German bank Wirecard Bank AG has opened »an island« in the virtual world of Second Life, according to a press release [< -- registration required]. The German financial services provider is also planning to set up shop in Entropia Universe, it says, which implies that it may be one of the five winners of the banking licenses that Entropia recently auctioned. Continue reading
Alex Harbinger holds a teen grid debate on intergrid commerce in the virtual world of Second Life. Photo courtesy of Lucky Figtree.
We recorded a great SecondCast this past Wednesday with two residents of Second Life‘s teen grid, Lucky Figtree and Alex Harbinger (both 15 years old). They’re leading the charge (or at least, Alex is) to unite the teen and adult grids, or at least to let them overlap to a certain extent. Along the way, we discuss Cristiano’s open letter to Linden Lab, and give away a couple of books. (There’s still time to enter the giveaway, actually.) Plus, listen for the dulcet tones of Starr Sonic, who joined us from the Second Life Cable Network as a special guest host. Definitely check out SLCN.tv’s news archive and live broadcasts. Starr’s doing it right.
The International Herald Tribune breaks the news that IBM is launching a new mainframe platform specifically designed for next-generation virtual worlds and 3D virtual environments. In concert with Brazilian game developer Hoplon, IBM will use the PlayStation3‘s ultra-high-powered Cell processor to create a mainframe architecture that will provide the security, scalability and speed that are currently lacking in 3D environments — a lack that is one of the factors keeping them from becoming widely adopted. If it works, it sounds like worldmakers working on IBM’s platform should be able to support concurrencies far above todays’ capabilities, and implement commerce systems far more secure than is currently possible.
The IHT story talks about a server system that will permit higher levels of concurrency at greater levels of rendering and realism. The machines will be priced beginning at hundreds of thousands dollars, according to the story.
While it probably won’t have much impact on the state of virtual worlds right off, IBM’s new infrastructure could make a big difference in the long run, by enabling much greater numbers of concurrent users in next-gen virtual worlds, and by creating more secure possibilities for commerce. Big media and entertainment companies continue to be interested in virtual worlds, but they are also skeptical in many cases because there is no way to support many thousands of audience members at a single event. Continue reading
I missed the beginning of the remarks by Colin Parris, vice president of digital convergence at IBM Research, because the panels are stacked a bit back-to-back and I was on the one directly before he spoke, but the first half of his presentation consisted of laying out some of the potential benefits of integrating virtual worlds with current business processes. The second half of his remarks consisted of looking at what IBM is doing and planning in the space. I’ve transcribed them pretty well below. Continue reading
A press release from new-media marketers the Virtual Interactive Agency flags a new project they’re putting up in the virtual world of Second Life, in cooperation with something called the Ohio University Virtual Campus, which seems to have a few sims in SL. The new project is a “virtual security pavilion” that will house displays and demos by information security companies during a “virtual business fair” to be held February 5-14. The site mentions a conference fee of a whopping US$3,700, but that seems to include the Virtual Interactive Agency building out your booth for you. A limited number of billboards will also be available at US$425 each. In any case, it’s an interesting project. One wonders whether the firms represented there will address information security on the Web, in Second Life, or in some combination of the two. It will also be interesting to see whether a compelling event can be organized in this way, by presenting a conference center and then asking people to show up, rather than the other way round.
Reader Sterling Whitcroft tips us to the fact that the Washington Post has a good wrap of some of the legal issues that have been facing the virtual world of Second Life in the wake of the recent CopyBot uproar. What’s nice about the piece is that it comes at the situation mostly from the viewpoint of the law, and still manages to get the SL resident perspective as well. It’s good to see virtual worlds start to get the kind of coverage they deserve, coverage that treats them not as fantasy realms but as an extension of the “real” world around us. More and more legal scholars and legislators are beginning to realize that these places merit more serious consideration as well. It remains to be seen what the eventual disposition of legal and taxations questions will be, but it’s beginning to look like the law will not reflexively accept whatever strictures game and virtual world companies lay down, but will instead seek to bring some kind of more broadly just legal regime to bear on such places. Good news for all.
