Second Life

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Second Life (abbreviated as SL) is an Internet-based virtual world video game launched on June 23, 2003, developed by Linden Research, Inc (commonly referred to as Linden Lab), which came to international attention via mainstream news media in late 2006 and early 2007.[4][5] A free downloadable client program called the Second Life Viewer enables its users, called "Residents", to interact with each other through motional avatars, providing an advanced level of a social network service combined with general aspects of a metaverse. Residents can explore, meet other Residents, socialize, participate in individual and group activities, and create and trade items (virtual property) and services with one another.

In 2008 Second Life was honored at the 59th Annual Technology & Engineering Emmy Awards for advancing the development of online sites with user generated content. Philip Rosedale, President of Linden Lab, accepted the award.

* 1 History
o 1.1 Recent Developments
* 2 Residents and Avatars
* 3 Communication
* 4 The World
* 5 Content within the world
* 6 Localizations
* 7 Teen Second Life
* 8 Economy
* 9 Land and Fees
* 10 Technology
o 10.1 Client
o 10.2 Server
o 10.3 OpenSimulator
* 11 Criticism and controversy
o 11.1 Child Sex and Pornography
o 11.2 Bragg v. Linden Lab
o 11.3 Regulation
o 11.4 Technical Issues
o 11.5 Alternate accounts
* 12 Applications of Second Life
o 12.1 Education
o 12.2 Religion
o 12.3 Embassies
o 12.4 Arts
* 13 Second Life in popular culture
o 13.1 Literature
o 13.2 Television and Movies
o 13.3 Music
o 13.4 Other
o 13.5 Appearances in Second Life
* 14 See also
* 15 References
* 16 External links

[edit] History

Main article: Linden Lab

Although many people have assumed that the inspiration for Second Life originated from Philip Rosedale's exposure to Neil Stephenson's novel Snow Crash, he has suggested that his vision of virtual worlds predates that book and that he conducted some early virtual world experiments during his college years at the University of California San Diego, where he studied physics.[6]

Rosedale's strong coding skills eventually resulted in the creation of a video compression technology that would later be acquired by RealNetworks, where he was made CTO at the young age of 27. While at RealNetworks, Rosedale's ambition to create a virtual world was resurrected and recharged by technological advances in computing and his attendance at the popular music and arts festival Burning Man.

With the help of a financial windfall that he reaped from his time at RealNetworks, Rosedale formed Linden Lab in 1999. His initial focus was on the development of hardware that would enable computer users to be fully immersed in a 360 degree virtual world experience. In its earliest form, the company struggled to produce a commercial version of "The Rig," which was realized in prototype form as a clunky steel contraption with several computer monitors that users could wear on their shoulders.[7] That vision soon morphed into the software-based application Linden World, where computer users could participate in task-based games and socialization in a 3D online environment. That effort would eventually transform into the better-known, user-centered Second Life.

During a 2001 meeting with investors, Rosedale noticed that the participants were particularly responsive to the collaborative, creative potential of Second Life. As a result, the initial objective-driven, gaming focus of Second Life was shifted to a more user-created, community-driven experience.[8]

At the end of March 2008, approximately 13 million accounts were registered, although there are no reliable figures for actual long term consistent usage. In January 2008, residents spent 28,274,505 hours there, so on average about 38,000 residents were logged on at any particular moment.[9] Despite its prominence, Second Life has notable competitors, including Entropia Universe, IMVU, There, Active Worlds, Kaneva, and the erotic-oriented Red Light Center.

[edit] Recent Developments

Cory Ondrejka, who helped to program Second Life, resigned as chief technology officer on December 11, 2007. Ondrejka used the Flying Spaghetti Monster as his avatar. Previously, Ondrejka was a video game developer, worked with computers at the United States Department of Defense, served as an officer in the United States Navy, and was employed by the National Security Agency.[10] Philip Rosedale officially announced plans to step down from his position as Linden Lab CEO on March 14, 2008. After stepping down from the role of CEO, he went on to become chairman of Linden Lab board of directors..[11] After the announcement that Philip Rosedale would step down as CEO of Linden Lab on March 14, 2008, Rosedale announced on April 22, 2008 that he had found a new CEO in Mark Kingdon, who took over the role as CEO on May 15, 2008.

On 8 July 2008, Mitch Kapor, the chairman of the board of Linden Labs, sparked controversy with his keynote speech at the Second Life in-world 5th birthday celebration by apparently disparaging the current user base of Second Life:

So the first is, in the earliest wave of pioneers in any new disruptive platform, the marginal and the dispossessed are over represented, not the sole constituents by any means but people who feel they don't fit, who have nothing left to lose or who were impelled by some kind of dream, who may be outsiders to whatever mainstream they are coming from, all come and arrive early in disproportionate numbers.

