|Developer(s)||Linden Research, Inc|
|Engine||Proprietary, free, and open source software
Physics: Havok 7 and 10 (beta)
|Release date(s)||June 23, 2003|
Second Life is an online virtual world developed by Linden Lab. It was launched on June 23, 2003. A number of free client programs, or Viewers, enable Second Life users, to interact with each other through avatars (Also called Residents). Residents can explore the world (known as the grid), meet other residents, socialize, participate in individual and group activities, and create and trade virtual property and services with one another. Second Life is intended for people aged 16 and over.
Built into the software is a three-dimensional modeling tool based on simple geometric shapes that allows residents to build virtual objects. There is also a procedural scripting language, Linden Scripting Language, which can be used to add interactivity to objects. Sculpted prims (sculpties), mesh, textures for clothing or other objects, animations, and gestures can be created using external software and imported. The Second Life Terms of Service provide that users retain copyright for any content they create, and the server and client provide simple digital rights management functions.
In 1999, Philip Rosedale formed Linden Lab with the intention of developing computer hardware that would allow people to immerse themselves in a virtual world. In its earliest form, the company struggled to produce a commercial version of the hardware, known as "The Rig", which was realized in prototype form as a clunky steel contraption with computer monitors worn on shoulders. That vision changed into the software application Linden World, in which people participated in task-based games and socializing in a three-dimensional online environment. That effort would eventually transform into the better known, user-centered Second Life. Although he was familiar with the metaverse of Neal Stephenson's novel Snow Crash, Rosedale has said that his vision of virtual worlds predates that book, and that he conducted early virtual world experiments during his college years at the University of California San Diego, where he studied physics.
In 2005 and 2006, Second Life began to receive a lot of media traction, including a cover story on Business Week magazine featuring the virtual world and Second Life avatar Anshe Chung. By that time, Anshe Chung had become Second Life's poster child and symbol for the economic opportunities that the virtual world offers to its residents. At the same time, the service would see a period of exponential growth of its user base.
In January 2008, residents spent a total of 28,274,505 hours "inworld", and, on average, 38,000 residents were logged in at any particular moment. The maximum concurrency (number of avatars inworld) recorded is 88,200 in the 1st qtr. 2009 
On March 14, 2008, Rosedale announced plans to step down from his position as Linden Lab CEO and to become chairman of Linden Lab's board of directors. Rosedale announced Mark Kingdon as the new CEO effective May 15, 2008. In 2010, Kingdon was replaced by Rosedale, who took over as Interim CEO. After four months though, Rosedale abruptly stepped down from the Interim CEO position. It was announced in October 2010, that Bob Komin, Linden Lab's chief financial officer and chief operating officer, will take over the CEO job for the immediate future.
In May 2009, concurrent users averaged about 62,000. As of May 2010, concurrent users averaged about 54,000. The perceived decline in concurrent users over this time correlates precisely with new policies implemented by Linden Lab reducing the number of bots and campers.
In June 2010, Linden Lab announced layoffs of 30% of its workforce.
In November 2010, 21.3 million accounts were registered, although the company has not made public figures for actual long-term consistent usage. However, Wagner James Au, who blogs and writes about Second Life, said in April 2013 that he had it on "good authority" that "Second Life's actual active userbase is about 600,000"
Second Life 10th anniversary
June 2013 marks Second Life 10th anniversary where users plan to have parties, dances, live music, DJ events and celebrations. The SL10B community plans to hold the event on June 16–29, 2013 with the main event on June 23, 2013, where Second Life celebrates its 10th anniversary. There is a special item on the Second Life Marketplace that goes with SL10B. On June 3, 2013, a Youtube video was uploaded in which it features a machinimist extraordinaire Draxtor interviewing Rod Humble, CEO of Linden Lab.
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.
Second Life's status as a virtual world, a computer game, or a talker, is frequently debated[who?]. Unlike a traditional computer game, Second Life does not have a designated objective, nor traditional game play mechanics or rules. It can also be argued that Second Life is a multi-user virtual world, because the virtual world is centered around interaction between multiple users. As it does not have any stipulated goals, it is irrelevant to talk about winning or losing in relation to Second Life. Likewise, unlike a traditional talker, Second Life contains an extensive world that can be explored and interacted with, and it can be used purely as a creative tool set if the user so chooses.
