InWorldz: What Happens When a Popular, Longstanding Grid Shuts Down?

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The calm before the storm: the deserted plaza at InWorldz Desert Island

It is now clear that InWorldz will indeed shut down on Friday. Even though the GoFundMe appeal will almost certainly reach its funding goal within the first 24 hours (an amazing feat), that money will not be available soon enough to save the InWorldz grid.

Users everywhere are frantically packing up items from their inventories into rezzed boxes, in hopes that what they save can be salvaged for a new grid. (InWorldz technical staff are still working out the details and logistics. It’s still not clear how much can be saved.)

For many people who have spent years in InWorldz, this is a bitter end. I never had much of an investment in InWorldz—basically, just my Ruth mesh avatar, my hair and my clothes—so I will not suffer a loss. But to many people who invested a great deal of time and money into building homes and businesses in InWorldz, this is certainly a devastating blow. Some people are resigned; others are angry. Some are lashing out at Beth Reischl and her staff for not having the foresight to see this coming.

Where will they go? Many are choosing to keep their faith in Beth and whatever new grid she sets up to replace InWorldz. They want to stay together and try to keep some of the strong sense of community that they shared in InWorldz.

Others will no doubt choose to go back to Second Life, or to another OpenSim-based grid. Some, feeling burned, may choose to give up on virtual worlds altogether. (I hope they don’t.)

I plan to spend my last week in InWorldz visiting various sims and taking pictures. I’ll probably start with Yadni Monde’s sim, where he moved most of his wonderful sculptural creations over from Second Life. After that, I’ll just wander around, taking in as many sights as I can.

It’s sad, but it’s not the end. It’s just a new beginning, a new chapter.

I leave you with five pictures I took this evening of one of the more amazing builds in InWorldz, the sprawling Castle Marlar of the Land of Lar:

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The Land of Lar 3 24 July 2018_001

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UPDATED: InWorldz Is Shutting Down, But a New Grid May Take Its Place

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Yesterday, Beth Reischl, one of the founding partners of the virtual world InWorldz, posted a long message to their community announcements:

I know a lot of our residents are wondering what is going on, cashouts have been frozen for 2 weeks, support has been spotty and a host of other things. So this is probably the hardest post I’ve ever written about the state of InWorldz currently. I’ll start with the history so everyone knows what has been going on, and I’ve always been as honest as possible with everyone, so bear with me please.

At this point, what all of this means is very simple: Without payment from the funds sitting in the UCC liens, RackSpace will be shutting our servers down. I’ve extended our servers out until Friday, July 27. I can not process cashouts, no payments may be sent out. For that, I’m truly sorry. The only thing I can do at this point, is the last power I have left under PayPal: to honor all disputes of monies paid to InWorldz during this timeframe. We will start the refunding process tomorrow morning, and go through as much as we can until PayPal shuts us out of the accounts. In meantime, each and every single customer can dispute the monies paid to us, and PayPal will honor all disputes on behalf of the buyer if there is no response from the merchant. It takes a bit longer, they have to give merchants 15 days to respond, however, if they’ve yanked our access, it may go faster. So whether you’ve purchased I’z or paid for your regions, please dispute them if you don’t see the refunds coming throughout this week.

Every person can download their Inventory, but realize, it will not work on any grid other than InWorldz. You can do this via your login page on InWorldz, Inventory Backup. It will make a request to our Inventory Servers to provide you with that file. If someone manages to make the Backups work on their grid, you can get your inventory there.

I know many of you will be angry over this, my heart was broken Friday afternoon, and I know many of you will have harsh words for this decision. Do know, I tried my hardest to avoid this outcome. For 10 years, InWorldz has been my bread and butter, and now I no longer have that. It’s raised my children, it’s seen many of us come together in real life, it’s facilitated a community I never thought possible. I’ve seen so much goodness pour through this community for those who needed help and I’ve seen the worst of what can happen when group negative think takes over. I’ve seen the best of creativity brought to life, and I’ve seen the absolute horrid side of cheapness and fraud and greed. I’ve watched a community that has gone through inclusion and seclusion. Through all of this though, I know many friends have been made, contacts made from around the world, loves found (and some lost), heartache over loss of community members, outpouring of charity for various causes, and even for personal members who had no hope previously. I’ve watched those with social challenges blossom and grow and find inner talents they never knew they had. And now, I hope and wish that each and every one of you finds a way to continue your path, to continue to create, to love, to grow and to be the absolute best you can be.

