Been thinking a little more about the recent changes to Linden Lab’s TOS and trying to fathom out the logic behind them. After much consideration, i’ve come to the conclusion that there is no logic behind them at all and, it seems to me, that despite their protestations to the contrary, this is the Lab yet again acting the dictatorial despot and hammering yet another nail into the coffin of third party viewers and cutting-edge creativity.

Let’s consider the two ‘concerns’ that the Lab is addressing through the new terms: privacy and the common shared experience.

No-one’s going to dispute a resident’s right to privacy and, to be fair, LL have historically taken action – albeit with a bit of encouragement – to deal with breaches, such as the purported data-mining issue with Redzone. That’s good, and i applaud it but i don’t have the same enthusiasm when privacy is used to justify making decisions that either have no logic behind them or are just heavy-handed bullying for the sake of it.

LL have made known their intention to break scripts that publish any resident’s true online status – i really don’t understand what this has to do with privacy, other than in a couple of limited scenarios. Certainly LL can require TPVs to remove functionality that allows you to see the true online presence of friends when they’ve elected to show themselves as offline – that’s perfectly reasonable; similarly, it could be argued that scripts that broadcast an avatar’s online presence, for example to an external website, without explicit permission to do so, might be considered a breach of privacy, (easily fixed by a pop-up permission request). However, to break all the zillions of legitimate uses of this function, affecting who knows what tools throughout sl… marketing tools, adboards, ‘I’m online/offline’ indicators, visitor counters?, games… and the rest, is just madness. Of course, the scripts will still work for their owner and creator, (i have my doubts), but it’s still severely limiting functionality.

Why break this when there are already loads of different ways to find out someone’s true online status? Sending an IM; checking their profile in some TPVs (no doubt soon to be outlawed too); radar; joining one of their groups and looking at the membership list – or are all these functions to be broken too? Besides, it won’t be long until some enterprising resident comes up with something in Java or… erm, Mocha? that can query sl and feed back to a HUD to tell you exactly who’s online and who’s not. Coming to think of it, the ‘Friends’ applet on the sl Dashboard probably breaches the TOS already – did you give permission for the Lindens to show your online status there? i certainly didn’t!

Using Firestorm and, occasionally, Phoenix, Imprudence, Exodus and Kirsten's - It's no secret!

What about outlawing display of viewer tags for TPVs that give the option to view them – what on earth does this have to do with privacy? The official line is that noobs have been harassed because of the viewer they’re using. Really? Pull the other one, chaps. The Lindens believe that everyone should be afforded secrecy about their technical details unless they make a conscious decision to reveal that information – what utter nonsense! Here’s the really stupid bit – if i have a HUD that tells me what viewer you’re using, without your permission, that’s absolutely fine. Expect to see them on the Marketplace in the next few days!

Enough about privacy, what about the common shared experience benchmark that the Lab  are imposing on TPVs?

They are absolutely right to insist that the way in which a TPV works for one person shouldn’t break sl for another person, such as the much vaunted Emerald multiple attachment points meant that non-Emerald users saw some very strange things – i’ve no argument against that. However i’m really struggling to come up with anything at the moment that would come into that category, even though LL seem to think that pretty much anything that doesn’t come bundled as standard with the official viewer contravenes TOS in some way!

A nice bit of parcel Windlight

How, for example, does parcel Windlight break sl on the ‘common experience’ level? If i use the Serendipidy Viewer™ that allows me personally to experience parcel Windlight and, for the sake of argument, ear physics, linkset uploading, sanity checking for typos, cinema sound and teleport landing point non-head standing offset correction, none of which appear in the official Viewer, how on earth does that break anybody else’s inworld experience? Sure, it improves my experience but it doesn’t make anybody else’s any worse.

It just sounds like a severe case of sour grapes – LL saying ‘if we haven’t got it, you can’t have it’. Am i being overly harsh? Perhaps i am – after all, the Lab says that it wants to work with TPV devs in a spirit of collaboration… oh, hang on a minute, wouldn’t it have been a good idea to consult with them first about these changes then? Hardly bodes well for the future does it?

Hey, all you Lindens reading this, (i know you do… i see you having a good old nose every day), what’s really going on? i can’t imagine that you enjoy reading this kind of stuff, so how’s about opening up a bit eh? Not that i believe for one minute that you will – it’s more likely that at the next meeting of the Terms Of Service Secret Emergency Re-drafting Session,  (TOSSERS, for short), you’ll just add a further clause that bans bloggers from expressing an opinion – but think on this: how about talking things through nicely with us for once?

In case you hadn’t realised, there’s a whole load of people out there who, for the record –

  • Think sl is brilliant and would love it to be even better;
  • Would dearly love an official Viewer every bit as good as the TPVs they’ve chosen to use instead;
  • Would love to see Linden Lab collaborating with TPVs, rather than fighting with them;
  • Don’t want to see things broken in the name of ‘progress’ or ‘common experience’;
  • Care more about lag, bake-fail and high tier than the privacy issues you’ve jumped on;
  • Are very, very fed up about being kept in the dark.

Whaddya have to say for yourselves?

s. x

It’s like forgetting the words to your favorite song.
You can’t believe it; you were always singing along.
Regina Spektor – Eet

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