Time To Push Second Life Forward – Virtual Landmarks

When Second Life debuted on the Internet Stage in the early 90’s, it pushed quite a few boundaries of technical capability that had previously been the subject of experimentation, but had not yet been available to the “Common Person” in any reasonable form. Second Life introduced people to the concept of living a complete and deep life totally within the confines of a Virtual World. Suddenly the concept exploded from the labs and back rooms of college research groups and into the hands of most anyone able to connect to the Internet.

But even though most of SL was a technical leap into future concepts, there were a number of things that remained shackled to the past. Even though it was possible for anyone to fly without the aid of a vehicle, and even though it was possible for anyone to instantly teleport to anywhere in the Virtual World, the mechanism available to remember those places was mired in the past using a technique that was out-dated before it was even released.

Landmarks – Ancient Bookmarks in a Space Age Virtual World

As the size of Second Life’s Grid grew, finding places within the world grew harder and harder. But the SL Viewer had a handy way to mark a favorite location, called a “Landmark”. All you had to do was to create a Landmark while standing someplace, and a new item would be instantly added to your Inventory. This item recorded the name of the location, kept record of the Region Name and also recorded the X, Y and Z position on that Region. With a Landmark in hand, you could instantly return to that location just by double-clicking it in your Inventory. Brilliant, right?

Well, almost. Landmarks have one shortcoming that keeps them only partially valuable. When a Landmark is created, it stores the current name of the Region as well as the “Spatial Coordinates”. As long as things don’t change, no problem. But one thing about Second Life that everyone knows is … things change. Regions get renamed, stores move, stuff changes. So suddenly that wonderful Landmark points to a place that either doesn’t exist anymore, or is now inhabited by someone or something else. It’s not uncommon to double-click on a Landmark to your favorite store and suddenly find yourself standing in the water, in the middle of some other store, or even in someone’s bedroom. Sometimes it’s comical, sometimes it’s annoying, but it’s always bothersome because now your Landmark is useless. So how do you find that place again?

Virtual References – How The Internet Works

When you type the name of your favorite website into your Internet Browser, a little bit of technical magic happens behind the scenes. Your Browser makes a call to a global directory service to find the actual location of the web site. This type of search, called a “DNS Lookup”, converts the text name of the web site into the numeric address of the computer that holds the web site’s data. This bit of magic means that web sites can move around from computer to computer whenever they need. If it wasn’t for this type of “Virtual Reference”, no one would be able to find anything on the Internet because stuff moves around all the time.

But Landmarks in Second Life don’t use this same type of technology. Even though it was well understood at the time, Landmarks in Second Life don’t use a Virtual Reference technique to find places. Instead they use an Absolute Reference … and that’s where the trouble begins. If only Landmarks had a way to look up the real location first, then they could teleport you to the right place every time.

The idea of improving Landmarks to use a Virtual Reference technique instead was recently posted on the SL Forums by Toysoldier Thor. He followed that up with an article on his Blog. The idea immediately met with solid approval from many people, mostly Merchants and others that depend on Landmarks for operation of their Second Life Businesses. Toy then made a proposal to the Sim Server Development group within Linden Lab. While they expressed approval and interest for the concept, they have been unable to give any idea of when, or even if, they will implement it.

Why Virtual Landmarks Matter

It’s no secret that Resident-Owned Businesses are one of the facets of Second Life that in my opinion are an important reason for its success. The vibrant and dynamic flow of goods and money in the Second Life economy is absolutely crucial for the continued survival of the platform. One of the tools that business owners use to help guide people to their stores is the habit of handing out Landmarks to their various locations. Even novice Merchants learn that inclusion of a Landmark to their In-World Store is a requirement when assembling their product package. But what happens when they have to move their store? It’s possible that 100’s or even 1000’s of people have Landmarks that point to the wrong location. Add in all the product packages in Vendors, on the SL Marketplace … it suddenly becomes apparent that the need to move one’s store can lead to a tremendous loss of business simply because people can no longer find its location.

Another place where the shortcomings of an Absolute Reference appear is in the Product Listings on the SL Marketplace. Each Product Listing includes a field (called the “SLurl”) that allows potential customers to teleport to your In-World store so they can “See Item in Second Life®”. But when you have to move your store, you are faced with the chore of having to update all those listings to point to the new location.

All in all, updating all of your Product Packages, updating all of your In-World Vendors, updating all of your SL Marketplace Product Listings … it’s a chore that few relish. But even if the task is small and you can accomplish it easily, what can be done about all the people that have the old Landmarks? You can’t very well contact all of them and give them new ones?

How Virtual Landmarks Help

Virtual Landmarks solve all of these problems as well as provide a few features that extend the usefulness of Landmarks. Not only do they act as a “Central Directory” where the current location is stored, but they extend Landmarks by providing multiple locations for each Landmark, add Title and Message texts that can be used to describe the location better, and even add an Image that can be used to show people what they’ll see when they arrive. Virtual Landmarks push the time-worn regular Landmark into the 21st Century.

Virtual Landmarks for Virtual Worlds from DGP4SL

When we first read Toy’s Forum Post, the concept seemed so logical and so necessary that we immediately began thinking of all the possible ways it could be used … and how it could be created. While it would be best done at the SL Server level, it isn’t at all necessary. In fact, the facilities provided by the LSL Scripting language make Virtual Landmarks something that can be done today. So … we did it … Today.

Virtual Landmarks for Virtual Worlds (VLMVW) is our implementation of Virtual Landmarks. VLMVW provides all the features of current Landmarks, adds the all-important Virtual Reference capability and even extends them so they can be used in many more situations.