– Mitch Kapor, Second Life 5th Birthday Closing Keynote [2]

[edit] Residents and Avatars

Main article: Resident (Second Life)

Residents are the users of Second Life, and their appearance is their avatar (often abbreviated to av, avi or ava). The basic avatar is human in appearance, but may be of either gender, have a wide range of physical attributes, and may be clothed or otherwise customized to produce a wide variety of humanoid and other forms.

Avatars may be creative or can be made to resemble the person whom they represent.[12] A single Resident account may have only one avatar at a time, although the appearance of this avatar can change between as many different forms as the Resident wishes). A single person may also have multiple accounts, and thus appear to be multiple Residents (a person's multiple accounts are referred to as alts).

A player's identity is generally less anonymous in Second Life than in other virtual worlds. Any avatar and any object in the world can establish whether or not real payment info is on file for his or her avatar,[13] although they cannot access any personal details from this payment information; this was implemented to provide age verification and also to enable users to distinguish between established paid-for accounts and free alts which can be thrown away at any moment. Some in-world services also require the resident to disclose his or her real name or other personal data to different source, although this is voluntary and hence the resident can choose not to use the services which require such disclosures.

A resident's creations are likewise far less anonymous in this virtual world. The Linden servers register your avatar as the uploader or creator of the object. While this is not an official notice, it can be used to help establish who introduced an item to the system first.[14]

[edit] Communication

Within Second Life, there are two main methods of text-based communication: local chat, and global "instant messaging" (known as IM). Chatting is used for public localized conversations between two or more avatars; the range of avatars reached is determined by location in the world. Objects can also use the chat channels. Chatting usually takes place on the "open chat channel" (channel 0) although there are billions of other channels available. A scripted listening device is needed to hear traffic on the other channels.

IM is used for private conversations, either between two avatars, or among the members of a group, or even between objects and avatars. Unlike chatting, IM communication does not depend on the participants being within a certain distance of each other. As of version, voice chat, both local and IM, is also available on the main grid[15] and teen grid using technology licensed by Vivox,[16] a provider of similar services to other MMO worlds. Only avatars can use voice chat.

Avatars and objects can send and receive email as well, although this functionality is rather limited and not widely used.[17] Instant Messages roll over to an avatar's "real life" email when he or she is logged off (if the avatar has opted into this service and has provided a valid email address.)

There are some external websites that allow Residents to locate each other from outside of the virtual world, and allows external links through the Second Life World Map to locations in-world.

[edit] The World

The flat, Earth-like world of Second Life is simulated on a large array of Debian servers, referred to as the Grid.[18] The world is divided into 256x256 m areas of land, called Regions or Sims (short for "Simulators"). Each Region is simulated by a single named server instance, and is given a unique name and content rating (either PG or Mature). Multiple server instances can be run on a single physical server, but generally each instance is given a dedicated CPU core of its own. Modern servers with two dual-core processors usually support four separate server instances.

The most basic method of moving around is by foot (also running and jumping). To travel more rapidly, avatars can also fly unaided.

Avatars can also ride in vehicles; many vehicles are available—there is a basic go-kart contained in the object library and there are many Resident-made vehicles available freely and for purchase including helicopters, submarines and hot-air balloons.

There is now a large and growing market for vehicles in Second Life; particularly for cars. Most are developed as transport or for status, but there is also a small group of residents who build their cars to race. This has led to the creation of tracks like the Mooz Speedway and MyControl Speedway.

For instantaneous travel, avatars can teleport (commonly abbreviated to "TP") directly to a specific location. An avatar can create a personal landmark (often called an LM) at their current location, and then teleport back to that location at any time, or give a copy of the landmark to another avatar. There's also a map window that allows direct teleportation anywhere.

The Second Life world runs on Linden Time, which is identical to the Pacific Time Zone. The virtual world follows the North American Daylight Saving Time convention. Hence it runs 7 hours behind UTC most of the year, and 8 hours behind when Standard Time is in effect during the winter. The servers' log files actually record events in UTC, however.

[edit] Content within the world

User-generated content comprises a large portion of the activity within Second Life. Second Life may be considered part of the web 2.0 phenomenon in that the Residents, not Linden Lab, create most of the content of the world. Built into the client is a 3D modeling tool that allows any Resident to build virtual objects. Residents can also create gestures and animations using software such as Poser. Second Life also includes a scripting language called Linden Scripting Language, or LSL, which can be used to add autonomous behavior to objects and create dynamic systems. User generated content can run the gamut from simple furniture and apparel to complex systems such as the artificial life experiment of Svarga, where a complete ecology runs autonomously.[19]

Second Life allows users to give, or sell, objects they have been created to other residents. The Second Life Terms of Service ensure that users retain copyright to any content they create. Within the server and client is a permissions and digital rights management system which prevents Residents from casually disregarding a creator's copyright. The creator of an in-world object decide whether or not any recipient of them can modify, copy, or transfer the creation. These limits are respected both by the client and server; however, as the visual data of an object must be sent to the client in order for it to be drawn, unofficial third-party clients such as CopyBot can bypass them - though such use is prohibited,[20] and may be prosecuted under the DMCA.

