s former Director of Global Communications, Peter Gray:

Peter’s [2015] 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.

– This blog, July 2019

More recently, Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg made it clear we would be seeing a growing client list for Tilia at a couple of public events, include the 2020 VWBPE Above The Book session in commenting about Sansar’s future, he also referenced Tilia.

We’re partners with them [Wookey Project Corp] because they’re using Tilia for payments / payouts just like Second Life is doing, and Tilia will have more and more customers over time. We have several of them lined up to be integrated to get those payment services.

– Ebbe Altberg, March 2020

As such, it will be interesting to see who else opts to leverage Tilia / Tilia Pay in support of their platform / game / product in the coming months / year.

In terms of Tilia itself, the website offers a view of the management team – perhaps the first since Vick Forcella helped me with digging into the early days of the company as a Linden Lab subsidiary in November 2015.  Back then, Tilia’s management team was pretty broad, encompassing multiple members of the Lab’s management team, and a small board of three.

Today, the management team is down to three people – Aston Waldman (the Lab’s CFO), Emily Stonehouse (the Lab’s Chief Compliance Officer) and Ray Johnson (the Lab’s VP of Engineering). Aston Waldman is also a member of Tilia’s board, alongside of Kelly Conway (Linden Lab’s former General Council), and fintech compliance and product leader Ben Duranske (the only “non-Linden”, so to speak).

The Tilia Management team and board. Top: Aston Waldman (Tilia CEO and board member as well as Linden Lab’s CFO); Emily Stonehouse (Chief Compliance Officer at Tilia Inc and LL); Ray Johnson (VP Engineering for LL and Tilia) – the management team. Bottom: board members Kelly Conway and Ben Duranske

Also included on the site are a couple of press articles that cover the threat of money laundering through on-line games, helping to further explain the value of services such as those provided by Tilia, and both of which make for interesting reading.

I’ll continue to report on Tilia as news becomes available.

Related Links

Tilia Pay to handle all Second Life USD-related transactions

via Linden Lab

In July 2019, Tilia Incorporated, a wholly owned subsidiary of Linden Lab, officially took over the management of activities such as processing credit out of second Life (that is, withdrawing funds as US dollar balances the platform), and and US dollar balances held by Second Life users (see: Tilia has officially launched operations with Second Life*, August 2019).

Now, in an expansion of Tilia’s role with Second Life, Linden Lab has announced that as from Monday, May 26th, Tilia Inc, via its Tilia Pay platform, will be managing all US dollar transactions related to Second Life, including those involving conversion of funds to other currencies.

This means that, as from Monday, May 26th, anyone:

  • Making a payment through one of their indicated payment methods – credit card, debit card, PayPal, or Skrill (as indicated on their Second Life account), such as purchasing Linden dollars
  • Adding a new payment method to their Second Life account

Will be consenting to the Tilia Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

The change is being driven to both comply with regulatory requirements across a number of U.S. states and to leverage he enhanced fraud and money laundering safeguards that Tilia Pay provides.

The important things to note here are:

  • All Second Life users should be familiar with the Tilia Pay Terms of Service (and Not just those who have either a US dollar balance associated with their account and / or cash-out money from SL).
  • Users will not be explicitly asked to confirm their agreement with the Tilia ToS / Privacy Policy. Rather, when paying with a payment method (e.g. credit card) or adding a new payment method to an account, a users will see text stating that by proceeding with the transaction, they are agreeing to both the ToS and Privacy Policy.
  • This move does not:
    • Introduce any new fees.
    • Require users to submit any additional information to Tilia Incorporated or Linden Lab.
    • Change how L$ transactions are conducted in the Viewer or in the Marketplace.

Readers are asked to read the Lab’s official blog post on the change for further information relating to it. In addition, questions or concerns should be directed to the forum thread on the matter – questions cannot be officially answered through this blog.

Related Links

Sansar’s sale and Tilia Inc: Ebbe Altberg reveals more on both

Speaking at the Above the Book session at the 2020 Virtual Worlds Brest Practices in Education conference on March 26th, and again during the Lab Gab episode 19 segment that aired on Friday, March 27th, Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg revealed more about the about the sale of Sansar and the future of that platform. Also during the VWBPE session, he revealed something of the future path for Tilia Inc, the Lab’s subsidiary company.

The following is an amalgam of his comments during both sessions, complete with a quotes, audio extracts from the VWBPE Above the Book session, references to source material and supporting links.

Sansar’s Sale

Summary

The decision to sell Sansar came, at least in part, from the recognition that as a platform, it lay at a very different stage of its evolution compared to Second Life, requiring different investment and resourcing¹.

With the decision made, the Sansar team were apparently given the freedom to attempt to raise money / seek interested parties in order to keep the platform going (hence, perhaps, Ebbe Altberg’s February 12th comment that the former Sansar team were involved in discussions concerning the platform’s future – see the quote in Sansar: lay-offs, rumours, and confusion, February 12th, 2020)².

As it is, with the sale of Sansar, some 30 members of the team have (so far?) received offers to join Wookey Project Corp, and as of the March 27th Lab Gab session, “a bunch of them” are back to work¹. In support of this, I noted in a recent blog post that Sansar’s Community Manager, Galileo, appears to already be part of the Wookey Sansar team, having posted the Sansar blog post referenced below. Further, both Sheri Bryant and Julia Munck, formerly Sansar’s General Manager and Sansar’s VP of Product respectively at Linden Lab, have departed the company – presumably to join Wookey Project Corp.

It appears that the focus for the platform will potentially remain on it being a platform for large scale virtual events in the music / entertainment sectors, and that both desktop and VR support will be continued – although obviously, strategy and direction are now the remit of Sansar’s new owners.

Linden Lab will remain a “partner”, inasmuch as Tilia will continue to be used for Sanasr Dollar transactions and fiat money payouts (see more on Tilia below)¹ ².

Ebbe’s Comments – VWBPE Above the Book

To make the long story short about Sansar, we at Linden Lab decided to sell it and to give the team the chance to go raise funds and go it alone. I think it’s easier for them to go raise money as a separate stand-alone company rather than as a part of Linden Lab. Second Life is a very established, profitable, product and we kind-of had a start-up inside of an established, profitable company. And it was actually easier for them, I think, to raise money as a standalone, rather than as a part of Linden Lab.

So … the staff that worked on Sansar are all getting offers by the new entity to come back and start working on Sansar again, and I think they’ve started this week, so I’m super happy that the product and the technology and the team all get a chance to continue … and it makes it easier for Linden Lab and Sansar to both succeed, I think, going forward. I’m happy for the way things ended up in the end.

References

  1. Lab Gab – 0:40-3:00.
  2. VWBPE 2020 Above the Book – 49:55-51:47.

Additional Links

Tilia Comments

We are all likely familiar with Tilia Inc., Linden Lab’s subsidiary that handles all micro-transactions and payments /payouts related to Linden Dollars and Sansar Dollars, and which manages the Lab’s compliance with regulations relating to its role as a Money Transmitter / Money Services Business (MSB).

Tilia officially launched on Thursday August 1st, 2019, having been formally introduced to SL users in July 2019 – although as I noted at the time, SL and Sansar users may have had some awareness of its existence as the Tilia Inc., logo had been on both the SL and Sansar web pages related to L$ and S$ account purchases and Sansar account management for some time. For my part, I’d been speculating about the company since November 2015, and did so again in July 2019, when I noted that Tilia appeared to be geared towards providing its services to other companies.

I first ruminated on Tilia being a means for Linden Lab to offer virtual economy solutions in July 2019, as a result of the (fairly obvious!) clue on the Tilia home page

Whilst speaking at the VWBPE Above the Book event, Ebbe indicated that with the sale of Sansar, Wookey Project Corp is effectively Linden Lab’s first customer for Tilia’s services, as the latter will continue to provide payment / payout capabilities for those using Sansar and the Sansar Dollar.

In addition, he also indicated more customers for Tilia are on the way:

We’re partners with them [Wookey Project Corp] because they’re using Tilia for payments / payouts just like Second Life is doing, and Tilia will have more and more customers over time. We have several of them lined-up to be integrated to get those payment services.

No specific details on which companies are planning to use  Tilia, I’ll hopefully have more as they are announced.

