I'm sure you all remember the Great Censorship crap that went on here on LiveJournal. It hit the fantasy and fandom communities the hardest because of the material they deal in. Who can forget Strikethrough '07?
Well, Second Life is now doing the same thing, and word on the block is they're doing it because they are "courting Big Business". I can't get a fix on whether this means they are looking to sell or if they're trying to encourage Big Business to use them as yet another platform.
Before I get into what they're doing, let me explain some things for those not familiar with the Second Life virtual world. To start off with, we have a "Mainland" which is a large landmass divided into differently named areas. If you upgrade your account to paid, you are entitled to 512 square meters of land on this Mainland; you have to buy it at auction, but once you own it, you dont have to pay anything further. For those of us who are in-world a lot, 512 square meters is not a very big plot. There is a scale of payment if you want more than 512 sq. meters; again, you have to purchase it before you can own it.
The alternative to Mainland parcels are parcels on private islands. If you want an entire region to yourself, you have to shell out $1000USD to Linden Labs; essentially, you're funding the physical computer the region will reside on. After that, you pay $295/month for the privilege of having the region.
Most region owners will parcel up the land and, in turn, "sell" it to others. I quote "sell" for a reason: Unlike Mainland parcels that you get straight from Linden Labs, you have to pay your share of "tier" for the parcel you buy, and if you don't pay this tier, the land reverts back to the region owner. In essence you don't really own it, you rent it. Region owners will often charge a higher fee for the parcel(s) you buy, so they can make money the good old-fashioned Capitalistic way. It should be noted however that prices have been forced to fall due to the worldwide economic depression affecting everything, including business on Second Life.
Linden Labs, however, has NOT cut their fees. I guess they don't "get" that we're in a depression, aye?
Now, to get to the heart of this post: Just as SixApart tried to do with LiveJournal, prior to selling it to SUP/Fabrik (the Russians), Linden Labs is attempting to "clean up" Second Life; e.g., introduce clear-cut censorship.
They have decided to create a separate Mainland continent for all things Adult - that is, anything that involves sexual acts. But noooo, they didn't stop there, now did they? It's here that you'll see why I believe they're getting ready to sell to another company. They decided to extend the censorship to affect private Regions as well.
What does this mean for us Second Lifers? Well if you run any sort of business that involves sex, extreme violence, or overt sexual themes and you're presently located on a Mainland Mature area, you will be forced to move to this new Adult Mainland.
What does it mean if you have the same on a private region? Region owners are being forced to decide whether to reclassify their region as Adult and/or force tenants to comply with Linden Labs' new censorship rules, which basically state that if it involves overt sexual activity, via poseballs or other posing devices, then it's considered Adult and has to (a) be confined to an Adult region, or (b) taken out of Second Life Search.
Item (b) pretty much guarantees that if you have a sex bed in your private home, all you have to do is not include it in Second Life search, which is no big thing. BUT - if you run an escort service, or offer a free sex room, or have a "happy ending" massage table as a part of your business? Then you have a choice to make. Remove the objects, or stop advertising your business on Second Life Search and stop telling your customers about your service.
Now I will be the first one to say that some areas of Second Life are too much into sexual things...and you generally won't find me in those places. But folks, let's face it - sex DOES sell. A lot of clubs include sexual services as a "side"; it attracts customers. I run a mature club that has stripping pole dancers and I did offer a free sex room, which I finally removed, because I couldn't even tell my customers about it even if I had it located on unadvertised land.
I also have to replace my massage table because it has a "happy ending" pose in it that I cannot remove.
We won't even get into the organizations that are very sexually based, such as Gorean, BDSM, and the like. Those folks have no choice but to either stop including themselves in SL Search, or finding an Adult region to move to.
One also has to beg the question, where will it end? They started with overt sexual acts. Is pole dance stripping, currently classified as "burlesque" and therefore Mature, going to eventually be included in Adult? What about nude paintings and photographs? What about sexually explicit music?
Some residents have put up a website where they are "voting against" the changes. That might make some people feel like they're "doing" something, but it will not affect Linden Labs' decision to do this. The only way is to blog about it, to get negative attention out there.
Linden Labs, listen up! You would not continue to exist if it weren't for us, your customer base. Ask LiveJournal just how far Puritan Censorship got them and you will find out that it will only piss us off and lose you business. In this depressed economy, can you really afford to piss off your customer base? I don't think so!