Rezzible is a Web site building and hosting service that lets you associate a Web site with your identity in the virtual world of Second Life. This is interesting for reasons described below, but more immediately interesting to me is an associated product that lets you put text on a Second Life message board via a Web interface. (It’s the orange sign in the image at left. Both were built by SL resident Barry Walcher.) Dynamic text in Second Life is still a crude affair, and must be accomplished using objects with letter textures already on them instead of any kind of actual text parser. But I like the idea of a message board with a Web-based input channel, so that you can update public, in-world information on the fly. I don’t think there are many other (any other?) apps that do this. Continue reading
What a week to be away. While I was busy chatting to fans of the best MMO going, the virtual world of Second Life was getting its knickers in a twist over something called CopyBot, an application that intercepts data flowing between the Second Life servers and client and can be used to re-create objects that would otherwise not be copyable. For a variety of reasons, perhaps chief among them the fact that many people earn not insubstantial incomes selling their creations in Second Life, the episode has roiled the community in some pretty ugly ways. (For reference, here is the del.icio.us page and the Digg page on the topic.) I’m unavoidably late to the blogging game on this, so rather than recap the controversy in depth, I’ll look at something I think the CopyBot episode helps illustrate on a broader scale: the fact that Second Life has now grown to the point at which it’s no longer possible to speak of the “community” I just mentioned in a meaningful way. Second Life is no longer the walled garden that it was perhaps originally intended to be, but now belongs to the billion-plus users of the World Wide Web. Interestingly, though, that kind of community is still possible in SL, it just takes a bit more work. Continue reading
Linden Lab, makers of the virtual world of Second Life, have been having a hell of a time over the last several weeks defending against the metaversal version of denial-of-service attacks: When users add objects to the Grid that are able to replicate themselves, dividing and redividing exponentially, LL’s servers are soon choked by the processing power required to maintain all these objects, and the world grinds to a halt. Now, Linden Lab is contemplating a solution that would create a privileged class of users with access to the full range of SL scripting and object-creation abilities on the Grid, with everyone else limited as to the functions available or the locations in which their scripts and objects will work. I’d suggest that a solution like this will kill Second Life rather quickly, or at least prevent it from becoming what CEO Philip Rosedale and SL’s most optimistic boosters believe it can become: a kind of 3D extension and next generation of the World Wide Web. Continue reading
Second Life resident Pixeleen Mistral, the latest star correpondent to grace the pages of the Second Life Herald, has a great interview in the Herald today with Linden Lab code jock Andrew Linden, in which he talks about new security measures being “locked and loaded for emergency deploy” after a series of denial-of-service attacks brought the Grid to its knees in recent days. Required reading for anyone interested in just what Linden Lab is doing to stop future attacks, and how they’re prioritizing the work.
In the wake of recent attacks on the virtual world of Second Life, it only makes sense that Linden Lab should move against those it holds responsible, banning them from its world. But the action raises serious questions about community, privacy, transparency and even art, as well as the delicate task Linden Lab faces of maintaining its service while also attempting to build a “world.” One of those may have to fall by the wayside, and you can guess which it’s likely to be. [UPDATE: See below for response to an earlier email I sent to Linden Lab asking for more detail. A heartening response at that.] Continue reading
Linden Lab, the company behind the virtual world of Second Life, banned 60 accounts this week over what amounted to two distributed denial-of-service attacks perpetrated on the same day. The attacks, which involved seeding the SL Grid with self-replicating objects which soon choked off processing power, forced Linden Lab to disable much of SL for long periods on Monday. Past attacks have shut the Grid down altogether. Linden Lab CEO Philip Rosedale, reported the banned accounts in an audio Town Hall meeting held Tuesday. Continue reading
Hackers gained access to the user database that governs the virtual world of Second Life this week, according to an urgent security announcment from Linden Lab. Though the exploit was shut down on September 6, shortly after it was discovered, a “detailed investigation over the last two days confirmed that some of the unencrypted customer information stored in the database was compromised, potentially including Second Life account names, real life names and contact information, along with encrypted account passwords.” No unencrypted credit card information was stored in the database that was hacked, but Linden Lab is requiring all users to reset their passwords. Oddly, it seems that no notice was sent to users flagging the problem. Continue reading
libsecondlife, the reverse-engineering effort by a group of talented Second Life residents (which has caused no small consternation among some users of the virtual world) got a welcome imprimatur from Linden Lab chief technology officer Cory Ondrejka in his closing talk at Saturday’s sessions of the Second Life Community Convention in San Francisco. Ondrejka also gave a look at changes being made to the code-base, changes that should make building Web-based SL mashups easier for everyone, whether or not you know enough to pick apart the platform to build something like libsecondlife.
