Feeds

Could Sadville break the internet with nakedness?

Look out - it's the virtual moral majority

Boost IT visibility and business value

Comment Second Life's introduction of adult zoning and age verification highlights an uncomfortable truth about the future of the web - as network function increases, so the anarchic free-for-all we are used to will be eroded further, and possibly abolished forever.

There is much frothing on Sadville forums over Linden Labs’ proposals to tackle the issue of "adult" areas. The virtual world that appears on visitor screens is made up from a collection of "regions" (also known as sims), each notionally 256m x 256m, fitted together into a "grid".

A user's avatar is located in exactly one region at any given time. Each normal region corresponds to a single CPU in the Second Life network, with tens of thousands of CPUs, deployed across multiple locations. When an individual moves from region to region, their avatar's data representation also moves from one processor to another.

Regions are further broken up into parcels – a little like subdivisions on a real world lot - and many regions are grouped together to create "continents". According to Linden Labs, areas containing genuinely "adult" content make up between two and four per cent of the grid.

However, a haphazard evolution of the grid has left some sims or parcels with truly "adult" content located a stone’s throw – or a camera pan – away from more "respectable" enterprises. A spokesman cited educators using Second Life for training. "Even if an entire class is over 18," he said, "you don't necessarily want to be confronted with adult content while you're trying to teach someone about the internal workings of the pancreas".

Critics have claimed that this is about freedom of speech. Linden sees it as more like real world zoning - when big business spends a small fortune on smart new offices, they do not want their visitors forced to walk past a grubby sex shop on their way in.

Re-zoning "adult" establishments on to a separate continent – called Ursula – is Linden Labs’ preferred solution, believing that in the long run, this will be good for the businesses that go there.

Slightly more controversial has been the way in which they are proposing to implement this solution. First is the question of how they will categorise areas and content as "adult": naughty words? Naked breasts? The presence of obscene poseballs?

One of the main methods, according to Linden Labs, will be the first of these. They are developing software to assess regional content on the basis of word search, and sims will find themselves relocated to the adult world. They are aware of some of the difficulties inherent in this approach. "Cock" is a word that tends to provoke filters set to US English, as this word has a predominantly crude association, and "rooster" is the preferred term when discussing poultry.

Such automated classification is likely to throw up many false positives. Linden is aware of this and working on it.

The second issue is an enhanced age checking requirement for anyone now wishing to visit Ursula. Ordinary members of Second Life argue that the project is already only meant to be accessed by those aged 18-plus – so why should additional checking be needed? Linden responds that the added requirement is not onerous, and no additional data is stored.

The real issue emerges as it becomes clear that in this one move, Linden is cutting through what has been the subject of years of argument on the web – and creating what is in effect a .xxx domain.

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops

More from The Register

next story
Déjà vu: Virgin Media jacks up broadband prices
Screw copper phone lines, we're UNIQUE, bleats telco
UK fuzz want PINCODES on ALL mobile phones
Met Police calls for mandatory passwords on all new mobes
Netflix swallows yet another bitter pill, inks peering deal with TWC
Net neutrality crusader once again pays up for priority access
New Sprint CEO says he will lower axe on staff – but prices come first
'Very disruptive' new rates to be revealed next week
US TV stations bowl sueball directly at FCC's spectrum mega-sale
Broadcasters upset about coverage and cost as they shift up and down the dials
What's the nature of your emergency, Vodafone?
Oh, you've dialled the wrong number for ad fibs, rules ASA
EE network whacked by 'PDP authentication failure' blunder
Carrier is 'aware' of cockup, working on a fix NOW
ROAD TRIP! An FCC road trip – Leahy demands net neutrality debate across US
You crashed watchdog's site, now time to crash its ears
Google's so smart it's discovered SHARKS HAVE TEETH
Congratulations, world media, for rediscovering submarine cable armour
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
7 Elements of Radically Simple OS Migration
Avoid the typical headaches of OS migration during your next project by learning about 7 elements of radically simple OS migration.
BYOD's dark side: Data protection
An endpoint data protection solution that adds value to the user and the organization so it can protect itself from data loss as well as leverage corporate data.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?