[edit] Localizations

Although Second Life has a large American customer base (approximately 30% of total users as of September 2007), it also has a wide variety of non-U.S. and non-English-speaking customers, and localized versions of the Second Life viewer are available for several languages. 70% of Second Life's active users (as measured by avatar count or active hours) are thus from outside the USA, with Germany, Japan, the UK, France, and Italy (and also Brazil when measured by avatar count only) being the origins of the next band of most active users with between 5% and 10% of total users and activity each.[21] In 2007, Brazil became the first country to have its own independently run portal to Second Life, operated by an intermediary—although the actual Second Life grid accessed through the Brazilian portal is the same as that used by the rest of the worldwide customer base. The portal, called "Mainland Brazil", is run by Kaizen Games, making Kaizen the first partner in Linden's "Global Provider Program".[22] In October 2007, Linden Lab signed second "Global Provider Program" with T-Entertainment Co., LTD., Seoul, Korea and T-Entertainment's portal called "SERA Korea" serves as gateway to Second Life Grid. Previously, starting in late 2005, Linden Lab had opened and run their own welcome area portals and regions for German, Korean and Japanese language speakers.[23]

[edit] Teen Second Life

Main article: Teen Second Life

Second Life is explicitly limited to users ages 18 and over.[24] However, There is aTeen Second Life and it was developed in early 2005 to enable people aged 13–17 to play Second Life without entering false information to participate in the Main Grid. Both Grids at that time required the entry of credit card details, but the Main Grid made it mandatory that the credit card be the Resident's own, whereas the Teen Grid made it mandatory that it belonged to a parent. (Since then, the requirement for a credit card to register on the Main Grid has been removed. Also, for players in some but not all countries, a parent's credit card is no longer required to register on the Teen Grid, only a valid cell phone with SMS enabled.)

New (voluntary) identity/age validation measures are also being proposed to further secure the distinctions between "PG" and "mature" regions on the main grid, ensuring that only validated adults can enter areas marked as containing adult material.

[edit] Economy

Main article: Economy of Second Life
Main article: Businesses and organizations in Second Life

The Main Grid land map in April 2008.
The Main Grid land map in April 2008.

The basis of this economy is that residents (that is, users, as opposed to Linden Lab) can buy and sell services and virtual goods to one another in a free market. Services include camping, working in stores, business management, entertainment (which prominently includes adult entertainment),[25] custom content creation, and other personal services. Virtual goods include buildings, vehicles, devices of all kinds, animations, clothing, skin, hair, jewelry, flora and fauna, and works of art. To make money in Second Life, one must find customers who are willing to pay for the services or products that one can supply, just like in real life.

Because of the existence of virtual land, there is an active virtual real estate market. Originally all land comes from Linden Lab (which is part of the pricing and a revenue stream for them), but after that it is bought and sold much like real-life real estate. Mainstream media has reported on SL residents who earn large incomes from the SL real estate market.[26]

Transactions in Second Life are carried out in "Linden Dollars (L$)". There are also currency exchanges where Residents can exchange real world currencies for L$. Though the exchange rate fluctuates, as of February 2007 it is reasonably stable at around L$ 266 to one US dollar.[27] These exchanges are open markets, except that Linden Lab sometimes changes in world Linden Dollar "sinks" or sells Linden dollars to attempt to keep the exchange rate relatively stable. A small percentage of Residents derive net incomes from this economy, ranging from a few hundred to several thousand US$ per month, while a larger percentage derive a gross income large enough to offset most of their expenditures in L$. The currency has become the subject of concern in economic circles in regard to possible taxation.[28]

[edit] Land and Fees

Main article: Real estate (Second Life)

Creating a Second Life account, and making use of the world for any period of time, is free. Linden Lab reserve the right to charge for the creation of large numbers of multiple accounts for a single person [29] but at present does not to do.

A "Premium membership", costing US$9.95 per month, allows the user to own a small amount of land, grants extra access to technical support, and provides a stipend of L$300/week. Premium members can own land up to 512 m² without additional fees. Owning larger areas of land incurs an additional fee (which Linden Lab calls "Land Use Fee", but most users refer to as "Tier", because it is charged in tiers) ranging from US$5 a month upwards. There is no upper limit on tier; at the highest level, the user pays US$195 for their first 65536 m², and then US$97.50 per each additional 32768 m² of land.[30] The "tier" fee grants the ability to own land, but the actual land must also be purchased for an initial downpayment. Linden Lab usally sells only complete 16 acre (65536 m²) regions at auction (although smaller parcels are auctioned on occasion - typically land parcels abandoned by users who have left), which are bought by Residents and then divided up and resold. Once a Resident buys land he or she may resell it freely and use it for any purpose within the Second Life Terms of Service, provided that it is not used for a Mature purpose in a PG (Parental Guidance) sim.

