Reacting to complaints about the complexity and overall clunky-ness of its user interface (UI), Linden Labs finally released its long-awaited Viewer 2 this week (albeit in Beta). Touted as being more streamlined and “browser-like,” with the more advanced functions now hidden in a menu instead of cluttering the screen, the UI does at least look nicer. It also allows users to view a host of media files in-world, such as Flash and Hulu and even Google Docs, which keeps the world more immersive. The primary goal seems to be to entice new users to stick around longer, which is one of SL’s biggest problems. We’ll have to wait and see whether this is successful.
But what may be more interesting, at least from the legal perspective, is that Linden CEO Mark Kingdon, continues to tout the ability to make real money and own property in the world. In an interview posted on Virtual World News, I was particularly surprised that Kingdon (at about minute 16:30) specifically differentiated Linden$ from amusement park “coins” because they are redeemable for real money, given that the SL Terms of Service (§1.4) continues to describe the L$ instead as a “limited license right… and is not redeemable for monetary value from Linden Lab.” That sounds to me an awful lot like the things you get in order to play Skee-Ball at the Midway rather than a greenback. It seems to me that if Linden wants to keep touting its currency as something more than tokens, it needs to back up its advertising slogans in its terms of service. Until then, you won’t catch me converting any of my hard-earned US$ into L$, regardless of the alleged 60% growth in user-to-user transactions. I recall reading another story about huge growth in sales of complicated financial instruments with questionable real value in the news a while back, and we all know how that turned out.