Second Life used to offer two main grids: one for adults (18+) and one for teens. In August 2010, Linden Lab closed the teen grid due to operating costs. Since then, users aged 16 and over can sign up for a free account. Other limited accounts are available for educators who use Second Life with younger students.
There are three activity-based classifications, called "Ratings," for sims in Second Life:
- General (formerly "PG"—no extreme violence or nudity)
- Moderate (formerly "Mature"—some violence, swearing, adult situations, some nudity)
- Adult (may contain overt sexual activity, nudity, and violence)
Residents and avatars
There is no charge for creating a Second Life account or for making use of the world for any period of time. Linden Lab reserves the right to charge for the creation of large numbers of multiple accounts for a single person (5 per household, 2 per 24 hours) but at present does not do so. A Premium membership (US$9.95 monthly, US$22.50 quarterly, or US$72 annually) extends access to an increased level of technical support, and also pays an automatic stipend of L$300/week into the member's avatar account. This amount has decreased since the original stipend of L$500, which is still paid to older accounts. Certain accounts created during an earlier period may receive L$400. This stipend, if changed into USD, means that the actual cost for the benefit of extended tech support for an annual payment of US$72 is only about US$14, depending on the currency exchange rates. However, the vast majority of casual users of Second Life do not upgrade beyond the free "basic" account.
Avatars may take any form users choose (human, animal, vegetable, mineral, or a combination thereof) or residents may choose to resemble themselves as they are in real life, or they may choose even more abstract forms, given that almost every aspect of an avatar is fully customizable. Second Life Culture consists of many activities and behaviors that are also present in real life. 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. Avatar forms, like almost everything else in SL, can be either created by the user, or bought pre-made. 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).
Avatars can travel via walking, running, vehicular access, flying or teleportation. Because Second Life is such a vast virtual world, teleportation is used when avatars wish to travel instantly and efficiently. Once they reach their destination, they may travel in more conventional means at various speeds.
Avatars can communicate via local chat, group chat, global instant messaging (known as IM), and voice. Chatting is used for localized public conversations between two or more avatars, and is visible to any avatar within a given distance. IMs are 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 22.214.171.124, voice chat, both local and IM, was also available on both the main grid and teen grid. Instant messages may optionally be sent to a Resident's email when the Resident is logged off, although message length is limited to 4096 bytes.
Second Life has an internal economy and internal currency, the Linden dollar (L$). L$ can be used to buy, sell, rent or trade land or goods and services with other users. Virtual goods include buildings, vehicles, devices of all kinds, animations, clothing, skin, hair, jewelry, flora and fauna, and works of art. Services include "camping", wage labor, business management, entertainment, and custom content creation (which can be broken up into the following 6 categories: building, texturing, scripting, animating, art direction, and the position of producer/project funder). L$ can be purchased using US Dollars and other currencies on the LindeX exchange provided by Linden Lab, independent brokers or other resident users. Money obtained from currency sales is most commonly used to pay Second Life's own subscription and tier fees; only a relatively small number of users earn large amounts of money from the world. According to figures published by Linden Lab, about 64,000 users made a profit in Second Life in February 2009, of whom 38,524 made less than US$10, while 233 made more than US$5000. Profits are derived from selling virtual goods, renting land, and a broad range of services.
The Linden can be exchanged for US dollars or other currencies on market-based currency exchanges. Linden Lab reports that the Second Life economy generated US$3,596,674 in economic activity during the month of September 2005, and as of September 2006 Second Life was reported to have a GDP of $64 Million. In 2009, the total size of the Second Life economy grew 65% to US$567 million, about 25% of the entire U.S. virtual goods market. Gross Resident Earnings are $55 million US Dollars in 2009 - 11% growth over 2008. In March 2009, it was revealed that there existed a few Second Life entrepreneurs who had grossed in excess of US$1 million per year, most notably Ailin Graef, who is more well known as her avatar, Anshe Chung.
Alternative user interfaces
Since the Second Life viewer was made open-source, a number of accessibility solutions have been developed (listed in chronological order):
- A modification of the Second Life viewer has been developed that allows users who are visually impaired to navigate their avatar using force feedback. Different object types are distinguished through different vibration frequencies.
