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Maria Korolov
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There's also PayPal and PayPal Micropayments. And the OMC from Virwox, currently in use on 28 OpenSim grids -- But you've got a good point about white hats. Virwox has some security mechanisms (they use SSL encryption and Web-based confirmation of all transactions) but they don't have the numbers of paid security staff that PayPal does (or Second Life does, or Facebook does) -- at least, not yet.
They can launch an OpenSim-based grid that's hypergrid linked to the main Second Life grid. (They've done SL-to-OpenSim teleports before, so that can work.) They can lock down the OpenSim grid the way that Inworldz does it -- no self-hosted regions, no OAR or IAR backups, etc... etc... -- basically, same security structure as Second Life. They can run the OpenSim regions on a private cloud, the way PioneerX does it, automatically shifting resources to heavily used regions, even pulling in the Amazon cloud when they have a really big event. The RETAIL price for such regions is a tenth of what Second Life charges. The cost to the hosting companies is probably significantly lower. There will be an added to cost to running Vivox voice -- but Avination is able to offer Vivox, so it works with OpenSim, and Second Life already has the Vivox license. The other big disadvantage to OpenSim is that some script functions are missing (something to do with musical instruments) and some vehicle physics still needs work. Second Life can give a significant discount for renters on this grid and still make money. They can even give the educators a discount again -- those guys don't usually need complex vehicle physics, anyway. But what am I saying? SL has the license to a real physics engine. OpenSim is modular -- physics engines can be swapped in and out. Meanwhile, land renters would get land at a significantly lower cost, and still be able to access Second Life and use their regular SL avatars. If this goes well, Second Life could start offering private grids connected by cross-grid teleport to SL (or fully private) and start building their own, closed, commercial alternative to the hypergrid. There's something weird going on when SL charges $300 for a region while some OpenSim companies are giving them away for less than $10 -- and still making a profit. (You wouldn't want to put a busy store on a $10 region, but they're fine for personal building projects.)
Linden Dollars are different from many other in-game currencies because there are a number of third-party exchanges, encouraged by Linden Lab (it provides a convenient API) that exchange Linden Dollars for hard currencies such as the US dollar and the Euro. In addition, Linden Lab actively promotes the use of Linden Dollars for in-world business where the business owners take that money out of Second Life and convert it into real-world income (on which they do pay taxes). Until last fall, Linden Lab used to publish regular data about how many people pulled how much money out of Second Life. The general rule of thumb right now for tax authorities is to tax such income only AFTER it's converted to real money. But this creates a number of accounting problems if the currency can be used to buy non-game goods. Say, for example, I pay my housekeeper with Linden Dollars. At the end of the year, the total amount I withdraw from my Second Life account is now that much lower - so I pay less taxes. In effect, my housekeeper becomes a tax-deductible expense, as is anything else I buy with Linden Dollars. Now, if my business operates inside Second Life, then its reasonable to assume that all the stuff I buy in there (or a sizeable chunk of it) is related to work in some way or other and I can deduct it. (Just as a guy who makes his living selling trading cards can deduct the expense of subscribing to collector magazines.) But if the Linden Dollars become used for anything outside of Second Life, it becomes a potential problem. So, as long as virtual currencies are not convertible to hard currencies AND they can only be used for in-game purchases, they're not a significant problem for tax authorities. If the virtual currencies spread out beyond their virtual walls, then how different, are they, really, from PayPal accounts, just with a different label on the balance? And PayPal is regulated -- depending on the jurisdiction, either as a bank, or as a money sending service.
Toggle Commented Jun 13, 2011 on A bit too far? at Terra Nova
I have to agree with you on the reporting. It's faster to pick up the phone and call a source, or email them for a quick answer, than to track them down in-world or sit down for a scheduled interview in their virtual office -- especially if you have to relog to get your voice to work, etc... But I think some of it more fundamental. To me, visiting someone in their virtual office has the same kind of feel -- to a much lesser extent, of course -- as getting out of my chair, and driving to their physical location. Back in the old days -- the old, old, old days --I spent much of my reporting time on the road, attending meetings, events, and sitting down with people for interviews. Getting basic information required trips to courthouses, town clerks, and university libraries. And you never knew if you were going to be able to get what you needed, or if you'd hit a dead end, or the person you needed was out, or you got lost on the way there. Then came budget cuts, staff cuts, email and the Web, and pretty soon all my reporting is from my desk. It's all phone and email. Firing up a viewer and going in-world kind of - vaguely -- reminds me of the old days.
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Jan 23, 2010