A Tale of Two Companies

It’s actually simple: they’re dirt cheap for what they offer. I have no clue on how many GBytes I actually have available — but it’s more than what all five computers at my home have together (including external disks), and, like Google’s Gmail, it grows every week. I also don’t remember how much traffic is included (it’s not unlimited), but I know that all my hundred sites just take about 1% or so of my monthly allowance. They give full shell access (no root access though), database servers are external (like LL’s asset servers, they’re huge clusters outside the “hosting servers”), the backpanel is customer-made (no Plesk or cPanel, but a solution that is actually better than both, and they have no intention of licensing it to others) and does basically everything you can imagine, and — yes — you can recompile PHP, Python, or whatever you wish to give you better performance or more features. In fact, you can install pretty much what you wish, too, and if it doesn’t require root access, it’s very likely that you can get it to run, too. The rest is basically all unlimited: unlimited domains, unlimited mailboxes and mail aliases, unlimited accounts (each account gets its own home directory), unlimited mailing lists (and if you don’t like mailman, well, compile your own…). A dozen or so of one-click-installable applications (like, well, WordPress…). And there are all sorts of esoteric things that I barely have tried to install or use, like streaming servers, Subversion, WebDAV access, project management tools — you name it, it will probably be pre-installed. If not, you can try to install it or ask them to install it for you.

All that for about the same cost of a Premium account in Second Life, ie. US$9.99 or so per month (like LL, DreamHost also does discounts if you pay yearly instead of monthly).

The parallel is easy to see. Linden Lab’s Second Life also gives you access to all tools you need to deploy your 3D content; avatars are infinitely tweakable; you can upload your own textures, sounds, and animations; you can script basically anything. Sure, there is a cost for keeping all that content on SL’s servers, and SL is definitely not the best reliable platform in the universe of virtual worlds, but why do people keep coming back to it? The same answer applies: you have so much flexibility, so many opportunities of adding content, so many different ways of applying your creativity — or establishing your business in SL — with little or no interference from Linden Lab. Nothing else on the “competition” comes even close — although definitely “better” platforms exist (where content is limited, screened, or simply not user-controlled), as well as even more flexible ones (but where you need professional content creators, 3D modellers, and top programmers to create even minimal content). SL, however, is the “best bang for the buck” — cheap enough to develop amazing things.

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