by Emiley Tomsen

On October 4, 2010, Linden Lab, creators of the Virtual world of Second Life, announced their plan to change pricing for virtual land known as “private regions”. The announcement included the news that educational and non-profit organizations, which up to now have enjoyed a 50% discounted rate, would now be forced to pay full price for their regions.  News of  the price changes were blasted by many residents in blog posts, especially by educators and others who operate non-profit organizations in-world, with some remarking that these change make Second Life more expensive and unwelcome to organizations who use the service as a teaching aide.

Linden Lab had issued a statement on February 5th, 2010 on land pricing, but did not include any information on the new policy affecting educators and non-profits, giving no hint at the time of the changes to come, and offering no chance for these organizations to consult with Linden Lab about how said changes might affect them.

Some groups are contemplating moving off of Second Life entirely, to reestablish themselves on other grids.  The International Federation of Trekkers was affected as well, even though they don’t currently own any private sims. Their plan was to establish a science fiction-themed  region dedicated to the vision of Gene Roddenberry, the creator of Star Trek.  It would even  have included an area specifically for his son Rod Roddenberry to use.  Without the discount,  the new sim is now out of reach.  One possible route for them is the UFS Grid, as it is already Star Trek themed and is very competitively priced.

Krypton Radio contacted some of the organizations which operate under the Nonprofit and Educational Charter  for some feedback on how they would be affected by these changes to the land pricing.

The head of Virtual Museums, Inc. is known in-world as Ethan Westland.  This real world 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation operates “The Frank Lloyd Wright Virtual Museum” in Second Life.  Mr. Westland provided the following statement:

“We only recently became a bonafide nonprofit and the decision by LL will have an impact on us. We had applied only a few weeks ago for the educational tier rate, which, had we been granted that, would have meant that our sustaining and supporting memberships would have completely paid our tier. We were looking forward to not having to forage for tier each month and wondered why Linden was dragging their feet on responding to our application for non profit status and I think now we know why they were.
“So as a result of their decision, we will see no change in what we were already paying each month for tier….except that we will have to re-evaluate our fundraising drives to determine what will be the best way to maintain sustainability. I have no doubt that we can do it as we have for well over a year now but it would have been nice to be able to refocus some of our energy on areas other than fundraising.”

Millay Freschi, the Virtual World Coordinator for Amnesty International and The Four Bridges Project shared a more upbeat approach to the situation in her interview with Krypton Radio:


Millay Freschi:
Well, we’re looking at it as an opportunity. We’re a model community that has always been flexible. This is a reminder that nothing stays the same and we’re all open to all of the possibilities.   It’s been a way for us to remember that our mission is not based in SL but in the worlds…all of them.

Krypton Radio: Did Linden Lab send any kind of advance notice to your groups, or did you find out the same time as we all did?

Millay: Same time that everyone else did.  Their recent announcement that they would extend the current pricing for any that renewed before December 31 for up to two years came in an email.

KR: I see, so I assume you’re going to take advantage of that.

Millay: No, well I don’t know but we’re looking at the whole thing as an opportunity. As a sim under the nonprofit or education discount, our terms of service left us constrained in many respects. If we’re losing the discount, perhaps we might explore some opportunities to make our community more  reflective of a “real life” community (though I don’t like the differentiation).

KR: How would you make it more reflective of real life, if you have to go that route?

Millay: Well communities include businesses, schools, outreach centers – a variety of different pursuits. Our goal has always been to be a model experiment with ideas about communities and what makes them sustainable. I’ve always felt that governance and economy and sharing resources, making connections should involve all of the different aspects inherent in any community. this gives us a fantastic opportunity to do just that if we decide to go that way.

KR: That sounds wonderful, it’s great to hear that despite what could be a set back for some, you’re going to go for the positive and keep it all alive.

Millay: Oh yes. I think that’s really important and not just here and under these circumstances. Things are always changing and the more flexible we remain, the better our chances at an overall success. When your mission is nothing less than changing the world, hope, flexibility and understanding the possibilities created by obstacles are imperative.

What is the future of charity, education and non-profit organizations on Second Life? Only one thing is certain: the financial realities of life on the grid will limit what these organizations can do on the grid moving forward.

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Don’t miss the upcoming episode of Vagabond Carter’s Stark Reality, when Vagabond “Tony” Carter interviews Ntanel Swordthain of the International Federation of Trekkers!