There is a separate type of land known as Private Estate, consisting of one or more Private Islands or Regions, which has a completely separate set of regulations and pricing. A Private Region is 65536 m² big and costs US$1000 to purchase, followed by US$295 maintenance fee for each subsequent month.[31] The owners of a Private Estate enjoy access to some additional controls that are not available to mainland owners; they have a greater ability to alter the shape of the land.

Residents may also choose to purchase land from another Resident (a "Resident landlord") rather than Linden Lab. On the mainland, a landlord can use the group tools to permit another resident to build on and enjoy the benefits of an area of land in exchange for money; on a private estate, the Estate tools allow the landlord to use the built-in land selling controls to sell land on the estate completely to another user while retaining some control. Residents holding land this way are not required to hold a Premium membership or pay a Tier fee, although typically the landlord will require some form of monthly fee, since the landlord will be paying a monthly fee to Linden Lab. However, Linden Lab acknowledge only the landlord as the owner of the land, and will not intervene in disputes between users. This means, for example, that a landlord can simply withdraw a resident's land, without refunding their money, and Linden Lab will not arbitrate in the dispute.

[edit] Technology

Second Life comprises the viewer (also known as the client) executing on the user's personal computer, and several thousand servers operated by Linden Lab.

[edit] Client

Linden Lab provides "official viewers" for Microsoft Windows 2000/XP, Mac OS X, and most distributions of Linux. Since the viewer is open source,[1][2] users may recompile it to create their own custom viewers; modified viewer software is available from third parties. The most popular is the Nicholaz Edition;[32] this viewer, produced by Nicholaz Beresford, includes bug fixes developed outside Linden Lab that are not yet included in the Linden Lab code. The Electric Sheep Company has introduced the OnRez Viewer,[33] which makes substantial changes to the design of the user interface. ShoopedLife is a commonly used Second Life client that generates randomized hardware details and sends them to the Second Life server as part of the login, rendering the user anonymous, save for their IP address.[34]

An independent project, libsecondlife,[35] offers a function library for interacting with Second Life servers. libsecondlife has been used to create non-graphic third party viewers, including SLEEK,[36] a text browser using .NET, and Ajaxlife,[36] a text viewer that runs in a web browser.

In February 2008[37] a partnership between Linden Lab and Vollee was announced. In May,[38] Vollee launched an open Beta trial for a Second Life mobile application that lets Residents travel and communicate in-world by logging in from a handset using an existing account. The service, introduced for free, requires downloading a thin client to a 3G or Wi-Fi enabled handset.

A special beta client client is available, which is updated very regularly, and is used for constant software testing by volunteers. The beta client connects to a "beta grid" which consists of a limited number of regions mirrored at regular intervals from the real grid. The mirroring process overwrites any changes made on the beta grid, and thus actions taken within it are not stored by the servers; it is for testing purposes only. Every few months, the standard software is replaced by the beta-grid software, intended as a big upgrade. The Second Life user-base is growing rapidly, and this has stimulated both social and technological changes to the world; the addition of new features also provides periodic boosts to the growth of the economy.

[edit] Server

Every item in the Second Life universe is referred to as an asset. This includes the shapes of the 3D objects known as primitives, the digital images referred to as textures that decorate primitives, digitized audio clips, avatar shape and appearance, avatar skin textures, LSL scripts, information written on notecards, and so on. Each asset is referenced with a universally unique identifier or UUID.[39]

Assets are stored in their own dedicated MySQL server farm, comprising all data that has ever been created by anyone who has been in the SL world. As of December 2007, the total storage was estimated to consume 100 terabytes of server capacity.[40] The asset servers function independently of the region simulators, though the region simulators request object data from the asset servers when a new object loads into the simulator.[citation needed]

As the popularity of Second Life has increased, the strain on the database engine to quickly and efficiently store and retrieve data has also continued to increase, frequently outpacing the ability of the Linden staff to keep their asset farm equipped to handle the number of users logged into the world at the same time.[citation needed]

Under severe load conditions it is common for the database engine to simply not reply to requests in a timely fashion, causing objects to not rez or delete as expected, or for the client inventory to not load, or the currency balance to not appear in the client program. Searching for locations, people, or classifieds may also fail under heavy load conditions. The database load is typically the most severe on weekends, particularly Sunday afternoons (Second Life Time), while the system can function just fine when accessed during low-load times such as at night or in the middle of the week during the day.[citation needed]

