Time to make some predictions. The first one in the spirit of Mean Girls is that by the end of 2008 everyone will own two strip clubs, both will lose money.
The second one is serious: by the end of 2008, I will be out of escorting. One of my running themes has been how rl is coming to sl. This is underlined by a club I've been invited to audition for, it is owned by an rl porn star. The managers are all top talent, with good reputations in second life, and they know what they are doing. Other elements of this new club, which I don't know if I can mention the name of yet, point to success. They will offer premium cyber dancing and vox services. But what it also points to is the coming of rl to second life. Sooner or later, the IRS and others, especially in these "immigration" obsessed times, are going to require that rl businesses here declare where their employees are from, and all of the things that go with that, such as proof of eligibility to work, are going to come with that.
This means that sl escorting is going to divide into three parts: rl establishments, with rl verified people eventually having to pay rl rates, the really dark escorting which is outside of what rl establishments will touch, and the cheapest hobbyist rates. I'm not opposed to the evolution itself, even though it means the end of my time as an escort. That was always coming, I don't do sex work rl, and like any escorts on sl, and many people involved in the direct sex industry generally, my rl and my sl are not on speaking terms about this. Eventually for SL to grow people have to make enough money here to pay for the time invested, and the people who do, are going to have to be more integrated rl and sl.
One sign of this is that the number of escorts in second life is dropping. Not because heterogendered escorts are stopping, which was the chatter around voice, but because being a second life escort who charges even 500L :15 is becoming a more expensive proposition. The new club, as it should, requires photo real skins and other accessories. It also requires that you use sex parts from their partner, who is not xcite, which means even experienced escorts will have to pay 1000L or more just to be able to work there. The division between being able to do this, and not, is going to get wider. The days when escorting was a walk in way of earning 20K a week, are ending fast, except for people with real talent for escorting.
This has been noticed by places that sell ad signs, I see many many empty slots, where before I saw none, and the number of places that have large escort ad walls is dropping. This has not been bad for individual escorts already in the trade, because there is less competition, but it has been bad for clubs that focus on this as their model for creating revenue and traffic. It is only a matter of time before rl sex businesses come into sl, and learn to dominate the trade. One reason for this is the plummeting sales of DVDs. Before Virtual Sex as marginalia, now it is an area of potential growth, but the model that will make money is vox + virtual. I've been there for months now, and while cyber pays for pixels, it is vox that generates a strong hit of real money quickly.
Again, this was coming for some time, and the slow turning of old sl into new sl is something that observers have been watching. When it comes down to it, I am not an rl sex worker, and many others aren't either. That doesn't mean this will disappear, but it will be like Geisha in Japan, a connection to an older world which is a thin shell. SL sex isn't going to go away either, in fact the indirect sex industry should grow strongly. Selling sex beds does not cause problems with your rl. Using them for money does. This is not fair, but it is also Real Life.
The new club is more restrictive than most clubs, and has to be, it also pays lower cyber wages than I can make escorting. It pays much better vox rates. It also, as many have known for some time, will have its own regapi and people will be driven from the websites to Second Life. It's a combination that many have drooled over, but it takes money to play in that world.
But the bottom line is that within a year, even if you are working outside of one of the RL based clubs, being employed by one is going to be a sign that you are "real." With the huge number of people willing to post amateur porn on the web for low amounts of money, it is not hard to see that this will be the future of escorting in Second Life for "vanilla" sex.
The second layer of SL will be the BDSM and hard core sorts of escorting. These are activities that the rl sex businesses will want to avoid, especially scat, dolcett, pain and transformations. While eventually RL businesses will fill this niche, there is a great deal less drive to "realize" them and their participants. The participants care less that they are talking to a real barely legal hottie, and the reputation is something that rl businesses are going to be more careful about. But I get "farm cutties" emails into my spam folder, so even this will eventually be networked into the porn empires.
