Friday, November 10, 2006

Commercial Tier

Lately complaints about big/RL corp intrusion into SL is heating up, specifically after the announced price raise of island estates by LL. As you can see in the comments on the LL Blog here and this post on SLI. And my responses, here and here.

Basically it partly boils down to age old difference between the platform party and the Nation party, the augmentationist or immersionists. And to be clear I'm a augmentationist member of the Platform party. ;P

People feel that the big corps only should be paying higher tier rates (what ever those prices would be). One of the reasons is that some assume the price increase in Island tier is (only) the result of the sudden increase of members. Forgetting that every business in SL profits from the hundreds of thousands new eye balls looking in to SL. I know my sales have only been increasing the last months. Thank you Reuters and Yahoo.

Or is that the Big Corporations have the money so let's just give the bill to them, even though it has been established that they aren't even creating the highest traffic.

A other reason is that Big Corps are often besides selling a SL product advertising for their RL products as well. For a immersionist that is of course a deadly sin. "Don't bring my sucky RL in to SL, yo!"

What puzzles me about their attitude is that they are discriminatory and secondly that they assume it would be a easy distinction for LL to make. Of course the corps in the spotlights right now are easy to make out, Toyota is a big Corp and should pay more, Dominus by Francis Chung(not me) is Resident grown and will be subsidized.

But lets blur the line with a big fat marker. One day a sim or multiple sims open named Donkervoort, and there you find a assortment of spiffy sport cars for sale. Now when you right-click you see that the sim and all the contents is created by Frans Charming(yes me). And you might say: "Hey cool, Frans has gone in car design and even has a original brand name!".

Later you find out that actually Donkervoort is a RL sports car manufacturer in The Netherlands, and you cry foul, "Boo, Frans should be paying Commercial Rates". But Frans responds: "What for? Donkervoort isn't promoting this, I bought a License to reproduce and sell their cars and brand in a virtual environment!".
And now it gets difficult, is this a homegrown Resident who just invested some money into designs and brand name or is this a 'Big Corp' even though they are only involved in the way of a License?

And what if I tell you when I entered SL, it was on the prospect of making some money. I saw Tringo's success and thought, lets explore this. Am I now a business off to make money on SL or a homegrown Resident who organically grew into SL business?

Now i know for many people, it would still be easy to make the distinction. But place yourself into LL's shoes. They would need to hire the staff, and then they have to follow my little trail here and now decide in all honesty, Dominus by Francis Chung and Donkervoort by Frans Charming, who is what?

The problem does not lay in the extremes but in these grey zones. Should and would you even want LL, a software development and server hosting company, hire a dozens of people to investigate these cases.

Another example, it wouldn't surprise me that at some point a SL only business starts selling RL products, actually now that i think about it, some already are. Nocturnal Threads
Does Nocturnal Threads now get penalized for trying to make a buck in meat space, and has to pay increased tier prices? I would say no.

Now what if a succesfull business selling merchandise on Cafepress comes into SL, and starts selling their design there as well. Would they have to start paying for Commercial tier rates?

I wouldn't want LL to burden themselves with these kind of checks, especially with the ever growing popularity of SL we will see more and more business crossing the virtual and meat space border from both sides. It would become just a impossible as it would be now to investigate every business on the Internet if they have a RL shop as well.

Fight your Tier battles with LL, don't try to push your costs on meat space corporations.

Ps: The Donkervoort scenario is completely fictional.


  1. I have to chuckle at one of the people who is making a fortune off SL now with these self-same corporations going on and on and ON with the most twisted and contorted logic about what is the most normal thing in the world: 1) corporate rate 2) individual rate 3) student rate. It's on everything from hotels to books to websites.

    You don't have to sit and parse endlessly whether something is the Hard Rock Cafe of real life or the Elbow Room. Nobody does that at a RL hotel when they decide to award corporate or student rate -- they go by a set of their company's standard critera. You just create a set of accounts with various features -- distinguished by volume, or as part of a package, say, the separate feature of the $1500 for the use of the corporate name in the name list is one of the features of the whole corporate package that includes extra things -- perhaps website directories or advertising in certain locations, for example. This might include discounts on more than 40 sims or a package of 20 accounts discounted or whatever.

    This is done all over the world on all kinds of things from airplanes to motels to non-profit charity balls. It's humorous to me to see the people deeply benefitting from the big grab now fussing about this status and pretending in a literalist, tekkie way that it's so hard to fathom.

    The Lindens always imagine it's so hard to apply human judgement to a situation and that it "won't scale," and yet they have their staff performing these human discretionary judgements constantly on things like "who gets to be a mentor". What, Lindens can take time out of the day to parse who gets to be on Orientation Island, and they can't sit and look at a template with 6 criteria that says "corporate" or "individual"???

    There's always this LL tendency to program everything into the code as law, and never exercise any common sense.

    The "student" rate shouldn't just be real 501-c-3 status entities in RL, but entities in SL that have proven to be educational and non-profit. There should be a set of criteria for them to apply to, i.e. group larger than 25, non-commercial activity in the public interest on one sim or in more than one location or whatever could be developed.

    When you're all done ushering in all these big corporate entities, see if there is then anything left here after all the price hikes. The very thing that attracted them to come -- the idea of a shared, ideal world by a million people -- may be trampled in the gold rush.

  2. As a card carrying Platform Augmentationist, I have to agree with Prokofy. Varied use tiers are not the least bit difficult to define, implement, enforce or defend. Arguing the fact seems most useful as an exercise in maintaining hype. That may explain the consistent stream of antipropoganda posted by The Party.

    Granted people will complain that they belong in, or "deserve," some tier other than where the criteria places them. We hear that a lot in the Placement Testing Office. "I do know this stuff; I just can't answer the questions on the test." Talk to a Bellsouth rep; they tell me some really great stories of people trying to justify not being in a business tier.

    The point is not where LL draw the lines, but that they do publish a reasonable division of uses and enforce their stated policy. Come to think of it, that's been LL's weakest management point since at least November, 2003.

    If this software is going to be a useful platform, hosts are going to have to offer varied packages and rates. LL might as well demonstrate how that might be done. If they get it right, as they did in Luna, the model will be popular. If they don't, *shows restraint*, future hosts will at least learn something valuable.

  3. Actually, i don't have a problem with different rates for higher usage. What irks me is that so called RL corps only should get a higher rate. A shop like American Appereal, there island is a empty land which hardly causes any strain on server or on the database by adding lots of new designs. While the SL only shops are cranking out content and are having high traffic are the ones who are causing more strain on the servers and the database. If anyone, they should be paying a higher rate.