Sunday, April 27, 2008

The Land Debate again

Harper started this one off with...

Back to this "land" thing. It's kind of a misnomer to call it land. What "land" owners have "purchased" is actually the set up of a server with their tier payment going towards "maintenance" (like the electricity to run the server, the health insurance with the increased co-pay, Philip Rosedale's hair gel). It's not a lot different than someone renting space on a server for a web page. In fact, it's nearly identical.

Crap says that it is more than that, it is application hosting. But that may change the value of what is being charged for, rather than commodity webserver, wiki, database things, it doesn't change the fact that this isn't "land," nor does the "land," metaphor work. Prokofy Neva belches forth another one of her self-interested and idiotic tirades in a comment on Crap's post, which is pretty much conclusive that he's either wrong, or hasn't communicated very well.

He argues for all the other services that LL offers, and for their monopoly position, which isn't a reply to Harper's main point that we aren't buying anything and we aren't residents. Nothing that Crap says dislodges that we are paying for a service, one which leaves us with nothing if LL chooses to disconnect us, whether for a good reason, "any reason, or no reason at all."

It also does not in any way support that there is a reasonable expectation to make money speculating on set up fees. It's reasonable to expect to recoup set up fees as a reseller, which is why LL ought to have done a better job managing the price change.

(I will also say that I think Harper gets something wrong. The cost for island fees went up to $295 a long time ago, from $195. Grandfathered sims pay $195, and mainland pays $195. Land barons on mainland may, or may not, do anything. Estate owners have an even wider range of prices and services, because they have far more control over a sim.

Many land barons simply flip land, others do a minimum to rent, mainly returning objects people who are over their prim count. There are many different types of land baron, but since almost everything is race to the bottom, most offer minimal service, and charge the same price. This is not, in itself, unreasonable, since people are denied the information to make other decisions easily.

For this reason I think that baron is a term better applied to mainland, where the potential value add from the owner of record is low, and earl to sim renters, where there is a greater range of possibility.)

Whether the service is worth what LL charges is something that the market will work out, right now the answer is really "no." They have the power of monopoly pricing, it is true, but the difference between what people think the service is worth in a competitive market, and what they are charged in a monopoly leaks out as the virulent unhappiness of resellers and partners of LL in places like their forum. This means that what they are really doing is monetizing unhappiness, which only works for so long. Basic web hosting runs a few dollars a month, less than what a person would pay in tier on all but a small plot (I will check with our web guy on this, but he said something around 10 USD for email, our collaborative tools. I don't know what services are in place.)

Crap's bank analogy is, well, crap. The question is "is what LL sells like Land?" Banks aren't land, and the service one gets from a bank, especially with free checking down here on the bottom of the food chain, isn't like land in the least. Nor is it like web hosting. So his "application serving" rather than "bare bones web hosting" is a good analogy to explain why LL can charge what it does, but it the bank analogy adds nothing to it. Nor does the application server argument change the fundamental point that software and computer hardware get cheaper with time, and people who "buy" an "island" from LL don't really have any more reason to believe that they will "sell" this at the same or higher price, than they have a reason to believe they can "sell" their web, or application, hosting, or their laptop for a higher price a year after owning it. Nor does the bank analogy go to the differences between commodity hosting of web servers, versus a premium hosting of applications. However, things like are far more comparable, and they don't charge what LL charges by a wide margin.

1 comment:

  1. As a non-techie user of SL, the limits of the land metaphor interest me, just as the land metaphor works for me. Mostly. It's a powerful rl idea and translates well to SL. I experience the sites I frequent as places. Places where I move through 3-d space and experience gravity.

    Except for the inability to fly, walk or swim from one island to another, the idea of the grid as a linked set of physical locations helps me to understand the world(s) of SL, but it isn't necessary to understand it.

    In this model, tier is a kind of homeowners fee. People who create replicas of rl places reinforce this notion. Early adopters who successfully speculated on the land metaphor further reinforced it.

    From reading your blog and others, I've come to understand the serious limitations of the land metaphor for the people who attempt to create permanent content. Land, most of it, is not ephemeral.

    But Sl is most definitely ephemeral, it is a social construct, linked in many ways to our real lives. Finding the right language, the metaphor that allows us to understand what we create here, will help us to create sustainable virtual realities.

    For this reason, I appreciate your exploration - and crap's - of the metaphors we use to understand SL.