Linden Lab : If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Ban ‘Em

Linden Lab announced new Third Party Viewer Policy Changes recently, which has everyone who actually uses a viewer that matters in a bit of a snit, including me. As usual, this was done without any notice or insight into the real user experience and is presented with the customary baldfaced lies masquerading as community focus. Let’s review, shall we:

Third Party Viewer Policy Changes
02-24-2012 02:06 PM – last edited on 02-24-2012 02:16 PM

Protecting Second Life users’ privacy and security is a priority, and today, we’ve made some changes to our Policy on Third Party Viewers to strengthen those protections for all users (Section 2.a.iii, 2.i, 2.j).

User privacy and security is a priority? Since when? For the last seven years users have been begging for privacy features that Linden Lab has flatly refused in official announcements or completely ignored. All of a sudden they care about privacy? Isn’t there anyone on the current board left with a memory or, you know, a drop of shame?

We’ve also updated the policy to be clearer about the sorts of innovations that developers should work on for their particular Viewers (Section 2.k), and which they should work on in partnership with Linden Lab for all of Second Life. This is so that we can avoid the problems that result when a Viewer changes the way elements of Second Life are defined or how they behave, in such a way that users on other Viewers don’t experience the same virtual reality.

We use Third Party Viewers because we WANT to experience different virtual reality and immersion from what the miserable Linden Lab Viewer offers. Once again, our world, our imagination is your way, the only way. What corporate monkey made this decision? And why should any Third Party Viewer work on what Linden Lab wants them to when most TPVs are aimed at addressing consumer demand and Linden Viewers are aimed at Lab priorities with no regard for user needs? The only “problems” this avoids is consumer choice.

Here are the new sections of the policy:

2.a.iii : You must not provide any feature that circumvents any privacy protection option made available through a Linden Lab viewer or any Second Life service.

Linden Lab don’t provide privacy protection; they never have. Linden Lab offers a band-aid over the track anyone by UUID issue — something anyone with basic LSL knowledge has been able to circumvent since 2004 with ANY viewer. Why not just fix that at a server level and then the TPVs can’t exploit it? While you’re at it, are you going to remove the online status and last logged information from group profiles? Are you going to address the fact that if someone IMs me, they get evidence I’m online regardless of what status I’m choosing to display? And why present this like it is a TPV issue as opposed to a Linden Lab fail that has been with us from the start?

2.i : You must not display any information regarding the computer system, software, or network connection of any other Second Life user.

2.j : You must not include any information regarding the computer system, software, or network connection of the user in any messages sent to other viewers, except when explicitly elected by the user of your viewer.

Making Viewer display opt-in is fine with me, but the display ban is pathetic. This is an obvious ploy to hide the fact that 80% of the customer base rejects the Linden Lab base product, and to prevent people from learning about new viewers based on seeing what others are using. I support making any feature that broadcasts user information opt-in, but once a user opts to make that information available, there is no reason to ban the display of that information except Linden Lab cowardice over the fact that consumers reject the official viewer in staggering numbers.

2.k : You must not provide any feature that alters the shared experience of the virtual world in any way not provided by or accessible to users of the latest released Linden Lab viewer.

Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot. Seriously? If Linden Lab doesn’t implement it, no one can? We have to wait on Linden Lab to fix and implement when they have repeatedly ignored consumer demand officially as well as through laziness and incompetence? Are they that threatened by people like Qarl working on user-sponsored projects that point out how pathetic the basic Labs viewer priorities are?

This is the point where the consumer base will just start ignoring Linden Lab entirely as they did at the start of TPV interest. Screw the approved TPV list. Users will opt for unapproved TPVs and Linden Lab will spin their wheels banning all their residents and killing their own product. This will, of course, lead to less security for users. Which is where we started with the TPV issue. Bang up job, guys.

We encourage Third Party Developers to continue innovating with unique user interfaces, niche features, and ways of interacting with the virtual world, and we look forward to working in partnership with developers on ideas they have for new or improved shared experiences for all of Second Life. We want to incorporate more innovative new features into Second Life to improve the experience for all users, and we encourage TPV developers to submit proposals through our standard process.

I don’t have enough profanity in my vocabulary to address this last. For Linden Lab to pretend that they have done anything but follow their own agenda and ignore customer demand throughout the last five+ years of their product development is deeply dishonest. To act as though TPVs should invest any time, effort or trust in their collaboration when Linden Lab has repeatedly screwed over partners without warning (education, enterprise, etc) to chase their latest whim borders on some sort of corporate bi-polar disorder.

There is something creepy and sinister behind this sudden make-believe concern for user security and this attempt to slam the door on consumer demand driven TPV innovation. I suspect we haven’t seen the final shoe drop on this and I’m uneasy trying to second guess the two-faced “this is for the community” doublespeak.

I didn’t think I could be more disgusted with Linden Lab, but they seemingly never tire of sinking to a lower level of disingenuous statements, disregard for consumer demand, and outright incompetence.

Where is the security and user-experience policy aimed at preventing spam from all these devices that gather our UUIDs to private servers and trigger deliveries we didn’t opt-into? Where is the ban on gathering user data without opt-in and storing it on outside servers? Oh, wait, that doesn’t threaten Linden Lab’s barely used viewer. So that security and privacy isn’t important today. Maybe in another seven years.

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  1. Que
    Posted June 3, 2012 at 9:17 PM | Permalink

    I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on this now, after the fact.

  2. Posted June 3, 2012 at 10:07 PM | Permalink

    I don’t understand what you feel may have changed to alter the opinions as expressed.

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