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Second Life Putting A Leash On Sex, Violence

The changes, which will go into effect in early summer, will limit businesses featuring extreme adult content to red-light districts of Second Life.
Residents with private homes in Second Life will probably be able to engage in adult activity, even on the nonadult mainland, so long as they keep those activities private, Roberts said.

"We haven't mapped out every possible scenario, but if it's in a private home, and it's not visible to passers-by, and you don't advertise it, then you probably won't have to move," he said. "Think about it in real life. If you're walking down the street and you can't see into the private home, it's fine."

The change could be a hassle for larger adult businesses on the mainland, with complicated virtual buildings, furniture, and landscaping, which will need to move all that to the new adult continent or a private island if they want to remain in business. "We're going to roll out some programs to make the transition period as easy as we possibly can," Roberts said.

Linden Lab already distinguishes between Mature and PG content. PG regions are designed to be free of sexually explicit language or behavior, swearing and other forms of aggressive language, and violent behavior and imagery, including horror. Mature regions allow that material, although "explicit adult content must be contained behind 'closed doors,' " the policy says. Adult content is now defined as representations of explicit conduct or genitalia, intense violence, photo-realistic nudity, and sexually themed spaces.

Second Life has largely failed to live up to the hype it received in 2006-2007, when Linden Lab and its boosters predicted it would be bigger than the Internet, and BusinessWeek put the Second Life business Anshe Chung on its cover, promising readers real-life riches in the virtual world. Despite the hype, Second Life remains a niche activity with a regular user base measured in the hundreds of thousands worldwide.

But neither is Second Life failing, as some blog critics, such as Fast Company, take for granted. "Our concurrency is the highest it's ever been, we have more new users than ever, the total usage hours of all residents during the month is at its highest ever. We think all of these are indicators that we're definitely not dead," Roberts said.

Total user hours was up almost 25% Sept. 1 through Feb. 22; user-to-user transactions have grown 30% in the same period, to $37 million in February; and peak concurrency is now over 85,000, Linden Lab says.

Another myth about Second Life: It's all about the sex. In fact, while cybersex is popular in Second Life, it accounts for about 3% to 5% of content on the mainland, Roberts said. InformationWeek did an in-depth report on sex in Second Life in May 2007.

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