“The official position of Linden Lab on libsecondlife is, we like libSL, you guys rock,” Ondrejka said. “We are blown away by what you’ve accomplished, and we’re very excited to see you do more, so do not stop. But everything you’ve reverse engineered is changing, and for that I do apologize.” libsecondlife hackers that 3pointD spoke with at the convention remained unconcerned, however, as the changes Cory described will no doubt be slow in coming. Continue reading
Episode 27 features SL resident Oz Spade, who recently returned from the Second Life Views event, in which Linden Lab flew eighty of the virtual world’s residents to San Francisco to gather their views on the direction of the place. (Official coverage of the initiative itself can be found on Robin Linden’s blog at the following links: , , , , .)
I missed the session for Episode 28, and I’ve yet to give it a listen, but it sounds like a return to SecondCast’s free-wheeling form. Johnny Ming and the crew interview Cory Edo of the Electric Sheep Company (sponsors of this blog), discuss Cristiano Midnight’s ban from Second Life, and recap the SL Relay for Life last weekend that raised over $40,000. I’ve been told to stay with Episode 28 to the end for a nice (or not-so-nice, depending on your musical taste) surprise.
The All Points Blog flags this InformationWeek article about the wireless crisis alert system that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security is building. As All Points points out, one of the technologies under consideration is especially interesting because it doesn’t need to track users’ locations to tell whether they should receive a message. Instead, an application on the device simply filters out messages that don’t apply. Continue reading
Second Life resident Torley Linden (formerly Torley Torgeson, until she became an employee of Linden Lab) has a post on her blog yesterday about how to stop notecard spam — i.e., the repeated delivery of notecards to your avatar from an automated object — in Second Life. While Torley notes that the problem is occasionally unintentional, it raises an interesting point. Podcaster extraordinaire John Swords (producer of SecondCast and the Metaverse Sessions) has a theory that no software platform can be called truly successful until people start writing security apps like spamblockers for it. The thing is, though, that SL’s in-world communication tools are fairly crude, so building a spamblocker may not even be possible. And we’ve yet to grapple with the problems and solutions that will arise as more and more SL functionality becomes Web-based. By John’s measure, though, notecard spam may be a good sign. Does Torley’s post mark the beginning of SL’s maturity?
The Los Angeles-based maker of trendy T-shirts is currently organizing a late-July soiree at its latest location: a computer-generated boutique within the parallel online universe of Second Life.
Next month, American Apparel will start hiring virtual sales clerks from among Second Life’s citizens.
The company is also planning to test-market its first line of jeans within its Second Life store this summerâ€”two months before they hit physical stores in time for fall.
And in an effort to drive traffic to both the virtual and physical stores, anyone who buys clothes in Second Life after the grand opening party will receive a coupon for a 15% discount on merchandise bought in the real world.
As we wrote about earlier on 3pointD, Linden Lab, creators of the virtual world of Second Life, has been met with an outcry over recent changes to their registration system, which no longer requires billing information or real-world identifying data of any kind. Now, to mollify residents’ concerns over unchecked griefing, LL is planning to scrape users’ hardware for identifying information, and to install tools that would let users ban non-paying members from their land, according to a blog post from LL’s VP for community and support Robin Harper. This is perilously close to jumping the shark, if you ask me, and certainly steers Second Life away from the open platform that LL CEO Philip Rosedale has said he wants it to become. Continue reading
Tony Walsh notes a post from Linden Lab VP for community and support Robin Harper in which she talks about a new system planned for identifying whether Second Life users are anonymous accounts that signed up under the new registration rules or have been “verified” by having paid money to LL at one point or another. Tony worries that making such information public will in effect create two classes of SL citizens and make it easy for residents (and LL?) to discriminate against one or the other. Note that there are already two classes of SL resident — Basic accounts, which pay no monthly fee to LL, and Premium accounts, which do pay for land. And that information is already public. Why that’s not sufficient is a bit unclear. Continue reading
SL machinima-maker Pierce Portocarrero caught some footage of a protest in the virtual world of Second Life today, held to coincide with the world’s third birthday. The protest was being held to voice some residents’ dissatisfaction with the new registration requirements (or lack thereof) we mentioned earlier today. I haven’t heard the narration on this yet, as I’m still at the Supernova conference, but the footage is engaging, and gives a good idea of what it’s like when a bunch of SL avatars get together for a protest — which is not an unusual thing in itself.
