Monday, January 24, 2011

Web Profiles: A counter View

Posted by Cummere Mayo

Previously you heard from another talented and intelligent person about why the new web profiles were a good thing. I'm going to present the counter argument. I strongly believe the new web profiles presented are not a good thing, for the viewer, for the user, or for LL as implemented currently. Here's why:

1) The new profiles are too much like facebook. "But I like facebook," you say. Granted, and granted facebook has an estimated 500 million accounts. But here's the deal, facebook is very proprietary of thier image, and very hostile to using thier service to promote virtual worlds. In fact, if you create a profile based on your virtual avatar from Second Life or any other virtual world or game, it is a TOS violation and if reported they almost always delete. In addition most of the users that use facebook do so for a while and move on. Many accounts are there because "Everyone is doing it," but rarely updated. Many people don't like the feel or use of facebook, or its lack of privacy.

2) Which brings us to the next point, the lack of privacy in these new SL profiles. There is a small but vocal segment that seems to consider privacy an outdated concept, in as a rule this segment believes anyone that wants privacy is hiding something that must be exposed and that they have a right to expose it. This same group says the very real dangers of losing jobs, rape, stalking, and so forth are just a paranoid conspiracy. Well, it must be a conspiracy that affects the real world so much that employers, schools, law enforcement communities, governments, and victim support groups all buy into.

For those that don't know much about me, my real life job is in law enforcement. Things leaked onto facebook have led to rapes, assualts, and so on (and here is the kicker) EVEN WHEN THE VICTIM WASN'T THE ONE POSTED. In some cases the victim didn't even have a facebook page. People use "like" widgets, share widgets, and twitter widgets all the time to share pages sometimes with private information. Facebook automatically recommends pages to "friends" of the facebook account that likes objects, as well as people with similar listed interests. Furthermore many facebook apps use the facebook api systems to trace pages that have been liked either recommend them to other facebook users based on keywords or to attempt to link pages to profiles with clues like key words, images, and the ip address of those that click on widgets. The only way to have any control over these is to not have the widgets on them in the first place.

LL never let the user base know that the last version and currant version of profiles both had facebook and twitter widgets built into all profiles. In addition; Linden Lab had the new profiles displaying the REAL LIFE tab of all profiles to the entire world for a minimum of two weeks before anyone noticed. From what I understand it took threats of legal action for LL to hide the real life tabs. Even now they are only investigating whether to possibly make the widgets opt-out or opt-in. This with no less then 4 differ ant jiras asking asking that they be made opt-out, opt-in or removed alltogether. Even people that have no issue with the widgets are furious that LL made them mandatory.

Furthermore, with the web profiles available to just anyone, jobs are at risk, school enrollment is at risk, marriages are at risk, etc. Why? Well, many schools and jobs want to promote an image of a certain kind of professional "upright" persona. If you're sl profile gets linked to your rl, then you're company might just find that kid avatar group, furry group, bdsm group, or strip club group you belong to grounds for terminating you for violating company or school policy. And your husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend might just object to that SL partner you never told them about.

"But if you don't put your RL info in your tab no one can find you!" Uh sorry, yes they can. All it takes is one person or app to connect you one way or another and spreading the word. In some cases it might be because you happened to use a particular phrase in your profile that you use in facebook or a blog, or in every day conversation frequently. In addition, LL is now putting tools into profiles actively encourage you to post rl information. Don't believe me? Go to and check out that little bar that says "profile completeness" and look at the three links right below it. Go on. I'm not gonna tell you what they are. I want you to see for yourself. There is a rumor, shared with me by someone at LL, that one or more of those links may soon become REQUIRED.

4) The currant profiles and the previous version have less privacy options then the ones used two years ago. If you look at the viewer 1.x preferences you have two profile options: show in search, and show on the web. In viewer 2, you can only have it visible in both or neither. Which means merchants, business owners, and so forth MUST show their profiles to the whole web if they want their customers to find them easily. This has annoyed allot of business owners.

5) The new profiles make doing some tasks in the viewer much harder. Things like IMing, inventory sharing, adding and removing friends, etc, are much harder to figure out how to do if you don't want to open up those web profiles.

6) If you can get them to load... the profiles sometimes require a certificate to load which the LL viewer is incapable of downloading. Most (but not all) versions of firefox and Internet explorer can and do automatically download the certificate, but if you don't have one that can, and/or don't use one of those browsers to open a profile first, you cant even access the profiles from in world.

7) Avatar notes ( log files ) don't seem to be carried over. This is not as big a deal to me as to some, because most versions of viewer 2 didn't have them at all and after a couple months i quit using them, but many users still rely on them, and I'd kinda like to have the stuff I had in one carried over just because some of those notes contained balances of money loaned or borrowed or of things i used to remember who they were.

8) The profiles lag. it takes 4-10 seconds to load the web profile, more if it stalls which they often do, requiring a refreshing. Then if you want to offer a teleport or start an im, it takes another few seconds between when you send the command and the signal gets to the viewer, assuming you have a very fast connection.

9) The new profiles are huge. Literally, the floater already takes up roughly half the screen when it comes up, and still has to be stretched to see the entire profile. Most of that is due to White Space from bad formatting. But this means its hard to roleplay, build, or follow ims while you're looking at a profile.

10) Most users don't seem to like them. This might seem like a silly reason to say that the profiles are bad, but keep in mind this is a service that to varying degrees many users pay for. They don't have to stay, and many haven't. User concurrency is well below what it was a year ago. Unhappy users go elsewhere. And even the loss of non paying customers can cost big time. Just ask the people at or

Now I'm not saying that web profiles are bad idea, or that these profiles can't be salvaged. They can. Make ALL widgets opt in, provide more privacy options, and reformat them slightly to get rid of most of the white space, and move the basic controls like pay, add/remove friend, etc back to the viewer, and fix the bugs and you will have allot more people liking them.


No comments: