19 February 2007

Everyone Loves Second Life

Well, not quite, but that's the impression you get reading the comments on this post, an unprecedented outpouring of gratitude. It's not hard to see why:

Since September concurrency rates have tripled, to a peak last week of over 34,000. While we love that so many people are enjoying Second Life, there have been some challenging moments in keeping up with the growth, resulting in the now somewhat infamous message “heavy load on the database”. When this happens it usually means that the demand for transmission of data between servers is outstripping the ability of the network to support it.

When the Grid is under stress, resulting in content loss and a generally poor experience, we would like to have an option less disruptive than bringing the whole Grid down. So we’ve developed a contingency plan to manage log-ins to the Grid when, in our judgment, the risk of content loss begins to outweigh the value of higher concurrency. Looking at the concurrency levels, it’s clear heaviest use is on the weekends.

When you open your log-in screen and see in the upper right hand corner Grid Status: Restricted, you’ll know that only those Second Life Residents who have transacted with Linden Lab either by being a premium account holder, owning land, or purchasing currency on the LindeX, will be able to log-in. Residents who are in Second Life when this occurs will only be affected if they log-out and want to return before the grid returns to normal status.

This is precisely what many SL residents have been calling for - some preferential treatment for those that pay.

Of course, it's in part an admission that SL isn't scaling too well, but equally I doubt if anybody ever expected the kind of growth that has been seen in the last few months. Unlike some, I don't see this as the end of the SL dream; the open sourcing of the viewer, and the confirmation that the server code would also be released were signs that Linden Lab knows that drastic measures are required to move into the next phase. Philip Rosedale and Cory Ondrejka, the two main brains behind the world and its code, are clever chaps, and I don't think they underestimate the magnitude of the task facing them. It will be interesting to see how these occasional lock-outs affect the influx of newbies and the general perception of SL.

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