Tilia has officially launched operations with Second Life*

via Linden Lab

Tilia Inc, the a wholly-owned subsidiary of Linden Lab formed in 2014 and focused on payments and the compliance work associated with operating virtual economies, including Second Life and Sansar, officially commenced operations in respect of Second Life on Thursday August 1st, 2019.

Linden Lab reminded users of this via an official blog post, Tilia Officially Begins Operations Today in Second Life.

In my summary of the Tilia Town Hall meeting of Friday, July 12th, I attempted to précis the impact of the changes and how they affect people with a simple set of notes. I’m reproducing that table below, updated with information from the Lab’s August 1st blog post, in what I hope is an easy-to-follow guide.

How Do the Tilia Changes Affect YOU?

+++ If you have a US dollar balance associated with your Second Life account +++

You are required to accept the Tilia Terms of Service on or before October 31st, 2019.

If you do not accept the Tilia Terms of Service by October 31st, 2019 you  will not be able to utilise your USD balance or request a process credit until such time as you do accept the Tilia TOS.

+++ If you add a US Dollar balance to your Second Life account AFTER October 31st, 2019 +++

You will required to accept the Tilia Terms of Service in order to utilise that balance. 

+++ In Addition +++

If you wish to credit process all or any part of a US dollar balance (that is, transfer it out of Second Life to PayPal or Skrill or another supported method), and have not already provided personal information to Linden Lab you will be required to submit said information.

To check whether Tilia has the required information on file in order for you to be able to process credit, please refer to: Tilia: how to ensure your process credit information is on file.

+++ If you do not have a US dollar balance associated with your Second Life account +++

You do not have to consent to the Tilia Terms of Service
(unless you subsequently wish to make use of a US dollar balance).

Users should also read the Tilia Privacy Policy.

With reference to non-acceptance of the Tilia Terms of Service by those with US dollar balances associated with their Second Life account after October 31st 2019:

  • They will still be able to log-in to Second Life.
  • They will still be able to use any payment method they have on file to pay for services (e.g. purchase Linden Dollars, pay Premium membership or tier).
  • It is only their US dollar balance that they will be unable to utilise.

Related Information

Via Linden Lab

Tilia Related Articles, This Blog

* Note: I actually held off blogging on this on August 1st as there was some ambiguity in the original wording of the Lab’s blog post which might have been taken to mean that user not accepting the Tilia Terms of Service by October 31st, 2019 would lose all access to their US dollar balances in perpetuity. As a result of discussions with the Lab, the blog post was revised on August 2nd to clarify the point that users will be unable to utilise their US dollar balances at October 31st until they accept the Tilia Terms of Service.

Linden Lab: more information about privacy and security in Tilia

via Linden Lab / Tilia

On Friday, July 19th, tucked away in the Tools and Technology section of the official Second Life blog, Soft Linden posted Information About Privacy and Security in Tilia.

His blog post follows on from the Tilia Town Hall meeting of Friday, July 12th, and explores more about Tilia Inc., itself and the issue of data security, which has been a topic raised at both the Town Hall and in the official Q&A forum thread.

Key questions addressed by the blog post comprise:

  • Where did the Tilia team come from? And why should I trust Tilia with my personal information?
  • Does Tilia change how my information is secured?
  • It sounds like a lot has changed at once. Aren’t large changes risky?
  • What does Tilia mean for Second Life privacy and security in the future?

The Tilia team is made up of people you previously knew as Linden Lab employees. We’re part of this team because we are passionate about privacy and security. Tilia includes employees who use Second Life alts in our free time. We know many of you as friends and creators in Second Life. So not only are our practices aimed at complying with an ever expanding list of U.S. regulations and laws, but we strive to go above and beyond. We want to protect the best interests of ourselves, our friends, and the countless Residents who support the world we love. We fully believe that Second Life wouldn’t be possible without working to earn your trust.

– Soft Linden, Where did the Tilia team come from? And why should I trust
Tilia with my personal information?

From my perspective, the post looks beyond the former introduce of Tilia into the lives of Second Life users in August to future intents with the company and its ability to both support Second Life and Linden Lab.

While we have already moved regulated information out of Second Life and into Tilia, we are actively migrating additional forms of information. Now that we have a new privacy and security foundation, we can extend the amount of information that enjoys this level of protection. If it pertains to your real life identity, we believe in leveraging Tilia protection wherever possible.