- TextSL is a web-based client developed by the University of Nevada that allows users who are visually impaired to access Second Life using built in speech synthesis. TextSL allows users who are visually impaired to navigate, communicate with avatars and interact with objects using a command based interface inspired by the Zork adventure game. This web interface is also accessible using a smartphone.
- IBM's Human Ability and Accessibility Center, with the IBM Virtual Universe Community, developed a Web based interface for Second Life that can be accessed with a screen reader. This client provides basic navigation, communication, and perception functions using hotkeys.
- Max, The Virtual Guidedog, developed by Virtual Helping Hands, offers a virtual guide dog object that can be "worn" by a user's avatar. The guidedog provides a number of functions such as navigation and querying the environment through a chat-like interface. Feedback is provided using synthetic speech.
- METAbolt is an open source text client developed by the METAbolt Development Team which is fully accessible and also compatible with accessibility client applications (Microsoft platforms only) such as JAWS.
- SLTalker is a talker-like (text-based) interface for Second Life. You can connect to it using telnet-ssl or any talker or MUD client that supports SSL secure connections.
A study showed that one of the biggest barriers to making Second Life accessible to visually impaired users is its apparent lack of metadata, such as names and descriptions, for virtual world objects. This is a similar problem for the accessibility of the web, where images may lack alternative tags. The study found that 32% of the objects in Second Life are simply named "object", and up to 40% lack accurate names.
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". In October 2007, Linden Lab signed a second "Global Provider Program" with T-Entertainment Co., LTD., Seoul, South Korea and T-Entertainment's portal called "SERA Korea" serves as a 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.
Public chat within the world supports many written languages and character sets, providing the ability for people to chat in their native languages. Several resident-created translation devices provide machine translation of public chat (using various online translation services), allowing for communication between residents who speak different languages. Most versions of the viewer have language translation built into them.
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Premium membership allows the Resident to own land, with the first 512 m² (of Main Land owned by a holder of a Premium account) free of the usual monthly Land Use Fee (referred to by residents as Tier, because it is charged in tiers). There is no upper limit on tier; at the highest level, the user pays US$295 for their first 65,536 m². Any land must first be purchased from either Linden Lab or a private seller.
There are four types of land regions; Mainland, Private Region, Homestead, and Openspace. A region comprises an area of 65,536 m2 (16.194 acres) in area, being 256 meters on each side. Mainland regions form one continuous land mass, while Private regions are islands. Openspace regions may be either Mainland or Private, but have lower prim limits and traffic use levels than Mainland regions. The owners of a Private region enjoy access to some additional controls that are not available to mainland owners; for example, they have a greater ability to alter the shape of the land. Residents must own a region (either Mainland or Private) to qualify for purchasing an Openspace region.
Linden Lab usually sells only complete 65,536 m2 (16.194 acres) regions at auction (although smaller parcels are auctioned on occasion, typically land parcels abandoned by users who have left). Once Residents buy land they may resell it freely and use it for any purpose that it is not prohibited by the Second Life Terms of Service.
Residents may also choose to purchase, or rent, land from another Resident (a Resident landlord) rather than from Linden Lab. On a Private region, the built-in land selling controls allow the landlord to sell land in the region to another Resident while still retaining some control. Residents purchasing, or renting, land from any other party than Linden Lab are not required to hold a Premium membership nor to necessarily pay a Tier fee, although typically the landlord will require some form of upfront and/or monthly fee to compensate them for their liability to pay the Land Use Fee charged by Linden Lab. However Linden Lab acknowledges only the landlord as the owner of the land, and will not intervene in disputes between Residents. This means, for example, that a landlord can withdraw a Resident's land from availability, without refunding their money, and Linden Lab will not arbitrate in the dispute unless it is a clear-cut matter of 'land fraud'. Users can report such matters to Linden Lab if they occur and they will look into it.
|Additional Land||Parcel Size (m2)||Square Equal Line Length (m)||Max Prims|
|1⁄128 Mainland Region||512||22×22 (16×32)||117|
|1⁄64 Mainland Region||1024||32×32||234|
|1⁄32 Mainland Region||2048||44×44 (32×64)||468|
|1⁄16 Mainland Region||4096||64×64||937|
|1⁄8 Mainland Region||8192||90×90 (64×128)||1875|
|1⁄4 Mainland Region||16,384||128×128||3750|
|1⁄2 Mainland Region||32,768||181×181||7500|
|1 Mainland Region||65,536||256×256||15,000|
|"High Prim" Island (Grandfathered)||65,536||256x256||20,000|
For Mainland fees, the fee determines only the area of land available; the number of prims available is determined by the land itself. Some mainland regions offer more prims in the same land area. For non-mainland fees, the fee sets both the land area and the prim count.
