Saturday, 29 November 2008

Diary: 29th November 2008

Give me money, that's, what I want
It was only a small question. "Where can I get information on the use of money in OpenSim?"

That was the question I asked in the #opensim-dev irc yesterday. It raised quite a few hackles, I can tell you. Some even complained that the question had been asked there at all, and to avoid upsetting anyone, one of those involved in the debate that was brewing, fword, informed everyone that he had created another opensim channel for discussing just that one topic, #opensim-money.

I joined, and said 'Hi'. Within a couple of minutes 12 people had joined the channel, and the debate began. I have never experienced such a heated debate before in any channel, and those 12 members generated more chat during the next hour than both the #opensim (72 members) and #opensim-dev (66 members) channels combined. The views could not have been more diverse.

I will try to leave out the passion behind some of these views, but simply present them as options.

I was hoping to get some info on whether money could be used in opensim, and if so, how. Tomorrow, (leaving aside the debate on whether money should be in opensim or not, and if so, how should it be implemented), I hope to have a tutorial prepared showing how money is currently implemented in opensim, because, yes, it is implemented.

Should Money be implemented in Opensim?
Some people favour the adoption of money in Opensim, in much the same way as it is in Second Life. This has the advantage of using a well tried and tested system.

Others would argue that
there is no need for any currency in Opensim, and that there are already RL options available for buying and selling, by using a PayPal plugin, for example, or sites such as SLX where you pay for goods in an online store, and have the goods delivered to you inworld.

Other options include using 3rd party solutions, such as that provided by fatfoogoo, and one grid is currently operating with its own proprietory currency module, xumeo/Legend City Online.

But it should also not be forgotten that the use of PayPal and Credit Cards is not universal. For example, in Germany you will be hard-pressed to find stores that accept Credit Cards. The Germans do not like the idea of some middlemen taking a cut of every transaction. They prefer to use Debit Cards, so the money goes directly from your account into theirs, with no PayPal or Credit Card company taking a slice on the way.

Several developers have also pointed out that Opensim is simply not ready, in its current state of development, (Version 0.6), to even contemplate the use of inworld money, and that it needs to get to Version 0.8 or 0.9 before they take a serious look at it. This was clearly demostrated in the recent 'bug' problem that faced 3rdRock, and they had to develop their own fix to avoid problems with their residents.

However, some grids are already using money, such as the 3rdRockGrid, A Biker's Life, Avatar Hangout, Club SL Portugues Opensim, and United Grid. OpenLife has no inworld currency as yet, but you can buy land in OpenLife externally, while VirtualSims says that land sales is coming soon.

Then there are the legal aspects that should be considered. LL avoids (for now) controversy over the use of its inworld currency, by calling it something completely different (
a limited license right, and the 'buying' and 'selling' of the L$ is simply a transfer of those rights). But with governments around the world waking up to the fact that real money and real profits can be had from virtual worlds, they are wanting their share, via income or profit taxes. How long before they start demanding sales tax or VAT on inworld transactions?

Then there are the problems associated with money being taken for goods, but due to faulty scripts the goods are not delivered. Who will sort that out? Has anyone attempted to request a chargeback on a Credit Card for virtual goods not delivered? And what if an entire inventory or asset server gets borked, and users lose 1000s of dollars in lost inventory, that they paid for with real money? LL may have the resources and financial clout to defend a lawsuit, but what about the smaller gridowners? It is well recognised that the LL Terms of Service may (possibly) hold up in California, but in other countries around the world they are simply against their legislation and will not hold up. What do you do if your servers are hosted in New Zealand, your address is in the UK, and your users come from every country in between?

This is not a subject for the faint-hearted!