You can’t have missed Linden Lab’s recent announcement regarding the Community Partnership Programme, which will bring to each and every community in Second Life® the kind of “special agreement” that Linden Lab signed with the United Sailing Sims nine months ago.
Back then, Linden Lab promised to do a similar thing for further communities that wanted the same arrangement. It took them a long time of “beta testing”, but now they’re basically extending the agreement to every community that wishes to be part of this special relationship between Linden Lab and a group of deeply-engaged residents.
The interesting aspect of the announcement, however, is its timing. But the details are also intriguing, even though not very surprising.
Back to Mainland?
In late 2008, I sort of predicted that in 2009, one of Linden Lab’s focus would be on the mainland again. The reasoning is not obvious. It has to do with one unique characteristic of Second Life: its contiguity.
Anyone looking at the grid map today would laugh at that. After all, the mainland continents are almost lost in the vast ocean of private islands and micro-continents. Every year the ratio of private islands vs. mainland seems to grow and grow. So where is the demand for contiguity?
We have to understand first and foremost that the drive towards private islands away from the mainland is mostly due to two reasons: control (i.e. the Estate Tools) and aesthetics (i.e. creating a space that actually looks nice outside the visual chaos of the mainland). Some other minor issues, like the ability to have 100 avatars in the same private island (as opposed to the far lower limit on the mainland) certainly are important; also, having “empty sea” around a sim will noticeably reduce lag.
Both control and aesthetics could, in fact, have been implemented on the mainland, if Linden Lab wished it so. Allegedly, a few mainland sims (Luskwood?) actually have access to Estate Tools. And of course in the past years Linden Lab has introduced a few “themed mainland communities” using reasonably good content as prefabs for the mainland residents who establish themselves there, and cannot change them without explicit permission by Linden Lab’s concierges.
Thanks to the Linden Department of Public Works, themed communities, sponsored by Linden Lab, like Bay City, have been running for over a year and a half now. And, of course, Zindra, the Adult Continent, is also a “themed” continent, even though there are less building restrictions there, but the main infrastructure was created by the LDPW to give the area, at least at the beginning, some consistent look.
However, this is all a small fraction of the mainland. Sure, large-scale rental projects like Ravenglass Rentals have been on the SL mainland for half a decade now, and the idea is to have a vast community living on the mainland and provide the required services — aesthetics and control (e.g. anti-griefing and anti-drama policies) — to mainland residents as well. There are many others.
They’re not enough.
So why should Linden Lab bother?