There are only a few grandfathered "High Prim" islands, which are otherwise identical to regular islands but have a higher limit set in the server software. They can be resold but are rarely available for purchase.
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The grids are made of regions, each a square of side 256 meters. Regions without servers appear as deep sea and cannot be entered and cannot be flown over, but regions with servers can be seen across regions without servers. But, a user's "point of view" can enter a region without a server.
These regions' coordinate numbers locating them within the grid can be from 0 to (220-1), giving in theory a total grid size of 268,435.2 kilometers square, roughly 500 times the surface area of Earth's dry land. But all or most regions with servers are in the extreme northwest corner of this vast theoretical area. As of April 2011, 2,059.86 km2 of this area consisted of actual regions, a little smaller than the country of Luxembourg.
On 19 January 2009, Linden Lab, Philip Linden expressed the intent to merge the two grids (described below) into one.
Before 20 January 2011, there were two age-differentiated grids. When it originally started, only people 18 years and over could join. However, after much controversy about underage people joining, Linden Lab created the Teen Grid, which was for those ages 13–17. When teens turned 18, providing documentation verifying their age, they would be transferred to the Main Grid. Linden Lab has received controversy for the lack of integration between teens and adults. Some parents protest that they cannot be on the grid together with their teenage children, and companies cannot market to both teens and adults in SL even if their products have universal appeal. This grid merge was widely supported by teen grid residents, although some also oppose it. Linden Lab employees have also been in favor of merging the grids, most notably Blue Linden, former teen grid manager. As of 20 January 2011, there is only one grid. Users 16 and 17 years of age are allowed to visit any G-rated region until they turn 18 and verify their age, at which point they may visit any region, regardless of rating. In addition, there are four regions only available to 16 and 17-year-old residents, known as Chimp Labs 1, 2, 3, and 4.
Users under 16 years of age are not allowed in Second Life, and anyone under reasonable suspicion of being underage may have their account suspended until their age can be verified. However, Linden Lab places burden of proof on alleged underage users, and does not check to verify anything themselves. As a result, false underage user reports are filed by some residents as a form of griefing or for revenge.
Some regions of the grid are intended to recreate famous places or cities that exist in real life.
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.
Linden Lab provides official viewers for XP / Vista / 7, Mac OS X, and most distributions of Linux. A third-party version is available for Solaris and OpenSolaris. The viewer renders 3D graphics using OpenGL technology. Since the viewer is open source, users may recompile it to create their custom viewers; modified viewer software is available from third parties. One such example is the Nicholaz Edition. This viewer, produced by Nicholaz Beresford, includes bug fixes developed outside Linden Lab that are not in the Linden Lab code. More recently a client known as Phoenix, created by a group of residents who previously made their own clients yet have since banded together to work as one, has become popular among the user base of Second Life due to the large number of features they have added to the original client. The Phoenix team has since created the Firestorm viewer (also downloadable from the Phoenix Website) based on Linden Lab's Second Life Viewer 2.
An independent project, libopenmetaverse, offers a function library for interacting with Second Life servers. libopenmetaverse has been used to create non-graphic third party viewers, including SLEEK, a text browser using .NET Framework, and Ajaxlife, a text viewer that runs in a web browser and TextSL  a text client inspired by the Zork adventure game that allows users who are visually impaired to access Second Life using a screen reader.
In February 2008 a partnership between Linden Lab and Vollee was announced. In May, 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. As of June 2009, it seems Vollee no longer exists as their web sites are no longer available. However, there are now a handful of mobile clients which allow users to login to various virtual worlds, including Second Life. While these applications do not provide a 3D virtual view of the world, residents are able to view their contacts, chat in IM or local and teleport to other locations.
A special beta viewer is available, which has been updated and used for software testing by volunteers for special projects like COLLADA mesh. The beta client connects to a "beta grid" which consists of a limited number of regions running various releases of unstable test server code. 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.
