Last week, Linden Lab restored the Second Life® discounts for educational and nonprofit groups on private region set up and maintenance costs. The discount is 50% for both. This is great news, but is it too late?
This writer has long felt that Linden Lab should be doing more to encourage educational and nonprofit groups. In the past, these groups created much of what was great in Second Life. Much of it was lost after Linden Lab removed the discount and many of these groups left Second Life or drastically scaled back their involvement.
The restoration of the discount is great news, but there are several reasons why this writer doubts whether it’s enough. Partly it’s because educational and nonprofit group administrators who were persuaded only with difficulty to make a substantial commitment in Second Life will be reluctant to do it again after their previous investment evaporated when Linden Lab eliminated their discount.
Another reason is that we now have alternatives to Second Life that didn’t exist until recently. Two years ago, this writer was on the verge of buying a full private region in Second Life; instead, he now runs a 17 region OpenSim grid for zero monthly maintenance costs (other than for electricity) on a home Linux server that cost less than the setup fees alone on a single Second Life full region. Educational and nonprofit groups are making the same calculation. This is one of the key reasons that the US military now has 200 sims in its own OpenSim grid. Another reason is that it’s so much easier to export objects it creates from OpenSim than it is from Second Life.
While OpenSim doesn’t have the volume of inventory and social life that Second Life has, it does offer its own attractions. Educators express appreciation for the lack of distractions that students find in Second Life, they like having greater control over their regions, and of course administrators love the lower costs of OpenSim. Also, based on what this writer has heard, educators and nonprofits will be wondering how they should persuade administrators to renew their investment in Second Life when they’ve already seen how readily it can be taken away.
Despite involvement in OpenSim, this writer still loves Second Life – he still owns the mainland property he bought in 2004 – and hopes Linden Lab’s new discount pricing structure attracts a flood of new educational and nonprofit groups. They not only add so much of value to Second Life, they have always seemed to this writer as a natural economic base for Second Life. I love Second Life. However it’s possible that Linden Lab may have shot itself in the foot when it drove so many educational and nonprofit groups to reduce or end their Second Life involvement by removing their discount. Those of us who love Second Life can only hope that bringing back the discount will both bring back groups who left and also attract new ones.