Including VLMs in Your Products

When it comes to handing out VLMs to your customers, the VLMVW system allows you to create a “Wearable VLM”. You can then include these as part of your Product Packages, give them to friends and customers, do all the things with them as you can with traditional Landmarks. When double-clicked from a person’s Inventory, a VLM will look up the current location from the VLMVW database then teleport them directly there. Because VLMs can include up to 8 separate Locations, the user can choose which location they wish from a simple onscreen menu.

So far so good, right? But what happens if you have to move your Store? What happens if the Region Name changes or you simply rearrange things some? In this case, all you need to do is use the VLMVW Management HUD (included with the VLMVW package) to update the Locations in a VLM. You just go to the new position, choose “Change Loc” from the HUD’s menu and Presto! Every VLM in all your Vendors, in all of your Product Packages, in the hands of your Customers … in short ALL of the VLMs in existence are instantly updated.

Virtual SLurls on Web Pages and Product Listings

But what if you need to use a SLurl on a web page or in your Product Listings on the SL Marketplace? We took care of this too. Every VLM includes a special “VLMurl” that uses the same Virtual Reference technique to look up the current location of a VLM and redirect people there. This means that when you use the Management HUD to update a VLM’s Location, all of the places where you’ve used a VLMurl on the web and in your Product Listings is also automatically updated. Just like a typical SLurl, a VLMurl will redirect a person’s Web Browser to the slurl.com website and display the current location including the Region Map and a pointer to the location. But even better, if you have assigned the optional Title, Message and Image to a VLM Location, those are also displayed on the slurl.com page.

One little hitch in this is the fact that the SL Marketplace allows only a very limited number of web sites in the SLurl field of a product listing. So we’ve added a simple “work-around” to the VLMVW site that lets you create an entry that is compatible with the SL Marketplace listing rules. With one click, the VLMurl is used to create a “Shortened URL” that can be added to your Product Listing. Thus even your SLM Product Listings have all the same benefits of Virtual Landmarks.

Click and Traffic Tracking

One of the most important things a Business Owner can obtain is … Information. Information about how many people visit your stores, how many people use your Landmarks and how many people click the SLurl links from your Product Listings or web pages. However the existing Landmarks don’t provide this information. There is no way to find out how many people click the “See Item in Second Life®” link in your Product Listings. So we added that to the features provided by VLMVW.

Every time someone uses an In-World VLM, a “Use Counter” is incremented in the VLMVW Database. When they click a VLMurl from a web page or click the SLurl link in your SLM Product Listings, a “Click Counter” is incremented. The VLMVW web site provides a “VLM Statistics” report that summarizes these Clicks and Uses for each Location and each VLM. The numbers are totaled by three periods: Today, the past 7 days and the past 30 days. This type of information can be valuable in evaluating how your Product Listings perform and how often people use your In-World Virtual Landmarks. More important, this is the type of information that is totally lacking with traditional Landmarks and SLurls. And all of it is provided as part of the VLMVW package.

Note: We do not track any personally identifiable information in the statistics. The only information recorded is which VLM and Location is used, and which VLMurl is clicked. We also record the Year and Day of the year that the use occurred. There is absolutely no way to track back from the use of a VLM or VLMurl to a person or Avatar.

Reading More About Virtual Landmarks for Virtual Worlds

We’ve provided a page on the VLMVW web site that goes into a lot more detail about VLMs, how they work and how they can be used. The “About VLMVW™” web page can be found HERE. If you would like to see an example of the VLM List that shows how VLMs are presented, along with the Locations in each VLM and the Title, Message and Image assigned to each Location, you can view the VLM List for DGP4SL page.

Purchasing Virtual Landmarks for Virtual Worlds

The VLMVW Package is available in four different versions. From the simple Basic Starter version that gives you a quick taste of how VLMs work, up through the Unlimited version, each package includes the full capability of VLMs and VLMurls.

The three business-oriented packages also include a Store Kiosk that can be placed in your In-World locations. Because they use the VLMVW Database, when you update a VLM’s Locations, the Store Kiosk also automatically updates its display and function. You can also drop a pre-made Wearable VLM into the Kiosk so that visitors can easily get their own copy.

The VLMVW Products are available on the SL Marketplace here

Visit the DGP4SL Store on SL Marketplace


8 Comments on Time To Push Second Life Forward – Virtual Landmarks

  1. Nalates Urriah on Mon, 3rd Dec 2012 11:46 AM
  2. FYI your link (shown) at the bottom of this page (described above) doesn’t work. http://vlmvw.com/vlmabout.php5#mayrez – my guess is the #mayrez hash has been omitted or misspelled.

    I think VLM’s should be a big hit.

  3. Darrius Gothly on Mon, 3rd Dec 2012 12:32 PM
  4. Yipes! Thanks for letting me know Nalates. I hope VLMs do take off, primarily because I know the pain of having to move in SL. Most of us have to face it at one time or another. If this can make that task easier, it will be a success in my eyes.

    […] However since then, there has been little word on progress, until an independent development was announced by Darrius Gothly yesterday, whereby Darrius has come up with his own solution to address the […]

    […] – VLMs for Virtual Worlds has been developed by Darrius Gothly, the man behind DGP4SL, one of the most respected brands in […]

    […] «« Time To Push Second Life Forward – Virtual Landmarks […]

    […] Darrius Gothly’s VLMVW announcement […]

    […] Darrius Gothly launched virtual landmarks, a product inspired by Toysoldier Thor. The idea is basically that if your store moves, these virtual landmarks will follow you. […]

  5. 2012 Reviewed – The Full Monty » Ciaran Laval on Wed, 26th Dec 2012 10:08 AM
  6. […] Darrius Gothly launched virtual landmarks, a product inspired by Toysoldier Thor. The idea is basically that if your store moves, these virtual landmarks will follow you. […]