Second Life Steals, Deals, and Freebies: A Tale of Two Frank’s

A rather amusing situation has developed in the wake of Frank’s Entertainment Group closing down most of their Second Life venues: two dueling Frank’s Jazz Clubs have arisen!

Frank’s Jazz Club (The Upstart)

The new club, which is variously called Frank’s Jazz Club, the New Frank’s Place, the Sinatra Jazz Club, and the Frank S Jazz Club, depending on which sign you’re looking at and which landmark you pick up, is the new kid on the block, obviously hoping to lure Frank’s previous clientele. (I’m quite sure that Frank’s original owner, Nanceee Sinatra, is rather ticked off about this development, but there’s not much that she can do about it. I rather doubt she trademarked the name Frank’s.)

The music mix is much the same as Nancee’s original Frank’s, but I note that you can make song requests for the DJ to play using various signs placed around the venue, which is a suitably large and impressive space, tastefully decorated for Christmas.

And I do see many familiar faces from Frank’s here already! Which just goes to show that the concept was a good one. It was very smart of someone to step immediately into the void left when Frank’s closed.

Even better, there are gifts of free formalwear for both men and women at the entrance! What more could a freebie fashionista ask for?

Here my avatar is wearing the free black ballgown, which is quite lovely and has sizes to fit most classic system and mesh bodies (this is the version for Maitreya Lara, which fits this Altamura Juliet mesh body perfectly):

She is also wearing:

TOTAL COST FOR THIS ENTIRE FORMAL OUTFIT: FREE!


Frank’s Elite Jazz Club (The Original)

On the other hand, there is Frank’s Elite Jazz Club, which is under new ownership after the previous sim owner stepped in to save it when Frank’s Entertainment Group was going to shut it down. It is a members-only club with a rather steep membership fee of L$1,000 (I had joined when the group fee was only L$500), but they sometimes have events which are open to everybody.

I must confess that I do have a soft spot for this venue, which is beautifully decorated for the holiday season:

One of things I do like about Frank’s Elite Jazz Club is the variety of talented live performers. I also appreciate the fact that the exclusivity of the club tends to attract a higher class of clientele (I did get rather sick and tired of being hit on all the time at Frank’s original club; being a drop-dead gorgeous female avatar does have its disadvantages 😉 ).

Vanity Fair is wearing her standard go-to ballgown, the Au Revoir red silk gown by Snowpaws—simple, beautiful, effortlessly elegant.

To go with the ballgown, I am also wearing:

  • Antigone gold and ruby earrings (a long-ago free gift from Kouse’s Sanctum, a store which has now closed)
  • Gigi crimson pumps by Garbaggio (not shown; my favourite shoe store!)
  • And a gold wedding band by Su Xue (as a warning signal to keep the male pestering to a minimum 😉 ).

Vanity is also wearing:

Advertisements

High Fidelity Suspends Its Remote Workteams Project, Announces More Staff Layoffs, Closes Its Open Source Codebase, and Withdraws Its Apps, Effectively Shutting Down on January 15th, 2020

In a new blogpost titled Updates, and a New Beginning, Philip Rosedale announced some more changes at High Fidelity:

…we have been heads-down developing and testing the use of High Fidelity for remote workers. We’ve developed a streamlined desktop version which has been tested by teams from 75+ organizations. In total, we’ve logged thousands of hours in-world as these groups tried working in a virtual environment. We’ve learned a lot and it’s hard to imagine our team working in any other way.

We plan to continue to use our technology as our company’s primary virtual office but we have decided not to commercialize the virtual workplace application at this time. Simply put, having taken a close look, while we can see that remote work is going to continue on its growth trajectory and we do have customers using it—the opportunity is not big enough today to warrant additional development. 

The work we’ve done over the past six months has been valuable in helping us understand how to make a 3D VR environment usable, stable, and accessible to first-time, non-gaming audiences, and that is intellectual property we will take forward into future work.  

According to Philip, High Fidelity will be working on a new internal project, the details of which will be announced at some future point in time.