My own view of pornography is that like spirituality, it is best when left unorganized, but it never stays that way for very long. Playboy flopped, because it was not willing to, as Ten Book put it, "take the rectal temperature of Second Life." This new club is much closer to doing that, and offers an exclusivity and understanding of Second Life that Playboy did not. I have not seen the build yet, so I am not sure whether it will be as good, but we will see. So far they seem to know what they are doing and are making all the right moves by recruiting through the grape vine for the best.
The last layer will be cumslutting: the people with a whore fantasy and the men who want to play with them, hoping that the whore fantasy can be made real and in the flesh. About this I can't really comment, except to say that it will flood out, as it is flooding, the layer above it. Every freelancing club I work at has poacher waves now, and it is getting worse.
Like the end of gambling, this isn't good or bad in itself. Many people have gained a great deal by doing this, including people who are very important in second life. The sex trade has driven the platform, because it is people who have to see particular things who are willing to spend hours working through the intricacies of second life to get it. But that time is ending.
You'll still be able to haunt the corners of second life, and find cyber escorts who don't make this their real life, but increasingly the money will be from people who signed up with a credit card, and have particular fantasy expectations. One of those will be that he can prove himself the king of all cocksman to the girl he is talking to, get her rl phone number, and "make the meet." 50 year old married women need not apply.
If this is to be a net positive for Second Life prices need to drop for land and sims. That way with less pressure to earn, there is less reason to do anything it takes. The other is that work of other kinds needs to pay more. I think both will happen. The real problem in Second Life is scalability: with limits on grid growth, LL has to charge more per simulator and square meter. If Second Life could grow explosively, then it could become a commodity.
Right now the business model in sl is to find something people will do as a hobby, and make money form their hobby. The future in Second Life is to finally actually be a metaverse. Things done here have to ripple out into real life so that businesses see that spending a dollar here means saving or earning two dollars out there. As yet, this is hobbled by the poor connectivity of second life to the web. This is also a matter of cost: tier plus an outside web server is a great deal to pay for an ordinary person.
The other thing we are going to see a wave of is a more high powered version of "reap the newbies." The new search's basic problem is that it is a "pay for play" system, with classified ad revenue being more important than virtually anything else. I have visited several places that advertise heavily. Most are not good. One I went to sells no copy skins. No avatar in her right mind buys a no copy skin. Another, while it has high quality skins, sells them all in bundles at 4000L. A third has a restrictive license agreement, which is probably not enforceable, but to not have it enforced means not being quasi-anonymous by going to court to prove it. Those are the good ones, the bad ones sell lower quality skins at full prices. I can certainly understand someone buying Raspberry and Cow content: it's good. I cannot understand people paying 1700L for a Soul No Copy skin.
At the same time real content quality is going up. Sculptie shoes are nothing short of a revolution, and within many sections of sl, the old blingers that we all wore back in May, are just out. This is good. Really good. (clicks her shiny things heels together)
So what about me. In my time escorting I have learned more about human sexuality than I thought possible to learn. Within that time I've gotten established on second life. But the wave that was just a whisper in April when I started, is a growing moan on the winds, whose salt spray I can taste on my lips. The building, the novels, the other things, will have to sustain me, or Lillie will fade, and her player will go back to her Real Life, and look for the next wave to try and catch.
It's that simple: rl is coming to sl. That means RL money, but also RL identity for more and more people. Those established will be able to avoid some of this, because the cost for rl identity will not be attached to what they need, and having proven themselves in SL, they will be abl to make reputation here their calling card. But somethings are going to be out. Escorting as it was, is clearly one of them. At least I hope so. I'd much rather make money building my sculptures and other things, because in the end, that can be my RL. There would be no problem in my first life if I were Lillie Yifu, virtual artist.
What drives this is two essential points. The first is that our avatars are going to be more intimately ourselves. The second is that the advantages for begin established, particularly simply being first, are going to grow and accumulate, when even Stroker needs to have partners to sell sex parts, then you know that the walls to entry are going up, and the time of the maverick developer here is going to enter a new phase.