I really wanted to open with something positive, a few glowing words about the myriad possibilities, some thoughts about how exciting it was when I first stumbled across it…

This is Second Life I’m talking about, and perhaps I should step back a moment and explain what it is. Second Life is an on-line virtual worlds, currently inhabited by thousands of residents. What makes it distinctive – in fact unique, at least at present – is that the residents can build and script their own additions to the world. Walk (or fly!) round Second Life, and one of the immediate things that strike your virtual eyes are the countless shops selling vast (and vastly varied) numbers of items — furniture, clothes, even complete houses (or castles, if you have grandiose tastes).

For anyone with a shred of creativity, the whole thing just gleams with potential.

But there’s a catch, and it’s growing to be a big one. An overwhelming one. Because, you see, if you can build and script objects, you can, with a little perverted ingenuity, make them do bad things. You can create the Second Life equivalent of a computer virus. Over the past few weeks Second Life has been struck down multiple times by such things. They have aggressively (and ill-advisedly) banned entire groups of people from the world, but still the attacks come. They’ve tried tweaking the security and restricting some of the things that can be done. And still the attacks come.

Just before starting this blog I decided to log on and perhaps collect some snapshots to go with it (yes, that’s something else you can do — talke a look at Snapzilla).

Second Life was closed, thanks to yet another attack.

There’s much discussion about what can be done – the camps are mainly divided into those who want to see a technical solution, and those who want to see Linden Lab (the creators and owners of Second Life) police the world more effectively.

I am undecided on the matter. I’m not sure that a technical solution is achievable without crippling the scripting abilities that are such an important part of Second Life in the first place. As for better policing of the world…that would be a rant in its own right, but let’s just say that Linden Lab have not exactly had a good record in administering justice.

Second Life is beginning to become a frustrating experience. Even more frustrating because the potential of it is so great and so obvious.

So why don’t existing residents just give up and go somewhere else? Well, there’s the rub. There is nowhere else. No other virtual world lets you build and script like Second Life. They have us over a barrel. It’s a bad experience, and getting worse, but we stay with it because there is no alternative.

Problem is, if Second Life can’t sort out these problems, the whole ‘build and script’ idea might become a poisoned chalice, and no-one else will want to try to emulate it (it’s worrying that no-one else has so far, in fact).