Another major announcement is that the company is closing its open source codebase:

One of the many reasons we opted to develop an open source virtual world is because we wanted people, particularly creators and developers, to have the peace of mind that they were in control of the content and experiences they built and not dependent on decisions made by High Fidelity as a company. We have succeeded in that mission having open sourced the most powerful virtual reality codebase built to date: It can handle large crowds, low-latency 3D audio, live editing, interactive content, open-format file compatibility, and users can host the content however they wish with complete control.

The existing community over the past six months has continued to use the platform and contribute code with little involvement from High Fidelity. Given this, and given that our new project will further reduce our ability to manage the existing open-source repository, we believe that the best course of action is to formally turn over control of the codebase to the community.    

As of January 15th, 2020, we’re going to make High Fidelity’s Github repository private. We want to give community leaders time to create their own repositories and systems as desired. 

We know this change will lead to many questions for users, so we have attempted to provide as many answers as possible here

Another major bombshell is that the company is laying off more staff:

Our new project is different and in early development, which led us to the sobering realization that the incredible and talented team we have built, isn’t the one to take us forward. Consequently, we will reduce our team size in half effective today. We’ll be giving those affected time and support to find new positions in the New Year—these people are brilliant pioneers in VR—developers, designers, program managers, marketers, and support professionals—but we just aren’t ready for their firepower. I’ve already thanked them in private but let me publicly state my gratitude for all their work. They have pushed the boundaries of VR and I am sure will continue to do so, as other successful High Fidelity alumni have done.

And, finally…

As part of the refocus, we’ll also be withdrawing our apps on the Steam Store, Oculus Store and our Virtual You: 3D Avatar Creator app from the Apple App Store and Google Play Store. Since there are no High Fidelity supported environments, we’re not offering registration for new accounts which these enable. 

According to the FAQ, High Fidelity is withdrawing from the Early Access programs on both the Oculus and Steam stores as of January 15th, 2020. High Fidelity will no longer allow new users to create accounts on the platform (existing accounts will continue to work, however).

Also, HiFi is shutting down its Marketplace and will suspend cashouts of its High Fidelity Coin (HFC):

The Marketplace will close. The public Marketplace pages will be removed, you will not be able to purchase new items, you will not be able to add new items available for sale, and you will not be able to edit existing items’ details. We will also no longer offer cash-out of HFC after January 15th, 2020.

In addition, High Fidelity will no longer be providing any support services to users after January 15th, 2020, and they will be shutting down the official user forums on that date.

Essentially, High Fidelity will soon be a dead platform, the first major victim of the social VR wars (but probably not the last). R.I.P.

When I asked Caitlyn Meeks, who is hard at work on a fork of the existing HiFi open source code for her new company, Tivoli Cloud VR, if the news that High Fidelity is closing their code base means that they will have to scramble, she told me:

Not in the slightest, we’re mostly creating new infrastructure from scratch. The work we’re doing on the open source code is mainly subtractive, removing things to make a faster experience and making room for better features.

UPDATED! Editorial: Facebook Announces Even Tighter Integration Between the Oculus VR Ecosystem and the Facebook Social Network

Look, I’ll be up-front and unequivocal about it: I’m no longer a fan of the Facebook social network. I left it at the end of last year as my New Year’s resolution, and I asked them to delete over 13 years’ worth of user data it had collected on me (which, as far as I know, they have done).

And I only rejoined the Facebook social network in October because the company has made it abundantly clear that you will need both an Oculus account and a Facebook account in order to take part in Facebook Horizon, Facebook’s social VR platform which is to launch in closed beta sometime in early 2020. And, as a blogger who specializes in covering all aspects of social VR, I have no choice but to play by Facebook’s rules if I want to set foot on their platform and report on it to you, my readers.

At the present moment, the only time you really need to use your Facebook account when using your Oculus VR hardware is if you want to attend an event hosted in Oculus Venues. But, in an announcement today, Facebook says:

Today, we’re excited to announce the brand-new social experience we debuted at OC6 across the Oculus Platform, powered by Facebook. We already use Facebook to bring people together in Venues, offer features like livestreaming, and provide safety tools like reporting and blocking. Now we’re using Facebook’s technology to roll out new social features in the coming days that will help people build their VR communities, while keeping them safer at scale by backing social interactions with their Facebook identity.