I’m very sorry to read this, but I can’t honestly say that I am totally surprised by this decision. As I wrote earlier, InWorldz has been having trouble for quite some time already.

If you want the platform to survive, you’d better hurry over to their GoFundMe page. I notice that 80 people have already donated over US$11,000 of their US$17,000 goal in only 13 hours! The GoFundMe page states:

As many of you know, I posted this morning about current state of affairs in InWorldz. We have decided NOT to go down without a fight! But to do so, we need your support! I refunded most payments this morning via PayPal (there are still some needing refunding), and we will apply your donations to your region tier. We need $17k to get bank balance back to normal (because we paid off LoanBuilders one payment and Chase let it go through putting us in negative) and pay the servers for another month.

I will be honest, Cashouts will be put off until we get everything organized, but all older cashouts will be held to be first paid off as things stabilize.

I know InWorldz is a home to so many of you, and I was willing to close the doors on that as I had not seen any way out of the impending doom. However, if you can donate, we can get the servers going and we’ll get a new payment system in place that is not PayPal, but still allow all of our Domestic and European customers pay! I hope I can count on you and so do your neighbors! We will apply donations that match billing records as needed, just let us know which region and we’ll update accordingly. Remember, if we don’t hit our goal, you lose nothing! Let’s hit it peeps!

Who knows? Maybe InWorldz will be able to keep running a little longer!

UPDATE 12:54 p.m.: Well, InWorldz’s GoFundMe page has now attracted US13,843 by 110 people in only 17 hours, which is quite impressive. They may actually be able to collect enough money to pay for their server costs for another month.

The Hypergrid Business blog, which has had a sometimes testy relationship with InWorldz management, has reported on the issue:

InWorldz, one of the oldest and most successful commercial grids, is shutting down this week, owner Beth Reisch announced today, citing financial difficulties.

According to Reischl, travel-related communication problems, bureaucratic mistakes and other issues resulted in the shutdown of the grid’s PayPal accounts and the calling in of the company’s business loans.

“Without payment… RackSpace will be shutting our servers down,” she said in her announcement. “I’ve extended our servers out until Friday, July 27th. I can not process cashouts, no payments may be sent out. For that, I’m truly sorry.”

However, she said she will begin issuing refunds, as much as she can before PayPal shuts all access to the accounts.

Typically, grids in this situation suspend services temporarily until the problems are resolved. It wasn’t clear from her announcement why she decided to fully shut down the grid instead.

As of May, 2018, InWorldz had more than 180,000 registered users. The last time other stats were available, May 2017, the grid had more than 1,200 regions and over 5,200 active users. However, active user numbers and region counts had been slipping.

Throughout its eight-year history, InWorldz was frequently the most popular OpenSim grid, and was one of the top grids when it came to attracting new users to the OpenSim platform. The grid has also donated code back to the open source community, both patches to the mainline OpenSim project as well as the full code base for Halcyon, its own version of OpenSim.

As the most successful grid, InWorldz has also been a target of criticism, including on Hypergrid Business. But, on balance, it was a major positive for the community, and will be missed.

Well, InWorldz may indeed be able to pull off a last-minute Hail Mary pass, but now that word has gotten out, I believe that they are going to have an even harder time attracting consumers and creators than they did before. I hate to say it, but this may be the death knell for InWorldz.

SECOND UPDATE 5:38 p.m.: Less than US$1,000 away from reaching their goal, Beth Reischl has posted an update on the GoFundMe page:

Wow! Everyone has been amazing! So here’s where things stand. I asked in discord this afternoon, once we hit our goal, then what? What about next month? After much agonizing and upset, it was suggested by the residents that we use these monies to start a new grid. We’ll be able to move OARS, profiles, groups. Inventory can only be taken that can be put in a box to be OAR filed. We’ll be opening the sandbox for people who have no region to place their items and can get them back.

If you are NOT ok with this, I urge you to please withdraw your support on the page. I do not want to take anyone’s money who is not ok with this! Otherwise, please start boxing your items up on your region or ask a friend or tomorrow I’ll be opening the Sandboxes up for people!

Every single one of you simply amazes me!

Help spread the word!