Each full region (an area of 256×256 meters) in the Second Life "grid" runs on a single dedicated core of a multi-core server. Homestead regions share 3 regions per core and Openspace Regions share 4 regions per core, running proprietary software on Debian Linux. These servers run scripts in the region, as well as providing communication between avatars and objects present in the region.
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.
Assets are stored on Isilon Systems storage clusters, comprising all data that has ever been created by anyone who has been in the SL world. Infrequently used assets are offloaded to S3 bulk storage. As of December 2007[update], the total storage was estimated to consume 100 terabytes of server capacity. 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.
Each server instance runs a physics simulation to manage the collisions and interactions of all objects in that region. Objects can be nonphysical and non moving, 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. As of 1 April 2008[update], Second Life simulators use the Havok 4 physics engine for all in-world dynamics. This engine is capable of simulating thousands of physical objects at once.
Linden Lab pursues the use of open standards technologies, and uses free and open source software such as Apache, MySQL, Squid and Linux. The plan is to move everything to open standards by standardizing the Second Life protocol. Cory Ondrejka, former CTO 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.
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. In 2008 there were some alternative grids which are using OpenSimulator.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (January 2012)|
The graphics, the Linden Scripting Language, and the Havok physics engine enable the simulation of various real or imagined machines and devices. There are many light houses, some with detailed Fresnel lenses. Steam punk buoyant airships are also common. There are combat weapons systems. A large part of the Linden Scripting Language Guide describes the features available for modeling vehicles. Popular uses of this include cars, boats, motorcycles and airplanes. Manned vehicles have advantages, but there can also be autonomous or remotely controlled vehicles.
A major obstacle is region (sim) border crossings, which unlike cell phone handoffs, are a problem for users, even at walking speed. Recent work by Linden Lab has greatly improved this, and if the user in question has few resources assigned to him or her, the crossing can be almost seamless.
SL "physics" (based on computer game physics) consists mostly of avoidance of interpenetration of avatars and other "physical" objects with other objects, "physical" or not; but for "physical" objects, most importantly vehicles, there is an approximation of real world motion. Avatars can "sit" on vehicles and their users can control them. The scripting language includes many system call specialized for vehicles, to define their movement and control, but the correspondence to real world motion is not quantitatively defined. SL vehicles typically act like real world vehicles only in superficial ways. To some extent, the differences are needed to deal with the sim crossing problem (including the oldest known bug in the SL software), the time step (at best about 1/40 sec.) the Internet communication latency (lag), and so forth. For some types of moving objects, a fairly high degree of realism is possible within these limits, but, with the provided system calls, simpler motions are easier to script.
|Michelangelo's Ceiling of the Sistine Chapel (22 minutes), Smarthistory|
Second Life is used as a platform for education by many institutions, such as colleges, universities, libraries and government entities.
Since 2008, the University of San Martin de Porres of Peru has been developing Second Life prototypes of Peruvian archeological buildings, and training teachers for this new paradigm of education.
Second Life residents express themselves creatively through virtual world adaptations of art exhibits, live music, live theater and machinima, as well as other art forms. In fact, every avatar, being essentially an extremely detailed "skin" stretched over a complex sculpted "shape," can be seen and appreciated as a work of art in itself.
Second Life is used for scientific research, collaboration, and data visualization. Examples include SciLands, American Chemical Society's ACS Island, Genome, Virginia Tech's SLATE, and Nature Publishing Group's Elucian Islands Village.
Second Life gives companies the option to create virtual workplaces to allow employees to virtually meet, hold events, practice any kind of corporate communications, conduct training sessions in 3D immersive virtual learning environment, simulate business processes, and prototype new products.
Religious organizations have also begun to open virtual meeting places within Second Life. In early 2007, LifeChurch.tv, a Christian church headquartered in Edmond, Oklahoma, and with eleven campuses in the USA, created "Experience Island" and opened its twelfth campus in Second Life. The church reported "We find that this creates a less-threatening environment where people are much more willing to explore and discuss spiritual things". In July 2007, an Anglican cathedral 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".
The First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Second Life (www.fuucsl.org) was established in 2006. Services have been held regularly making the FUUCSL Congregation one of the longest-running active congregations in Second Life.