Each server instance runs a physics simulation to manage the collisions and interactions of all objects in that region. Objects can be nonphysical and nonmoving, or actively physical and movable. Complex shapes may be linked together in groups of up to 255 separate primitives. Additionally, each player's avatar is treated as a physical object so that it may interact with physical objects in the world.[41]

As of April 1, 2008, Second Life simulators use the Havok 4 physics engine for all in-game dynamics. This new engine is capable of simulating thousands of physical objects at once..[42] However, more than 500 constantly interacting collisions have noticeable impact on simulator performance.[43] The previous Havok 1 installment of the physics engine caused what is known as the Deep Think condition; processing overlapping object collisions endlessly. It has been alleviated through the introduction of an overlap ejection capability. This allows overlapped objects to separate and propel apart as if compressing two springs against each other.[44]

Linden Lab pursues the use of open standards technologies, and uses free and open source software such as Apache, MySQL and Squid.[45] The plan is to move everything to open standards by standardizing the Second Life protocol. Cory Ondrejka, former CTO[46] of Second Life, has stated that a while after everything has been standardized, both the client and the server will be released as free and open source software.[47]

[edit] OpenSimulator

Main article: OpenSimulator

In January 2007 OpenSimulator was founded as an open source simulator project. The aim of this project is to develop a full open source server software for Second Life clients. OpenSIM is BSD Licensed and it is written in C# and can run under Mono environment. The community is fast growing and there are some existing alternative Second Life grids[48] which are using OpenSimulator.

[edit] Criticism and controversy

Main article: Criticism of Second Life

[edit] Child Sex and Pornography

There have been a handful of cases in which users in Second Life were found to have been creating or exchanging child pornography, which has led it to be a common target for tabloid media outlets.[49] This includes both real-life photographs and virtual recreations of pornographic scenes involving children, which are illegal in many countries.

Although this problem could occur on any internet site which allowed material to be freely uploaded, it is much more difficult to deal with on Second Life because of its strong support for content crossover. There is no way to prevent a pedophile purchasing a child avatar and having it run a sexual animation, other than removing child avatars and/or sexual animations from the world entirely, thus denying them to players who wish to play sexual activity with adult avatars, or who wish to innocently role-play children or child-like characters (such as fairies or anime characters). The problem is compounded by the full customizability of Second Life avatars; it is easy to create an avatar which has the height and stature of an adult but appears child-like with regard to body development, or vice versa, and a person's belief regarding the age their avatar appears to be may not match the belief of other people.

Linden Lab has taken action by disallowing sexual ageplay activities between avatars, amongst other rule changes to police the issue.[50]

A further issue has arisen with the possibility of underage users fraudulently registering accounts on Second Life and accessing adult material there. Although the Terms of Service state that a user must be over 18 to register a Second Life account, they also state Linden Lab makes no legal guarantee that all users of the world are over 18. In response to the fears of residents that they or Linden Lab may be sued if an underage user entered any adult area they had been created [51], an age-verification system was added enabling residents to further limit access to mature content [52] Virtual landowners may flag their parcels as "adults only" and block those that have not completed this process. Participation in this program is currently voluntary, though there is no assurance that this feature will always be so. [52]

However, concerns about the privacy and disclosure of personal information used to verify age have been raised,[53] as well as concerns over the selling/sharing of accounts that have already performed age verification.[54] Also, concerns have been raised that minors could simply use their parents credit card or personal details in order to pass age verification.[51] Finally, limiting access to a parcel only prevents the avatar entering the parcel; its content can still be viewed from outside by moving the camera.

A further greater concern is that, although the age verification process is voluntary, an account that has not been age verified can be instantly locked out of the world if another user files a report to Linden Lab that the owner of the account is underage. The user is then required to complete age verification or remain banned from Second Life, losing all money and content they had in the world. Since the user cannot log in to Second Life, doing so requires them to contact Linden Lab by telephone or postal mail, which may be difficult or expensive if the customer is not located in the USA. As such, this has become a popular attack mechanism for griefers.

[edit] Bragg v. Linden Lab

In 2006, attorney Marc Bragg initiated a lawsuit against Linden Lab, claiming that they had illegally deprived him of access to his account[55] after he discovered a loophole in the online land auction system which allowed regions to be purchased at prices below reserve. Although most users and commentators believed that Bragg would have no chance of winning, a number of legal developments occurred as a result of the case, including a court ruling that parts of the Second Life Terms of Service were unenforceable, due to being a contract of adhesion.[56] The case eventually ended with Bragg's land and account being restored to him in a confidential out-of-court settlement.[57] As such, a settlement created no precedent and thus left users with confusion as to what legal rights they truly had with respect to their virtual land, items, and account. Many of Bragg's legal arguments rested on the claim - advertised on Linden Lab web site - that virtual land within Second Life could be "owned" by the purchasing user, which was removed shortly after the settlement,[58] leading to speculation that this was part of the reason for the settlement.[59]

[edit] Regulation

In the past, large portions of the Second Life economy have been comprised by businesses that are now regulated or banned. Changes to Second Life's Terms of Service in this regard have largely had the purpose of bringing activity within Second Life into compliance with various international laws.