To make sure that people understand these changes, we’re also updating the Oculus Privacy Policy to clarify that these social features are also provided by Facebook. And we’re clarifying how Oculus data is shared with Facebook to inform ads when you log into Facebook on Oculus.

You can see these updates to the Oculus Privacy Policy here to learn more. And you can read our FAQ here for more information.

Facebook will be rolling out several new features to more tightly integrate the Facebook social network into the Oculus ecosystem:

Starting today, when you choose to log into Facebook from the Oculus Platform, you’ll be able to access new social features that make it easier for you to connect with other people, including:

Chats, so you can message your Oculus friends in or out of the headset with quick responses to hop into games together

Join your friends in VR directly from any device with links that open to where your friends are within an app, and see the most popular destinations where people are playing in VR

User-created Events, so you can organize meetups or multiplayer games with friends

Share photos, videos, and livestreaming to Facebook, allowing you to share your favorite moments to Facebook Groups from VR

Parties that any of your Oculus friends can join (previously parties were only invite-only)

Messenger friends can easily join you in VR when you send them links to join you where you’re playing

And your Oculus usage data will be fed into Facebook for advertising purposes:

As part of these changes, Facebook will now use information about your Oculus activity, like which apps you use, to help provide these new social features and more relevant content, including ads. Those recommendations could include Oculus Events you might like to attend or ads for VR apps available on the Oculus Store. These changes won’t affect third-party apps and games, and they won’t affect your on-device data.

If you choose not to log into Facebook on Oculus, we won’t share data with Facebook to allow third parties to target advertisements to you based on your use of the Oculus Platform.

So, Facebook is going to tighten the integration between the Oculus ecosystem and the Facebook social network, including sharing user data between Oculus and Facebook if you are signed into Facebook via Oculus. And going forward, it looks as though it is going to become more and more difficult to avoid signing into your Facebook account while using your Oculus hardware.

You can certainly forget any ideas you might have about creating an anonymous account to use with Facebook Horizon. Facebook clearly wants you to be signed in using your personally identifying account on the Facebook social network, linked to all the real-life information the company has on you. They also want to be able to send data between Oculus and Facebook. All the better to serve you targeted advertising, of course, which is where Facebook still makes most of its money.

You can still choose to keep your Oculus and Facebook accounts separate, of course, but you can bet that there will be further announcements in the new year intertwining the two services ever more tightly, and making it even more difficult to maintain that separation.

Cynics can say that I knew what I was getting into when I decided to purchase Oculus VR hardware in the first place; I currently own (and am quite happy with) my Oculus Rift and Oculus Quest VR headsets. But I am less than happy with today’s announcements, despite Facebook’s best attempts to make them sound like a rollout of wonderful new features.

In short, Facebook wants to gather together all its information about you into one neat, tidy little package to serve to its advertisers—including how much time you spend in what apps and games on your Oculus VR headset. If you don’t want any part of that, then you’d best look to non-Facebook sources for your VR hardware and software, like HTC and Valve.

UPDATE 7:51 p.m.: Ian Hamilton has written an excellent article on all these changes for UploadVR, which includes an extensive question-and-answer session with Facebook. I recommend you read it to get up-to-speed with what’s happening with your Facebook and Oculus accounts. Thanks, Ian!

OpenSim Community Conference on December 14th-15th, 2019

The 2019 OpenSim Community Conference is happening this weekend. Hypergrid Business reports:

OSCC19 features over 60 speakers leading presentations, workshops, panel sessions, music, and social events across the diversity of the OpenSimulator user base… Attending the conference event is free, but those wishing to financially support the conference can still sponsor or participate in our Crowdfunder Campaign when registering. Participants in the Crowdfunding Campaign will receive a variety of thank you gifts depending upon their level of participation, including conference VIP seating, and the ability to have a virtual expo booth at the event. Your conference sponsorship or crowdfunder contribution is tax-deductible to the extent allowable by law for US residents.

Here’s a complete schedule of events. See you there!