The 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 to Mecca in person.
Second Life also offers several groups that cater to the needs and interests of Humanists, atheists, agnostics, and freethinkers. One of the most active groups is SL Humanism which has been holding weekly discussion meetings inside Second Life every Sunday since 2006.
The Maldives was the first country to open an embassy in Second Life. 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.
In May 2007 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. The Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs, Carl Bildt, stated on his blog that he hoped he would get an invitation to the grand opening.
In September 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. It was also planned on opening a virtual info terminals of Ministry of Diaspora.
On Tuesday December 4, 2007, Estonia became the third country to open an embassy in Second Life. In September 2007, Colombia and Serbia opened embassies. As of 2008, Macedonia and the Philippines have opened embassies in the "Diplomatic Island" of Second Life. In 2008, Albania opened an Embassy in the Nova Bay location. 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.
A wide variety of recreational activities, both competitive and non-competitive, take place on the Second Life Grid, including both traditional sports and video game-like scenarios.
Relationships are common in Second Life, including some couples who have married online. The social engagement offered by the online environment helps those who might be socially isolated. In addition, sex is often encountered. However, to access the adult sections requires age verification. There is also a large BDSM community.
Second Life relationships have been taken from virtual online relationships into personal, real-world relationships. Booperkit Moseley and Shukran Fahid were possibly the first couple to meet in Second Life and then Marry in real life. Booperkit travelled to America to meet Shukran and he returned to England with her after one week. They met in 2005 and were married in 2006. They currently live in the UK with 4 year old twin sons. Some couples meet online, form friendships, and eventually move to finding one another in the real world. Some even have their weddings on Second Life, as well as in a real-world setting.
There are many destinations within Second Life which are dedicated to those who enjoy role-playing. Some of these are targeted for adults, however there are also many which focus on fantasy role-playing. Many of these types of worlds have very specific sets of rules that each avatar who visits is expected to follow. Such rules can include things such as a dress code, a code of behavior, and world guidelines. If these rules are not followed, the avatar can be booted from the world by a game administrator. One example of one of these role-playing worlds is "The Realm of Valahari". This particular world takes place in a fantasy medieval setting. In order to exist within that world, your avatar must be dressed in fantasy or medieval attire. In case your avatar does not already own such clothing, the world provides clothing shops for you in an area which you visit before you actually enter the world. However, none of these clothing shops provide free items; all of them cost Linden Dollars (L$). Within the world, everyone is also expected to maintain the role-playing atmosphere. Anyone who is using "regular" or "everyday" language tends to be frowned upon and seen as an outsider by the other members of the Realm. "Regular" language is to be kept in private chat windows, so that the fantasy/medieval atmosphere is not polluted by it.
Role-play sims are usually either non-metered, script metered, or use the sim server health meter. In non-metered combat sims, all fighting is done through paragraph RP, usually with the assistance of role-play dice, or the players may determine the outcome they desire in IMs, and then role-play out the ending in IC chat. In metered combat sims, players carry weapons that are scripted to act in conjunction with the meter. Players then fight with their said weapons until one player's health expires and they "die". They are either resurrected by another player, a certain period of time, or returned to their home sim position to restore full health.
The integration between content purchases and provision of role-playing content has occasionally caused controversy in Second Life. Some examples include:
- a user may use real money, transferred via L$, to purchase clothing or items for a role-playing area, only to be banned from that area and have the value of those items wiped out;
- "Intrusive role-play", in which avatars role-play in a disruptive way in areas that are not intended for role-playing, has caused problems in the past. Examples include avatars dressing as police officers and claiming to have authority over areas that are nothing to do with them, or a previously sold system which allowed avatars to play vampires and "bite" any other avatar to "steal their soul"; some new users were convinced this would have a permanent effect on their avatar and even paid to purchase role-playing items to restore their soul, unaware that the effect was entirely irrelevant if the player did not wish to participate in the vampire role-play;
- the range of avatar costumes and items available is much greater than the range of role-play areas and the range of playable social roles, meaning that users may purchase items not realizing that the role they are advertised as providing cannot exist.
Criticism and controversy
A number of difficult issues have arisen around Second Life. Issues range from the technical (budgeting of server resources), to moral (pornography), to legal (legal position of the Linden Dollar, Bragg v. Linden Lab). Security issues have also been a concern.