On July 26, 2007, Linden Lab announced a ban on in-world gambling, in fear that new regulations on internet gambling could affect Linden Lab if it was permitted to continue. The ban was immediately met with in-world protests.[60] Some resident businesses have made use of loopholes to continue offering gambling; most recently, the payment of prizes in "zorkmids". "Zorkmids" are allegedly-valueless tokens that can be traded in to determine the value of the prize won in a (trivial) game of skill; the argmuent is that games of skill are not subject to the gambling ban, and thus may continue to pay prizes, and no regulation was specified as to how the prize should be calculated. Linden Lab have so far failed to give any definitive explanation of whether or not this is acceptable.

In August 2007, a $750,000 in-world bank called Ginko Financial collapsed due to a bank run triggered by Linden Lab's ban on gambling, which halved the size of the Second Life economy. The aftershocks of this collapse caused severe liquidity problems for other virtual "banks," which critics[who?] had long asserted were scams. On Tuesday, January 8, 2008 Linden Lab announced the upcoming prohibition of unregulated banking activities in-world.[61] All banks without real-world charters were shut down on 22 January 2008.[62] After the ban, a few companies continue to offer non-interest bearing deposit accounts to residents, such as the e-commerce site OnRez, and Ancapistan Capital Exchange, which had already adopted a zero-interest policy three months prior to the LL interest ban.

[edit] Technical Issues
A graph illustrating the growth of Second Life from Jan 2006 to Mar 2007.
A graph illustrating the growth of Second Life from Jan 2006 to Mar 2007.

Due to Second Life's rapid growth rate, it has suffered from difficulties related to system instability. These include system lag, and intermittent client crashes. However, more disturbing faults are caused by the system's use of an "asset server" (actually a cluster), on which the actual data governing objects is stored separately from the areas of the world and the avatars that use those objects. The communication between the main servers and the asset cluster appears to constitute a bottleneck which frequently causes problems[63].[64][65] Typically, when asset server downtime is announced, users are advised not to build, manipulate objects, or engage in business, leaving them with little to do but chat and generally reducing confidence in all businesses on the grid.

A more disturbing fault, believed to be caused by the same issue, is "inventory loss"[66][67][68] in which items in a user's inventory, including those which have been paid for, can disappear without warning or permanently enter a state where they will fail to appear in world when requested (giving an "object missing from database" error). Linden Lab offers no compensation for items that are lost in this way, and will not even record the data for debugging purposes if the user is not a Premium subscriber;[69] although many in-world businesses will attempt to compensate for this or restore items, they are under no obligation to do so and not all are able to do so. This fault alone has caused some users to abandon the world.[citation needed]

Because it is under constant development, and is an open environment that can be used by almost anyone with broadband internet access,[70] Second Life has encountered a number of challenges. These range from the technical (budgeting of server resources) and moral (pornography) to legal (legal position of the Linden Dollar, Linden Lab lawsuit).

[edit] Alternate accounts

The policy allowing the easy creation of multiple accounts by the same real person is alleged to have resulted in degraded system performance, and increased incidence of griefing. In addition, several users argued that the ability for single real individual to create an unlimited number of accounts for free had the effect of highly exaggerating the "residence" figures, pointing out that the actual activity of the board was roughly nine percent of the claimed residency figures, with paying membership below two percent. Blogs and forum posts regularly allege exaggerated membership and performance claims.[71] [72].

[edit] Applications of Second Life

[edit] Education

Second Life is used as a platform for education by many institutions, such as colleges, universities, libraries and government entities. There are over one hundred regions used for educational purposes. Instructors and researchers in Second Life favor it because it is more personal than traditional distance learning. [73] Research has uncovered development, teaching and/or learning activities which use Second Life in over 80 percent of UK Universities. [74]

Universities with a presence in Second Life include The University of Queensland,[75] the University of Florida, The Hong Kong Polytechnic University, University of Louisville, Princeton University, Rice University, Babson College, Coventry University (UK), University of Derby (UK), Vassar College, the Open University (UK),[76] Harvard, INSEAD, Pepperdine, Saint Joseph's University, Praxis Business School,[77] Drexel University, Ball State, University College Dublin, Edinburgh University,[78] Elon University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Bowling Green State University, Ohio University, New York City College of Technology (CUNY), New York University, Ithaca College, University of Houston, University of Colorado at Boulder, Central Michigan University, Michigan Technological University, Case Western Reserve University, Australian Film Television and Radio School, Stanford, Delft University of Technology,[79] and Purchase College (SUNY).[80]