So, InWorldz is indeed shutting down, but with the money raised, Beth plans to start a new grid. The official InWorldz Discord server is simply buzzing with chatter tonight! Lots of discussion, debate, confusion and argument over the best course of action. Jim Tarber (who appears to be an InWorldz technical support person) said, “The servers will go down on Friday. When that happens, we lose all inventory and all assets. We are scrambling to save what we can before then.” This is going to be a massive undertaking!

UPDATED! Editorial: Linden Lab’s Updated Content Guidelines for Sansar Go a Little Too Far

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Linden Lab has updated their Content Guidelines for Sanar. This was obviously a document that was lovingly laboured over by their legal team, and it’s quite long:  1,642 words in total!

Content guidelines are a necessary evil. There are always going to be people who try to bend the rules, so spelling everything out in detail is the way to go. Linden Lab has 15 years of Second Life experience (and many misadventures!) to guide them in drafting rules for Sansar.

I think most of the rules make sense. But I do think that Linden Lab has gone a little too far in a few of these new stipulations, and I do take issue with a couple of clauses in this long list.

First, and most important, under Impersonation:

Any Content or Sansar store listings that contain any references to Linden Lab, Sansar, Second Life, or any other Linden Lab-related terminology that may imply a relationship with, sponsorship, endorsement, or employment by Linden Lab is prohibited.

So this means that you are no longer allowed to put the word “Sansar” on a T-shirt. It means, for example, that Alfy now has to pull all of the clothing he created for the Voices of Sansar contest, because they use the forbidden word “Sansar”:

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Banned in Sansar: Voices of Sansar hoodies

This is a perfect example of a rule that has been applied too far. What harm is it if somebody puts the phrase “I love Sansar” on a T-shirt for sale in the Sansar Store, as long as it is not using the logo itself? (I can certainly understand why Linden Lab would want to crack down on other people using their logo.)

But it’s not just enough to avoid using the word “Sansar”! You can’t even hint at the verboten word, by using “S*ans*r” or “Zanzar” or “That Platform Which Shall Not Be Named”:

Do not upload Content that promotes or could be construed as primarily intended to evade limitations on Prohibited Content.

Now, there’s a weaselly-worded sentence if I ever saw one! The lawyers must have worked overtime on that little clause. How perfectly ridiculous.

Also, I take note, under Nudity, Pornography, and Other Sexual Content:

While we understand that some nudity might be intended for educational, scientific or artistic purposes, we restrict this content as members of our global community come from different cultural backgrounds. However, in limited educational or scientific contexts, we may make exceptions to these policies in our sole discretion.

So, a strict ban on nudity. If an artist creates a tasteful statue of a nude woman, she can’t sell it on the Sansar Store. If someone wants to include nudes in an art gallery he’s building, it’s verboten. Linden Lab has just banned whole swaths of art from throughout art history. Congratulations, you’ve spared those of us with delicate sensitivities!

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Banned in Sansar: Amedeo Modigliani, Reclining Nude, 1917-18

And using “different cultural backgrounds” as a justification for banning nudity completely is a complete cop-out, plain and simple. What’s next? Are we now going to insist that female avatars wear a niqab, because of a need to not offend “different cultural backgrounds” where women must wear a face veil?

Linden Lab making exceptions to the nudity policy on a case-by-case basis is opening another can of worms (notice that “artistic” is not mentioned as a possible case for an exception here, only “educational” or “scientific”). Who’s going to make these decisions? A panel? One person? Will there be any sort of appeal process? Does Linden Lab really want to go down this road?

Frankly, I’m a little disappointed in Linden Lab and this document. They could have chosen to give people a little leeway in the cases I raised above, and instead, they chose to clamp down tight.

What do you think of the new Content Guidelines? Sound off in the comment section!

UPDATE July 26th: Some commenters have said that Linden Lab will still allow you to use the word “Sansar” on clothing. I have it on authority directly from Sansar’s Community Manager, Eliot, that the word “Sansar” is NOT permitted on clothing such as a T-shirt or hoodie.

Also, I just realized today that the Smithsonian Institution’s new art gallery prominently displays a statue of a nude woman in its advertising:

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So, it’s okay if the Smithsonian does it, but it’s not okay otherwise? Hmmm…I think Linden Lab needs to go back and re-clarify its “clarified” Content Guidelines…