Lili Cheng of Microsoft, who formerly ran the Social Computing Group there; Tom Ngo, CEO of NextPage; Chris Thomas, chief strategy officer at Intel; Gary Bennitt of Goowy; and Kevin Lynch of Adobe spoke about the future of the desktop at the Supernova conference during a lunchtime roundtable. Much of their discussion revolved around whether data would be centrally stored in future, or stored locally in a number of locations. Interesting privacy and identity issues came up (they start about halfway down this post), and panelists’ remarks also shed some long-term light on how the 3pointD world might become more mobile and distributed, and just how long that might take. Continue reading
Over at the Second Life Herald, we’re running a story on one of the periodic Town Hall meetings held by Linden Lab CEO Philip Rosedale. In yesterday’s live chat with residents, Philip confirmed that LL had indeed reported griefers to the FBI, as had been hinted at in the past. “In cases where we are able to establish a reasonable equivalance between that kind of disruption, we have, and we will be, and we will get better at, turning those people in, in general to the FBI here in the US,” Rosedale said. “We are serious about doing this and we have done it.”
Perhaps more notably, Rosedale mentioned that for “criminal acts below the threshold where you’d see RL authorities getting involved,” user-led dispute resolution would probably be the best approach. This is a shift from Linden Lab’s direction in the past, though it remains to be seen how closely the company can hew to such a direction. Continue reading
Tony Walsh at Clickable Culture blogs a strategic alliance between two of the most prominent actors in Second Life‘s business community, Anshe Chung Studios and branding concern Rivers Run Red. The tie-up was announced about a week ago via an Anshe Chung press release, which says the agreement “will see both parties developing large scale builds, in particular bridging the divide between real world strategic marketing solutions and the logistical deployment of virtual world branded content solutions for the B2B/C sector.” Continue reading
About two weeks ago, we asked the question, Will Second Life Ever Be Safe? That day may come, but it hasn’t yet arrived. As noted in the previous post here, the virtual world of Second Life was today hit by yet another attack that necessitated Linden Lab‘s closing its Grid, the third time in two weeks. (The last attack, which came just yesterday, was blogged by Tony Walsh at Clickable Culture.) The attacks all have one thing in common: they take advantage of the single most attractive aspect of SL — the ability for users to create their own objects — and turn it against the virtual world. Continue reading
For the third time in two weeks, the virtual world of Second Life has been hit by a world-shaking attack that’s necessitated Linden Lab‘s closing the Grid to all comers. “I know this is totally frustrating — for us too,” writes Robin Linden (aka Robin Harper, LL’s VP for community development and support) in a forum posting today. “We’re working with the authorities to go after the people responsible for these attacks, as you know. When I have information to share I’ll pass it on.” Stay tuned for updates.
An all-too-brief video accompanies this MSNBC.com story about the Geospatial Decision Making project at the University of Southern California (aka GeoDec), which layers real-time video atop a virtual 3D environment. The video shows live shots of cars passing along the streets of a virtual city. A pair of “data gloves” is used to control the app. Interesting possibilities here — including some frightening ones in the area of surveillance. But a nice-looking technology nonetheless. GeoDec can apparently combine sources from several data streams in a smooth and timely fashion. And it’s multi-user, apparently:
GeoDec could conceivably be applied to fields ranging from urban planning to emergency response to military surveillance â€” with multiple agents accessing the same multilayered database.
Clickable Culture‘s Tony Walsh sends word of a virtual London that’s been released by ImageCat Inc., who are creating 3D models for use in risk management by sectors like insurance, asset management and security. The model was created using satellite imagery from a company called DigitalGlobe, but what’s most interesting is that the model “can be visualized using popular online and off-the-shelf software packages including GoogleEarth, MSN Virtual Earth, VRML, ESRI 3D Analyst and other common GIS applications,” according to a press release. Continue reading
The virtual world of Second Life ground almost to a halt this past Saturday night after being attacked by malicious, self-replicating objects that prevented users from conducting business as usual. Several similar attacks shut the world down completely last year. This one only made it impossible for avatars to move around normally, and led to Linden Lab having to temporarily switch off much of the world’s functionality (including the ability for anyone to log in) while they cleaned up the mess. The attacks raise an interesting question: Can a place where users are free to create their own content ever be made completely safe from attacks like these? Continue reading