Other institutions include the Info Islands, with library programming sponsored by the Illinois' Alliance Library System and OPAL currently offered online to librarians and library users within Second Life. Another virtual continent called SciLands is devoted to science and technology education. While initially centered around the International Spaceflight Museum, it now hosts a number of organizations including NASA, NOAA, NIH, JPL, NPR, NPL, and a host of other government agencies, universities, and museums. Second Life has also been adopted for foreign language training,[81] with schools such as the British Council (focused on the Teen Grid), the Instituto Cervantes and the Goethe Institut. The annual conference SLanguages is dedicated to language learning in Second Life.

Second Life's usefulness as a platform for pre-k-12 education is limited due to the age restrictions on the main grid and the difficulties of collaborating among various educational projects on the teen grid. New approaches to fostering collaboration on the teen grid, such as the Virtual World Campus, offer some hope of overcoming some of these obstacles. For now, however, the primary utility of Second Life for pre-k-12 education is in the education and professional development of teachers and school librarians.

[edit] Religion

Religious organizations have also begun to open virtual meeting places within Second Life. In early 2007,, a Christian church headquartered in Edmond, Oklahoma, and with 11 real world campuses in the USA, created "Experience Island" and opened its 12th campus in Second Life.[82] The church reported "We find that this creates a less-threatening environment where people are much more willing to explore and discuss spiritual things".[citation needed] In July of 2007, an Anglican cathedral[83] was established in Second Life; Mark Brown, the head of the group that built the cathedral, noted that there is "an interest in what I call depth, and a moving away from light, fluffy Christianity".[84]

Egyptian owned news website Islam Online has purchased land in Second Life to allow Muslims and Non-Muslims alike to perform the ritual of Hajj in virtual reality form, obtaining experience before actually making the pilgrimage themselves in person.[85]

An LA Times newspaper article has reported that skeptics suggest that believers could find more enriching ways to spend Easter Sunday than tapping out commands to make animated emus pray.[86] This same article goes on to say that some Second Lifers find the idea of virtual worship odd: They would rather spend their online time flying, shopping, or engaging in other activities.[86]

[edit] Embassies

The Maldives was the first country to open an embassy in Second Life.[87][88] The Maldives’ embassy is located on Second Life’s “Diplomacy Island”, where visitors will be able to talk face-to-face with a computer-generated ambassador about visas, trade and other issues. "Diplomacy Island" also hosts Diplomatic Museum and Diplomatic Academy. The Island is established by DiploFoundation as part of the Virtual Diplomacy Project.[89]

In May 2007,[90] Sweden became the second country to open an embassy in Second Life. Run by the Swedish Institute, the embassy serves to promote Sweden's image and culture, rather than providing any real or virtual services.[91] The Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Carl Bildt, stated on his blog that he hoped he would get an invitation to the grand opening.[92]

In September of 2007, Publicis Group announced the project of creating a Serbia island as a part of a project Serbia Under Construction. The project is officially supported by Ministry of Diaspora of Serbian Government. It was stated that the island will feature Nikola Tesla Museum, Guča trumpet festival and Exit festival..[93] It was also planned on opening a virtual info terminals of Ministry of Diaspora.[94]

On Tuesday December 4, 2007, Estonia became the third country to open an embassy in Second Life.[95][96]

SL Israel was inaugurated in January 2008 in an effort to showcase Israel to a global audience, though without any connection to official Israeli diplomatic channels.[97]

Malta, the Republic of Macedonia and the Philippines are also planning to open virtual missions in Second Life.[98]

[edit] Arts

The virtual creations from the metaverse are disclosed in real life by initiatives such as Fabjectory (statuettes)[99] and (oil paintings).[100] The modeling tools from Second Life allow the artists also to create new forms of art, that in many ways are not possible in real life due to physical constraints or high associated costs. The virtual arts are visible in over 2050 "museums" (according to SL's own search engine).[101]

Live music performances take place in Second Life, in the sense that vocal and instrumental music by Second Life Residents can be provided from their homes and studios. This is input, via microphones, instruments or other audio sources, into computer audio interfaces and streamed live to audio servers. Similar to webcast radio, the audio stream from the live performance can be received in Second Life for the enjoyment of other Residents. This started with performances by Astrin Few in May 2004 and began to gain popularity mid 2005. For example the UK band Passenger performed on the Menorca Island in mid-2006. Another UK band, Redzone, toured in Second Life in February 2007. Linden Lab added an Event Category "Live Music" in March 2006 to accommodate the increasing number of scheduled events.