Aside from ensuring compliance with upcoming privacy and security regulations, our early goals are largely driven by Second Life. These goals include the option for users to select stronger authentication mechanisms, better mechanisms for our team to identify callers who request account help, and additional tools which support our fraud protection team.

– Soft Linden, What does Tilia mean for Second Life privacy and security in the future?

This would seems to suggest that Tilia might be the mechanism by which Linden Lab try to implement something that has oft been raised at various in-world user group meetings and at various chat sessions and town halls: two-factor authentication for accessing user accounts via the various Second Life web properties (secondlife.com dashboard, SL marketplace, etc), – but again, I emphasise this is purely speculation on my part.

Tucked between the two paragraphs quoted above, Soft also touches on s subject I’ve previously speculated on in Tilia – a further look and a little more speculation. – Tilia and opportunities for Linden Lab to extend their business and revenue-generating models:

We designed Tilia to support additional business customers, so we are able to justify larger privacy and security projects to benefit new business customers and existing Second Life Residents alike.

– Soft Linden, What does Tilia mean for Second Life privacy and security in the future?

But speculation aside, and while it may not address all questions relating to Second Life and Tilia, Information About Privacy and Security in Tilia should be read directly and in full by anyone affected by, or who may be curious / concerned about, the upcoming changes that come into effect from August 1st, 2019.

Related Information

Via Linden Lab

Tilia Related Articles, This Blog

Tilia Inc and Second Life: town hall summary and video

via Linden Lab

Update, August 1st: please also refer to this August 1st blog post from Linden Lab: Tilia Officially Begins Operations Today in Second Life.

On Friday July 12th Linden Lab hosted a town hall meeting on the subject of Tilia Inc., and forthcoming changes will affect those who have a US dollar (USD) balance associated with their Second Life account, and / or who transfer US dollar amounts out of Second Life.

The session involved:

  • Grumpity Linden (Senior Director of Product)
  • Patch Linden (Senior Director of Product Operations),

The session was moderated by Brett Linden, Head of Marketing for Second Life.

The following is a summary of that meeting, which addressed questions asked both through the official Tilia Q&A forum thread and during the meeting itself concerning Tilia and the announced changes.

Questions were selected on the basis of how broad an audience they might affect. Numerous questions of an account-specific nature, or applicable to specific country circumstances had been received (and were put forward at the meeting); however, due to the very specific nature of any answers relating to them, these were deferred with the recommendation that all such specific questions such be filed with support.

It was also noted that questions will also continue to be addressed through the official Tilia Q&A forum thread going forward.

A note on the structure of this summary

The format of the event – including questions being asked multiple times, and  / or not being grouped together means that this is not a full transcript of the session.

Instead, I have attempted to gather questions into logical topic headings and provide bullet-points of responses, together with direct quotes from either Grumpity or Patch where I felt they might offer greater clarity.

In addition, the video of the event ad recorded by Peetie Auer of SL4Live – TV is embedded at the end of this article, for those who would prefer to watch it. In addition, topics and questions in recorded in this summary include time stamps to the video. This will open the video in a separate browser tab and at the relevant point in the meeting, to again allow responses to be heard first-hand.

My thanks to Peetie for agreeing to my use of the video.

Summary: How Do the Tilia Changes Affect YOU?

If you have a US dollar balance associated with your Second Life Account on August 1st, 2019, or if you add a US Dollar balance to your Second Life account on or after August 1st, 2019 (e.g. by converting Linden Dollars to US dollars via the LindeX):

You will be required to consent to the Tilia Terms of Service.

In addition, if you wish to credit process all or any part of that US dollar balance (that is, transfer it out of Second Life to PayPal or Skrill or another supported method) on or after August 1st, 2019, and have not already provided personal information to Linden Lab as a part of the credit process:

You will be required to provide personal information as outlined in Linden Lab’s July 1st blog post and listed in the Tilia FAQ.

[Video: 46:05-47:00]

(Note: you do not have to provide personal information if you have  US dollar balance as of August 1st but  never transfer funds out of Second Life – as per the note above, you will only need to agree to the Tilia Terms of Service.)

If you do not have a US dollar balance associated with your Second Life account on or after August 1st, 2019, and only buy L$ amounts:

You will not have to consent to the Tilia Terms of Service nor will you be required to provide any additional information to Tilia.

