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  ‘Second Life’ Ravaged By Frequent Service Interruptions  
Posted 2006-10-09 by Tony Walsh
The virtual world of Second Life has been bombarded by denial-of-service attacks this month following a threat last week to "rain terror" upon Second Life-maker Linden Lab and the company's customers. Since the beginning of October, the virtual world was knocked offline temporarily through malicious, self-replicating objects (the easiest and most common form of attack) on October 2, October 3, and October 6, October 8. On October 4, a scheduled global software upgrade that required downtime failed, At the time of this writing, Second Life has been down for over 4 hours due to the discovery of an exploitable software bug [update: SL has been attacked again today, approx 1pm Eastern Time]. Last month marked a spike in operational problems (which seems to have been outdone this month) and a breach of user data resulting in all user passwords being reset as a security measure.

By the end of this year, one million user accounts will likely have been created for Second Life. Roughly ten thousand users are logged in at any given time, and about 160,000 have logged in over the last 14 days. The number of registrations doubled last month from 300k to 600k, and peak concurrency of users rose 25%--this due is largely in part to opening up and relaxing Second Life's registration process, a controversial move some users said would result in an increase in attacks against the virtual world. Last summer, Linden Lab insisted that Second Life is perfectly scalable, but a company rep wrote yesterday that "Open registration unleashed a number of [customer service] challenges that we're still understanding and trying to address." Addressing those challenges "might all take a few months." The company has added staff to handle incoming reports of abuse (about such things as malicious objects) filed by in-world residents.

My take is that Second Life's population growth has outstripped Linden Lab's ability to effectively manage it, and I feel this is evidenced by the decline in the stability of the platform (also see Steven Davis' views on the security situation) and the decline in the quality of service--when there's no time to be proactive because you're spending all your time reacting... well, that's not a good place to be in. I don't think Second Life is truly scalable, except in a very limted technical sense. As a greater system operated and populated by human beings, it seems to be buckling under its own weight. It should be interesting to see how Linden Lab keeps its virtual world together over the next six months.
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Comment posted by Tao Takashi
October 9, 2006 @ 2:01 pm
I am not that sure about the scalability problems. Linden Lab seems to be reacticting and part of the problem today was a bug in their deploy of some fix which should make the grid more stable.

Right now of course the PR situation is quite unpleasing for LL, on their blog you only see Grid status messages. But this is this week and we should need a bigger timeframe to really see the results of their action.

For now I agree it's quite annoying.
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