By the beginning of 2008, scheduled live music performance events in Second Life spanned every musical genre, and included hundreds of live musicians and DJs who perform on a regular basis. A typical day in Second Life will feature dozens of live music performances.

Live theater is also being presented in Second Life. The SL Shakespeare Company [102] will be performing Hamlet live at the end of 2008. The first scene of Hamlet was produced as a kind of trailer in February, 2008.

In 2007 Johannes von Matuschka and Daniel Michelis developed Wunderland, an interactive SL theatre play at Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz in Berlin, Germany.[103]

In 2008 the UK act Redzone announced they would release their new live album only via Second Life.[104]

[edit] Second Life in popular culture

[edit] Literature

* In early 2008, a Second Life avatar was used as the cover art for Dr. Theodore Rockwell's fiction novel - The Virtual Librarian. The novel was introduced and promoted via Second Life by TheSLAgency.
* The scifi book ANIMA: a novel about Second Life written by the avatar Dalian Hansen was published in July 2007. It was the first complete work of fiction based in the 3D virtual environment of Second Life, and the plot included real world connections. It is book one of a trilogy that will include ANIMUS: Of Animus and Men and PERSONA: Persona Publica.[105]
* In Sam Bourne's 2007 thriller novel The Last Testament, Second Life plays an important part in the story and in cracking of codes.
* "Notre Seconde Vie" is a book from the French writer Alain Monnier which translates to "Our Second Life". The novel poses the question "will the Internet replace reading paperbound books one day?".
* The 2007 novel Another Life by Peter Anghelides, based upon the television series Torchwood, features a Second Life-inspired virtual world called Second Reality. Although the literary version is far more advanced than the real Second Life, several features of the real-life Second Life are referenced, including the ability to customize avatars, and at one point in the novel a character is banished to an area similar to Second Life's punishment area, "The Corn Field".
* In The Darkest Evening of the Year by Dean Koontz, one of the antagonists is a private detective who lives vicariously through his Second Life avatar.

[edit] Television and Movies

* In 4/8/2008 The Daily Show with Jon Stewart did a segment on Avatar Heroes[106]
* Law & Order: Special Victims Unit parodies Second Life in its episode "Avatar".
* In The Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert said that Wikipedia is like "Second Life for corporations."[107] In a later episode, in the segment "The Word" (presented by John Edwards) one of the captions stated "Grandkids born in Second Life"
* Second Life was featured prominently, and used as a tool to locate a suspect, in the CSI: NY episode "Down the Rabbit Hole", which aired on October 24, 2007.
* Dwight Schrute from the US television series The Office is an avid Second Life player; this was featured prominently in the October 25, 2007 episode "Local Ad".[108] Dwight plays a character named 'Dwight Shelford' who is able to fly, and creates a virtual world within Second Life named Second Second Life. Jim Halpert is seen to play the game later in the episode, and he claims his character is "just to keep tabs on Dwight"; however, Pam Beesly comments on the detail in his character and notes it must have taken him quite some time to make it.

[edit] Music

* US modern-rock artist Sheldon Tarsha released the song titled "Second Life" in 2007, focusing attention to Second Life and the growing phenomenon of virtual world social networking sites.
* The Italian singer Irene Grandi figured in her musical video "Bruci la città" some scenes of Second Life gaming.
* Some real life musicians, singers or groups perform live in some SecondLife places. Most of these places offer these public shows for free. Here are some famous places for good live music: Zurich Opera , Woodstock , BoSamba Ocean Paradise etc.

[edit] Other

* Second Life girls are rated #95 on the "Top 100 Hottest Females of 2007" in Maxim.
* Second Life is also parodied in the webcomic Kevin and Kell, in the form of an MMORPG called 9th Life.
* Second Life is parodied by the website Get a First Life by Darren Barefoot, extolling the virtues of meatspace/real life.[109] Material from the site includes false links to such topics as "Go Outside - Membership is Free" and "Fornicate Using Your Actual Genitals." Linden Lab proved that they had a sense of humor when Darren received, instead of a cease and desist, a Proceed and Permit letter.[110]
* Kelly Services, an employment agency, features Second Life in its "break room" for temporary employees.

[edit] Appearances in Second Life

* Well known British comedian Jimmy Carr performed a virtual show on Second Life on February 3, 2007.
* Jimmy Kimmel & Jay Z were both made as Second Life characters and Jay Z had a virtual concert on Second Life at the same time as his real life performance on the Jimmy Kimmel Show.
* First rock-band touring in Second Life was Beyond the void at beginning of 2007 - they organized virtual concerts in different locations in the virtual world.

[edit] See also
Wikimedia Commons has media related to:
Second Life

* Cyberformance
* Emerging Virtual Institutions
* Google Lively
* Visitoons
* Simulated reality
* Social simulation
* Virtual reality

[edit] References

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