29 January 2007

Impact of open source on virtual land values

Usually about twice a week there's a "current" topic that flows thru SL's blogsphere. You'll see anywhere from three to twenty of the frequent bloggers focus on it, and often a couple articles from one of the SL newspapers. The current metaverse discussion is about the future of virtual land value.

What interests me about the current conversation is the black/white element. If the plan for making sim server code free works, then people will make lots of land and the value of existing land will plummet. That seems to be the conversation anyway. Along with "we're being set up" and "internet bubble" and "well duh!" comments.

If the SL server arrangement becomes free to set up, I don't see any reason why there'd be an explosion of land. The servers aren't going to be EASY to set up and run. Compiling the viewer source is a process rather like making a fancy wedding cake. I cringe wondering what the first Sim release will be like. There'll be a couple of personal server projects, some "continents" put up by metaverse corps for renting and showcasing, and some private corporate sims for IBM and the like to experiment with. Over time a group of hosting service companies will form, self-destruct, and eventually settle out. Fifteen years later there'll be an Ubuntu metaverse distro that almost anyone can download and run.

Sims run by experienced and competent hosting services will remain desirable. This actually makes me wonder about LL's long term plans; unless there's about half a year of perceived grid stability before they release I suspect any plans to be the primo hosting service won't go particularly well. But they might be planning on becoming a services company, or the metaverse ICANN, or ??? I'm curious to know what they're telling the VC folks. Once the sim code is out there, what's the plan?

There's the question of connection. If the entire metaverse can be easily connected (a la PtP teleports, or World Portals, or some such) land value will be impacted as people other than LL can make connecting land. Will I be able to carry and use my avatar's inventory, or my avatar, or my money all over the metaverse? If I can make my own sims but the connections are weak or non-existant, then I doubt this metaverse will be anything more than a bunch of dead ends.

If your VWs don't connect easily... Look at Active Worlds. They don't "physically" connect, your avatar can't be expected to go from one world to another, and nothing you "own" can go with you. Except for competition for users' time, opening a new AW world has zilch impact on the existing ones. They're all independent bubbles.

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