Terje Jansen was a vital part of the small but dedicated Sansar community, known for his welcoming friendliness, his story-telling, and his Norwegian accent. He loved Sansar so much that he became a member of the new Sansar team, and his presence will be sorely missed by many.
There will be a number of events taking place in Sansar this week, an open mic chat on Monday, March 13th for those who knew Terje, plus a couple of memorials taking place on Saturday, March 18th. Please check the Sansar events listing for details on the times and locations of these and many other events.
If you visit the Sansar homepage (and you’re not already signed in with your Sansar account), you will see a brand new, revamped homepage for the five-year-old social VR project:
One noticeable change is the “18+” logo prominently displayed, something which I do not remember seeing before. Wasn’t the age limit formerly 13+? I can’t recall, but I was pretty sure that teenagers were allowed onto Sansar, back in the days when naked base humanoid avatars were forbidden (you had to have baked-on underwear, or your avatar would be removed from the Sansar store).
So, it would appear that the new owners of Sansar are going to allow adult content. This would probably give them an advantage, in that few other social VR platforms currently allow adult content. Let me disgress by explaining how Second Life (Sansar’s predecessor in many ways) handles adult content.
BACKGROUNDER: In Second Life, they have a system where a sim (the basic parcel of virtual land) has one of three ratings:
General: “A region designated General is not allowed to advertise or make available content or activity that is sexually explicit, violent, or depicts nudity. Sexually-oriented objects such as “sex beds” or poseballs may not be located or sold in General regions.”
Moderate: “Second Life’s Moderate designation accommodates most of the non-adult activities common in Second Life. Dance clubs, bars, stores and malls, galleries, music venues, beaches, parks, and other spaces for socializing, creating, and learning all support a Moderate designation so long as they do not host publicly promoted adult activities or content and do not use adult search tags.”
Adult: “The Adult designation applies to Second Life regions that host, conduct, or display content that is sexually explicit, intensely violent, or depicts illicit drug use.”
While generally, Second Life is meant for people age 18 and up, in special cases, those age 13-17 can get in. Those 16 and 17 years old are restricted to sims rated General, while those age 13-15 “can access Second Life through an affiliated organization and will be restricted to the private estate of that organization.” Also, for those 13-15, older SL users won’t be able to access these private estates, except for pre-approved adults affiliated with the organization (e.g. teachers). This is intended to create a safe space for young teens, separate from adult areas.
So, it will be interesting to see whether Sansar will hold to a firm 18+ age rating, as I suspect, or if (like Second Life) they will set up some sort of system to gate-keep adult content, thereby allowing those users under the age of 18 some limited access.
Back in 2019, I wrote an entire editorial about adult content and social VR, which you can read here. Much of what I wrote then still applies today, particularly that adult content can be a double-edged sword! However, if managed properly, it can add life ( and longevity) to a metaverse platform. Whether you like it or not, sex sells!
What do you think? Please sound off in the comments, or join us in the RyanSchultz.com Discord, where over 700 people representing various social VR platforms (and flatscreen virtual worlds, too!) meet to discuss, debate, and argue about the ever-evolving metaverse and the companies building it. More information here.
UPDATE Oct. 5th, 2022: I have been informed by a Sansar staff member:
Just a small clarification, we are adult only but without NSFW content, so it’s still safe for [a] professional or academic setting.
So it would appear that I was wrong in assuming that Sansar will permit adult content. I stand corrected! The staff member, EvoAv, goes on to tell me:
A lot of other things fall under [the] 18+ category, and mixing adult users with teenagers/kids has potential issues of its own. Our users have been predominantly adults throughout Sansar’s history, so we do not see this as a limitation, but more of a safeguard that will allow us to introduce content geared towards adults, just not NSFW, or at least give us the option to change our minds later if we want to allow NSFW content with some moderation in the future.
Definition: Handfasting is an ancient Celtic ritual in which the hands are tied together to symbolize the binding of two lives. While it is most often included in Wiccan or Pagan ceremonies, it has become more mainstream and pops up in both religious and secular vows and readings.
One certain thing that I have learned in writing the RyanSchultz.com blog over these past five years is this: no matter what the metaverse platform, and no matter how obscure or popular it might be, there is always a committed community of die-hard fans associated with it! And the small but active fanbase of the social VR platform Sansar (built by Linden Lab and since sold to Wookey) is the perfect example of that truth. Despite the almost total absence of marketing by Wookey, the userbase continues to create worlds, meet up, and hold various events. It’s heartwarming.
Did you also know? Even within the relatively small user community of Sansar, since its launch in 2017, there have been at least five couples who first met up in Sansar and then connected in real life (and in some cases, even got married!). Actually, it might be six by now…I have lost track! We learned this lesson back in the days of Second Life; the metaverse brings couples together. ❤️
Recently, Sansar ambassador Bluebell (whom I know well from my earliest days in Sansar, and who is a tireless promoter of the platform) and her beau Moggz held a handfasting ceremony on March 3rd, 2022, attended by all their friends who, in real life, were scattered all across the globe. When I asked about having a handfasting instead of a marriage ceremony, Bluebell told me, “Yes, we prefer the old rituals.”
Bluebell was kind enough to share some pictures with me which were taken at the event (unfortunately, I could not be there). Please click on each thumbnail picture in this gallery to see it in a larger size:
Photos provided by Bluebell, Wolfen Howeller, and Mijeka Munro; thank you!
Have you joined the RyanSchultz.com Discord yet? You’re invited to be a part of the first ever cross-worlds discussion group, with over 600 people participating from every social VR platform and virtual world! We discuss, debate and argue about the ever-evolving metaverse and all the companies building it. You’re welcome to come join us! More details here.
