My internet provider – Virgin – whom I’ve remained loyal to for a number of years, despite at least five changes of address and a fair few problems along the way has now decided that I’m no longer worthy of their attention, simply because my area isn’t equipped for superfast internet – hardly my fault. I’ve been sold off to the highest bidder, in this case Talk Talk, with no consultation and little warning… nice to know they care about their customers.
To add insult to injury, this is the second time that a comms company has dumped me recently and palmed me off to a new provider with a penchant for double-entry names. Last year, T-Mobile was subsumed into EE, (because one E was presumably less impressive?), leaving me with no support and the choice of ‘upgrading’ to a new deal that was more expensive and less expansive than my existing one. I have a nasty feeling that any new internet package I’m offered will be equally less appealing – so unless I can get a good deal from Talk Talk, I’m afraid I’m going to walk walk!
It’s made me think about what what we might do if faced with a similar situation with SL. What if Linden Lab were given an offer they couldn’t refuse and flogged our virtual world off to the highest bidder? (Let’s call them Tech Tech, TT for short). Maybe nothing would change under TT’s ownership and we could go on living our virtual lives in peace and tranquillity, as if nothing was any different other than having Techies instead of Lindens in charge.
Then again, TT might have very different ideas about how to run a virtual world; ideas that would change everything. What if free accounts were scrapped, third party viewers were blocked and our accounts automatically linked to partner social networking sites? I daresay that many of us would be seriously thinking twice about whether we’d want to continue our relationship with SL. I wonder just how much things would have to change before even the real diehards and those with significant inworld holdings would be confronted with the stark choice of accepting significant change or waving goodbye?
It’s a choice we’re often faced with in RL, after all – like my own experience – companies frequently alter their plans, join with other businesses or otherwise change their focus. If we’re unhappy with changes we can negotiate – sometimes successfully – but the only other options are to either shape up or ship out, neither of which may necessarily be terribly attractive. However, there are always alternative suppliers and providers we can migrate to, and we can usually find something to suit us. That’s a luxury we don’t have with SL – if we didn’t like the new TT regime, our alternatives are somewhat limited: Other virtual worlds and platforms like SL do exist, but without the bells and whistles, economy and vibrant community that we’re used to. I suspect that many of us would rather give it all up than try to get to grips with a second rate experience.
As for myself, I’ve always said that if SL did come crumbling down around me, for whatever reason, then I probably wouldn’t seek out an alternative virtual world. I’ve tried a couple in the past and they just didn’t feel the same, however I do have a back-up plan. If things came to the worst, I’d seriously considering cobbling together a file server from a couple of spare laptops I have under the bed and opening up my own private OpenSim setup to the web. Of course, I’d have to limit access to friends only, for practical reasons, but at least it would mean we could still get together and rebuild something of what we’d lost, secure in the knowledge that no nasty corporate slimeballs could pull the rug from under us. It wouldn’t be perfect, but I’m pretty sure it would do the job.
Let’s hope it never happens!
You’re gone from here
And soon you will disappear
Fading into beautiful light
Cause everybody’s changing
And I don’t feel right
Keane – Everybody’s Changing