In the past, large portions of the Second Life economy consisted of 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, even though the person running the business may be in full compliance with the law in their own country. Linden Lab offer no compensation for businesses that are damaged or destroyed by these rule changes, which can render significant expenditure or effort worthless.
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.
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 had long asserted were scams. On Tuesday, January 8, 2008 Linden Lab announced the upcoming prohibition of payment of fixed interest on cash deposits in unregulated banking activities in-world. All banks without real-world charters closed or converted to virtual joint stock companies by January 22, 2008. After the ban, a few companies continue to offer non-interest bearing deposit accounts to residents, such as the e-commerce site XStreet, which had already adopted a zero-interest policy 3 months before the LL interest ban.
||This section needs additional citations for verification. (January 2012)|
Due to Second Life's rapid growth rate, it has suffered from difficulties related to system instability. These include increased system latency, and intermittent client crashes. However, some faults are caused by the system's use of an "asset server" 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. 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 fact, believed to be caused by the same issue, is "inventory loss" 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, although a policy change instituted in 2008 allows accounts to file support tickets when inventory loss occurs. Many in-world businesses will attempt to compensate for this or restore items, although they are under no obligation to do so and not all are able to do so. A recent change in how the company handles items which have "lost their parent directory" means that inventory loss is much less of a problem and resolves faster than in recent years. "Loss to recovery times" have gone from months (or never) to hours or a day or two for the majority of users, but inventory loss does still exist.
Second Life functions by streaming all data to the user live over the Internet with minimal local caching of frequently used data. The user is expected to have a minimum of 300kbit/s of Internet bandwidth for basic functionality, with 1Mbit/s providing better performance. Due to the proprietary communications protocols, it is not possible to use a network proxy/caching service to reduce network load when many people are all using the same location, such as when used for group activities in a school or business.
Needs to hold a meeting of more people than can be supported by a region's server, has prompted a behavior called "four-cornering", i.e. meeting where four regions with servers all meet; this is unwelcome, as it tends to put excessive load on the system sending object and texturing information and inter-user messages between those four regions' servers.
In some cases the Lindens told people who had months (or years) of critically bad simulator performance that they changed the host (it fixed the problem permanently). This proves the existence of invisible host classes that are persistent/permanent despite repeated simulator reboots, can be permanently changed by the Lindens for a specific land, are invisible to the user in all circumstances aside from the extreme performance difference, and have identical land fees being paid to Linden Lab. This has been nicknamed the 'host lottery problem'. 
Fraud and intellectual property protection
Although Second Life's client and server incorporate Digital Rights Management technology, the visual data of an object must ultimately be sent to the client in order for it to be drawn; thus unofficial third-party clients can bypass them. One such program, CopyBot, was developed in 2006 as a debugging tool to enable objects to be backed up, but was immediately hijacked for use in copying objects; additionally, programs that generally attack client-side processing of data, such as GLIntercept, can copy certain pieces of data. Such use is prohibited under the Second Life TOS  and could be prosecuted under the DMCA.
Linden Lab may ban a user who is observed using CopyBot or a similar client, but it will not ban a user simply for uploading or even selling copied content; in this case, Linden Lab's enforcement of intellectual property law is limited to that required by the "safe harbor" provisions of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, which requires filing a real-life lawsuit. Although a few high-profile businesses in Second Life have filed such lawsuits, none of the cases filed to date have gone to trial, and most have been dismissed pursuant to a settlement agreement reached between the parties. Overall, the majority of businesses in Second Life do not make enough money for a lawsuit to be worthwhile, or due to real-life work commitments, they cannot devote enough time to complete one. As a result, many Second Life businesses and their intellectual property remains effectively unprotected.
The exception to this trend of dismissal via settlement agreement may be found in the matter of Eros, LLC v. Linden Research, Inc. As of March 2010, the case is currently pending in the Northern District Court of California awaiting a determination of whether the matter may be certified as a class action.
