Friday, December 27, 2019

Top Stories of The 2010s, Part One

By Bixyl Shuftan

As the decade comes to a close, there's been some looking back at some of the events that have happened. For the people of Second Life, ten years ago there was the creation, the rise, and then the peaking of the popularity of the virtual world. For the 2010's, Second Life hasn't made Big Media very much. But there's been no shortage of events that were for a time were of great interest to many residents. Some made news more than others. So here's some of the decade's top stories.

The Linden Lab 30% Layoff

Just a week after the Second Life Newser got started came our first big story to cover, when on June 10 2010 Linden Lab announced a "Restructuring" in which thirty percent of it's staff lost their jobs. Residents were shocked at the news. Gone were favorites such as Blue and Teagan Linden. One resident reacted by setting up a memorial to those whom lost their jobs. There was an also an "Independence Day" party in their honor as well.

A company giving a third of it's staff the pink slip is usually a sign of deep trouble. So naturally people were worried about what was going to happen next. Rumors were around for months Linden Lab was in talks with Microsoft for a buyout. This was just one of many changes at the Lab in 2010, including the resignation of M Linden as CEO and Philip returning for a short time as intirem CEO. Second Life's future was very much in doubt for the remainder of the year. It wasn't until December with the arrival of a new CEO, Rod Humble/Rodvik Linden, that the fears of Second Life being closed down had largely faded.


2010 was when Linden Lab began offering a new viewer for the residents, Viewer 2. It was not popular with established residents, and people looked for alternatives. The Emerald Viewer, offered for free by a group of volunteers known as Modular Systems, or Team Emerald, quickly became the most popular alternative, the first third party viewer to hit it big.

But on August 20, there was a DoS attack on a website of one of their critics. The attack was traced to computers using the Emerald viewer to access Second Life at the time. One of the team stepped down, and the Lab presented them with a list of demands, notably three of the team stepping down. When one refused to, the team split in two. One group led by Jessica Lyon would go on to start Team Phoenix and the Phoenix viewer. The other faded away following Linden Lab blocking the viewer from accessing Second Life, some of their leaders banned by Linden Lab or never seen again.

Emeraldgate is notable as it's the incident that sparked the creation of what now is Team Firestorm, the people behind the Firestorm Viewer that remains the most popular viewer used by residents.

The Teen Grid Merger

Also in August 2011, it was announced at the Second Life Community Convention (or the SL con) that Linden Lab would soon be closing the Teen Grid, and those 16 and 17 of age would be allowed in Second Life. Philip Linden called the grid with it's population of under 18 residents a "mistake," and expressed confidence that Second Life with it's filtering system could handle the influx of 17 and 16 year olds.

But the announcement created a storm of comments by residents whom feared this would soon lead to adult areas being shut down. The Lab tried to assure residents that there would be a smooth transition. And there were efforts by some residents to welcome them in. But others called this an accident waiting to happen, having no confidence in Linden Lab to do the job, "I'm sorry LL shafted you all. ... many of us BEGGED for a PG continent that you and us could have and be safe together. We saw what was coming and wanted to make the grid safe for all. Now it isn't safe for anyone.”

As it turned out though, not many of the 16 and 17 year olds would be coming to the Main Grid. When the Teen Grid was turned off on Dec 31, 2010, most apparently went to online games or other Internet activities. Exactly why is speculation, some wondering if the teens just didn't want to hang out with "old people," but preferred a place where they could be with just their peers. Others felt the teens were around, just simply fibbing about their age and always had been.

The Redzone Controversy

One thing many residents fear in Second Life is someone harassing them getting around bans by creating alts to torment them further. So it's no real surprise eventually someone starting offering an "alt detector." As far back as December 2010, news started going around about "Redzone." That the creator developed juvenile products such as a "Toilet HUD" probably helped in the masses not taking the product product seriously at first, especially with stories that the product stunk at delivering what was promised. Privacy activists however were very worried Redzone could potentially be used to trace people to their real-life addresses, leading to doxxing and stalkers taking their harassment to real life.

Eventually, Linden Lab responded, taking down Redzone from Marketplace on March 2, 2011. Redzone's creator, zFire Xue (Michael Prime), remained defiant and was banned a few weeks later. It turned out that zFire was a convicted criminal on parole, and in May he turned himself in when a warrant was issued for his arrest. He would be sentenced to four months in jail, and the judge ordered part of his conditions would be parole were no access to computers or Internet access, Second Life specifically mentioned in the ruling.

For some residents, it was "Emerald all over again" in that a malicious coder had caused so much worry for the residents. Privacy activists such as the Greenzone group remained vigilant for any other alt detector that might cause trouble, getting into a tangle with the Voodoo security system a year later. Fortunately, there wouldn't be another like Redzone.

Second Life Ninth Birthday

2012 was a year Linden Lab put some distance between itself and the residents. There would be no snowball fight between the Lindens and residents. Nor did the "Kiss a Linden" Valentines Day event take place. Later in the summer, it was announced there would be no Second Life Community Convention that year. Residents expressed disappointment at these events being canceled. But then on April 16, 2012, Linden Lab announced they would not be organizing the Second Life Birthday celebration that year. In a statement later on the forums, they stated they were leaving it up to the residents, expecting numerous smaller celebrations.

But instead of following Linden Lab's suggestion, some residents banded together to hold the Second Life Ninth Birthday themselves, with both sponsors and some noted SL personalities behind it. Those taking part had only a short time to get things done, so they hurried things up. It would take place on a twenty sim area, and last from June 18 to June 24. There would be lots to see and do. And the event ended with fireworks at the Cake Stage. While there were a few minor things that went wrong, the SL9B was a definite success.

For five more years, the SLB events continued to be in the hands of a volunteer staff. Although Linden Lab would slowly start to be more involved in the anniversary with "Music Fest" and shopping events, "The Birthday" was still resident-run until the SL15B. In 2019, the Lab finally fully took over, saying over time they had been observing what worked and what didn't. While it meant saying goodbye to some new traditions such as "The Cake," the residents as a whole were glad Linden Lab was taking care of Second Life's anniversary event.

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For part two of the series, Click Here.

Bixyl Shuftan

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