There will be a major scandal or controversy around one of the blockchain/NFT-oriented Metaverse platforms.
With NFTs beset by scams and NFT/blockchain-oriented metaverse platforms seeing low user numbers but extremely high investment and speculation, this is only a matter of time.
It’s only January 12th, 2022, but I have already written about a number of questionable NFT projects which at best are crazy schemes, and at worst are outright scams! MetaWorld springs to mind as the perfect example of the latter (ALLEGEDLY, I hasten to add, although IN MY OPINION, I don’t believe there is any actual MetaWorld platform, aside from a prototype which was created years ago by someone who has since left the company to work for Somnium Space).
Despite all the negative press from the Engadget exposé and my series of blogposts about MetaWorld, Dedric continues undeterred. Someone joked to me via Discord DMs that Dedric Reid is the Elizabeth Holmes of the metaverse, and I laughed out loud because it’s such an apt, concise description! Harsh, savage, but accurate.
But on to other topics; I am tired of talking about Dedric Reid and MetaWorld (and frankly, whoever falls for his ALLEGED scam at this point is simply not doing their proper due diligence, IN MY OPINION). There’s a lot of actual progress being made by many legitimate metaverse companies building social VR/AR platforms and virtual worlds!
Meta is facing such a never-ending litany of complaints, scandals, and even legal actions that this is, once again, a very easy prediction to make for 2022.
Next prediction: there’s going to be a lot of activity this year in the fuzzy overlap area between games and virtual worlds, what I like to call the “metaverse-adjacent” space. Both games (e.g. Fortnite, Minecraft) and game platforms (e.g. Roblox, Core) will continue to add new features in an effort to become more like social VR/AR apps and virtual worlds. And, given their immense popularity, especially among children, tweens, and teens, many people will get their first taste of the metaverse via these games and game platforms, in much the same way as an entire generation got their start in the metaverse via Second Life.
Second Life will continue to be successful and profitable—but it will face increasing competition from newer platforms such as VRChat, and it will no longer be the most popular virtual world.
My first prediction is a no-brainer. In my predictions for 2019, I wrote that Second Life would “continue to coast along, baffling the mainstream news media and the general public with its vitality and longevity”, and that still holds true.
And, indeed, 2021 was the first year in which VRChat began to consistently surpass Second Life in user concurrency figures (Rec Room did too, I believe). VRChat has been breaking new user concurrency records, leading up to and including New Year’s Eve 2021, as Johnny Rodriguez tweeted:
Last night, 88,700 people put on a VR headset and decided to join the VRChat New Years event to countdown [to] the new year. For reference, this is Husker’s Memorial Stadium [at the University of Nebraska], which fits around 86,000 people when completely full. VR is here to stay.
Turning back to Second Life, the coronavirus pandemic caused a temporary surge in usage (and the current Omicron wave might well prompt people to dust off their avatars and give it another try, too). I still estimate that SL has somewhere between 500,000 and 900,000 active users per month (that is, people who sign in at least once in the past thirty days). I really wish that Linden Lab would regularly release statistics like this, but if they are declining (slowly or quickly), I can also understand why the company would be reluctant to do so.
I was part of Sansar since I was invited into the closed beta in 2016/2017, and I was there for the whole crazy ride. Sansar is now on life support (the company that bought it from Linden Lab, called Wookey, furloughed all of its staff recently, and I believe that they could shut down at any moment without warning). Being there from beginning to end, I still marvel at how Linden Lab thought they could build a new virtual world/social VR platform and just put it out there, and expect it to sell itself in this competitive marketplace for metaverse platforms. “Build it and they will come” might have worked for SL in 2003 but it sure ain’t gonna work nowadays. You have to PROMOTE yourself to get noticed.
Also, Linden Lab could have done a lot of things to try and entice SL users to a) visit Sansar and b) make them want to stay, build worlds, create content, and form a new community. Instead, what happened is that Second Life folks (rightly or wrongly) saw Sansar as something which distracted LL from its work on SL, and as a result most SL folks hated Sansar and refused to have anything to do with it, hastening its downfall in my opinion. It also didn’t help that Linden Lab made a bet that many people would be owning high-end VR headsets tethered to high-end PCs with good graphics cards, and instead the Oculus Quest wireless headset took off.
I still shake my head and wonder “what if?”. Say a prayer for Sansar, it needs it.
Right now, Sansar’s best hope for survival in 2022 is for another company who wants to enter the metaverse marketplace to buy the platform from Wookey, much the same as Microsoft stepped in at the eleventh hour to snap up AltspaceVR.
Another prediction: we are going to see an increase in the number of companies providing services to metaverse platforms. Wagner James Au mentions the Linden Lab subsidiary Tilia, which provides financial services, in his blogpost which I linked to up top; I predict that they will land a few more clients this year. Another example of a company doing well in this niche is Ready Player Me, the avatar system currently in use in VRChat and over 1,000 other apps and games on VR, mobile, desktop, and web. Expect this nascent business-to-business sector to explode this year!
Well, that’s it for me, for now. I might update this blogpost with other predictions for 2022 as they come to me.
And I ask you, my faithful readers: what predictions are you making for the next twelve months? Feel free to leave a comment, or use the feedback form on my blog if you’d prefer to contact me directly. You’re also welcome to join the RyanSchultz.com Discord server, a cross-worlds community where over 600 people, with experience in various metaverse platforms, welcome you! Just click the button on the left-side panel of my blog as shown (image right). If you are connecting via a smartphone or tablet instead of your computer desktop, just click the three-bars menu button in the upper-right hand corner, then scroll down until you see the Discord widget displayed.