There have also been issues with the use of false DMCA takedown notices. Once a DMCA takedown notice is served, reversing it requires an individual to expose his personal information to the filer (filing a notice does not require this); for the penalty of perjury to be enacted, a lawsuit is required (anything less, the false DMCA claimer can just claim it from a different account every week causing legitimate business unlimited losses). In addition, the technical process of removal and re-instatement of content on Second Life is subject to failure which can result in content becoming unusable to its owner. This does not effectively prevent content theft; a thief who is subject to a DMCA takedown notice will not challenge it, but will simply create a new account and re-upload the content, often releasing it with all permissions available to maximize propagation out of spite.
Most users in the world as paying, private individuals are, likewise, effectively unprotected. Common forms of fraud taking place in-world include bogus investment and pyramid schemes, fake or hacked vendors, and failure to honor land rental agreements. A group of virtual landowners online have filed a class action lawsuit against the company, claiming the company broke the law when it rescinded their ownership rights. The plaintiffs say a change in the terms of service forced them to either accept new terms that rescinded their virtual property ownership rights, or else be locked out of the site.
The Emerald client, developed by a group of users based on an open-source branch of the Viewer, Snowglobe, became extremely popular and was used by a large proportion of the user base. The authors of the Emerald client were strongly believed to have gained influence over Linden Lab, to the point that two programmers fired from Linden Lab were immediately hired by Emerald, one of whom is still working with Phoenix/Firestorm today. Several groups alleged that the Emerald viewer contained trojan code which tracked user details and demographics in a way that the developers could later recover. While this data collecting was not done within the viewer, but done with inworld logging scripts, one of these groups was banned from Second Life by Linden Lab after publishing their discovery. Shortly afterward, it was discovered that one of the members of the Emerald team had attempted to use the viewer to DDOS another website. In response, Linden Lab revoked Emerald's third party viewer approval and permanently banned several of Emerald's developers. Many remaining Emerald developers left to work on a new viewer project, Phoenix, which started off where Emerald ended, but doesn't contain any malicious code. It is now the most popular viewer used by Second Life residents. Phoenix is no longer being worked on and its popularity will soon to be surpassed by Firestorm, another viewer made by the same group as Phoenix, but based on Linden Lab's newer codebase and contains new features Linden Lab has developed more recently.
Due to what went on with Emerald, Linden Lab instituted a Third Party Viewer Directory, which lists viewers that have submitted for review and have been approved by Linden Lab as not containing any malicious intent. They also outlined a new Third Party Viewer Policy, which can be found here: http://secondlife.com/corporate/tpv.php
For a listing of third party viewers that Linden Lab has approved, see http://wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/Third_Party_Viewer_Directory (listing is by stability of the viewer to promote competition in making the TPV as stable as possible).
Ban of educational and gaming communities
Linden Lab has twice, in 2007 and 2010, banned a California educational institution, Woodbury University, from having a representation within Second Life. On 20 April 2010 four simulators belonging to the university were deleted and the accounts of several students and professors terminated, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education. Professor Edward Clift, Dean of the School of Media, Culture and Design at Woodbury University, told The Chronicle of Higher Education that their campus "was a living, breathing campus in Second Life," that included educational spaces designed mostly by students, including a mock representation of the former Soviet Union and a replica of the Berlin Wall. According to Professor Clift, the virtual campus did not "conform to what Linden Lab wanted a campus to be."
References in popular culture
Since its debut in 2003, Second Life has been referenced increasingly by various popular culture media, including literature, television, film, and music. In an episode of The Office, Jim creates a Second Life character to offset Dwight.
The series True Life did an episode that involved Second Life. The episode called “True Life: I Have Another Life on the Web”, aired in 2008 and followed three people who have alter egos online that greatly differ from who they are in reality. Amy used Second Life and she had two avatars, or alter egos. The first is named Keiko, an avatar that resembles her, and her second alter ego is Mama Shepard, a 38 year old widow, who owns and operates a virtual bakery. Amy was completely involved in her virtual world. Ben Rosen, the producer of this True Life episode, explained that Second Life houses a lot of people obsessed with their “other lives” in this virtual world. With its own currency, job opportunities, and shopping options, Second Life allows for endless possibilities for avatars and endless opportunities for the people playing on Second Life.
Second Life is featured prominently in a scene from the 2010 movie Hot Tub Time Machine. The character Jacob is playing as his avatar Jacob Morlim in-world, and the scene shows several shots of Second Life gameplay.
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- Official website
- Second Life Wiki
- List of regions plus other stats
- Linden Lab - Owners of Second Life