Alternatives to Second Life

SL fenceRecently, I’ve blogged a few times about the issues I see with Second Life, both technical and structural. (Here’s some of my SL posts.) On his weblog, Onder points out three aspects that are crucial to virtual environments. Since Second Life’s performance doesn’t seem to scale so well (i.e. it keeps getting real slow during peak times), we’ll need to keep an eye open for alternatives:

Where are the best candidates as viable alternatives to Second Life? In order to answer this question, I’ve come up with the three things that in my opinion make Second Life irreplaceable at the moment. Since these are entirely formed from my little brain, we’ll call them “Onder’s Big Three”. They are:
  1. Cash transactions must be easy and readily accommodated flowing both into and out from the system.
  2. Users must be able to create unique content and retain some form of ownership over it.
  3. The fabric of the world itself must be possible to affect. IE: land ownership, room decoration, or some other content that remains viable even when the player who created it is logged off. (”Pervasive” is the word I’m groping for here…)

This pretty much sums it up – thanks, Onder! Particularly the input/output and ownership issues must be resolved before anything serious can take place – you don’t want your stuff fenced in and stuck there, right?

And while Second Life is pretty good here, many issues remain unsolved, if partly just by some jurisdictional and legal regulation issues. (Just think about the often-quoted griefer attack on Anshe Chung and how the artists who designed her avatar did everything he could to make YouTube take down videos of the attack for alleged copyright violations. Copyright, for chrissake!)

By the way, there’s a mind-boggling paper about regulation in virtual environments: Viktor Mayer-Schoenenberger and John R. Crowley (both at Harvard University’s JFK School of Government, 2005): Napster’s Second Life? – The Regulatory Challenges of Virtual Worlds


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