 

If you have a US dollar (USD) balance associated with your Second Life account on or after August 1st, 2019 you must consent to the Tilia Terms of Service. In addition, if you transfer out all or part of that USD balance on or after August 1st, 2019 you will be required to provide personal information in order to do so (see the July 1st official Tilia blog post and the Tilia FAQ for details on the required information). Note: the USD balance given hre is for illustrative purposes only

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What Is Tilia Inc?

[Video: 2:01-3:28]

Tilia Inc., is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Linden Lab. It was formed in 2014 and is focused on payments and the compliance work associated with operating virtual economies. As a part of this, it will provide services for both Second Life and Sansar.

Specifically in reference to Second Life, Tilia Inc., will, from August 1st, 2019, take over the management of all US dollar (USD) account balances user may have associated with Second Life. As such, it is central to the Lab’s work in seeking federal and state registration as a US Money Transmitter a form of regulated Money Service Business – MSB) 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 joined the company as CEO.

Note: while it is not relevant to this meeting or how users’ USD account balances are managed, I have written (and speculated) more broadly about Tilia Inc., in Tilia – a further look and a little more speculation.

The “Tilia Account” and “Tilia Wallet” / “US Dollar Wallet”

[Video: 3:30-4:50]

Two terms that have caused confusion amount users are “Tilia Account” and “Tilia Wallet” / “USD Wallet”.

  • The Tilia Account is the mechanism that will be used, from August 1st, 2019 to manage all US Dollar balances associated with Second Life (viewed via Account > Account Summary on your Dashboard at secondlife.com) and for managing transferring US dollar amounts from Second Life (viewed via Account > Credit Process on your Dashboard at secondlife.com).
    • You are effectively logged-in to it when you log-in to your Second Life account at secondlife.com. There is no separate “Tilia log-in” required.
  • The Tilia Wallet  / US Dollar Wallet is, in simple terms, the US dollar balance associated with a Second Life account.
    • By default all “real money” balances (referred to as fiat money) held on a Second Life account is denominated in US dollars (USD).
    • Processing credit from Second Life (referred to as cashing out by many in the community) is expressed in US dollars, but can be converted to local currency by your preferred payment option (e.g. PayPal).

Does Tilia Affect Those Who Only Buy and Use Linden Dollars?

[Video: 11:44-12:16 – see also Linden Dollar / Direct Payment Questions, below]

  • No.
  • There is no need to provide any additional information to Linden Lab for purchasing L$.
  • Users can still purchase L$ amounts exactly as they have done prior to the August 1st, 2019 changes – through the viewer, via the Second Life LindeX web page, using credit cards and or other recorded payment options associated with their account.
  • Users are only affected if users have US Dollar balances, on or after August 1st, 2019, and / or who wsh to process credit their USD balances out of SL.

The changes specifically apply to USD credit processing and there’s no impact on the routine purchase of Linden Dollars we don’t need your ID we don’t need your sisters maiden name we don’t need your first-born and don’t even need a blood sample. You will continue to buy Linden Dollars as you did before.

– Grumpity Linden [video: 11:44]

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Tilia Terms of Service

[Video: 7:17-9:00]

Only those who have a USD wallet [balance] need to accept the Tilia Terms of Service and if you are one of those people then you will see the Tilia Terms of Service and [you will] need to accept them when you log into your account on the web.

– Grumpity Linden [video: 7:39]

How do users with US Dollar balances on their account consent to the Tilia Terms of Service? – By logging-in to their account via the secondlife.com website.

What if a user doesn’t want to consent to the Tilia Terms of Service?

So if you don’t have a USD balance and you don’t plan on having a USD balance and you will not sell Linden Dollars to acquire a USD balance, you don’t need to do anything. You will not be required to accept the terms of service and literally nothing changes.

If you do currently have a USD balance and you don’t want to accept the Tilia Terms of Service, you need to basically get rid of it; you need to either complete a process credit of your entire USD balance before August 1st, or spend that USD balance in Second Life. You can buy Linden [Dollars], pay for land, pay for a Premium membership etc. If you have a USD balance come August 1st, you will need to accept the Tilia Terms of Service.

– Grumpity Linden [video: 8:13]

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