A brief overview of the comments on this subject reveal three things immediately to me: 1: non-SL users have no clue what goes on in SL. No big surprise there. If you're not in there, you really haven't got any information on which to be basing your opinions. 2: People who have tried SL and left unimpressed have little clue what goes on there and are therefore little more qualified to make informed judgements of what goes on there. 3: People with little or no clue what goes on in SL can spread a lot of misinformation to the rest of the non-SL-using world by stating their uninformed opinons as "fact" in forums like this. So, I thought I'd counter the misinformation before it gets too far out of hand. SL is debateable as a "game". Many people use it this way. Many others don't. "Having a lot of time on your hands" doesn't always mean one is an irresponsible deadbeat, probably unemployed, with time to "waste", as is often implied. Many people in SL have part- or full-time jobs in the real world, even those called "merchants" in this article. I am one who has a full-time job. I use SL. not as a place to "play" as if it were a "game", but as a place to advertise my real business, which I also have in addition to my full-time job. I create things other people buy and then I convert the inworld currency to real money in the real world, something often discouraged in "games", but something SL was designed to do. I personally know several people who make a full-time income (or two) in SL, and contrary to "having lots of time on their hands", their entire time is spent creating art, organizing business meetings and creating and maintaining connections to real-world networks. While I'm not certain I'll ever make a full-time income with my products in SL, it does pay for itself at this point, and I hope it will point people toward my real-world business, helping establish it as my full-time job before I am physically no longer able to do what I have done for the last 25 years. Which brings me to another reason why many people are "merchants" in SL: They are disabled, and in an economy where jobs are becoming more and more scarce and companies are cutting back and firing even their long-term most valuable employees, disabled people have an even tougher time finding full-time work than they usually do. If they are imaginative, creative and remotely skilled with a 3D program or coding, they can make enough real-world money in SL to pay the light bill at least, if not pay their rent as well. Xstreet has long provided merchants in SL with a way to sell their products to massive numbers of people. Because most users of SL want a convenient and fast shopping method, most shoppers in SL use Xstreet at least as often as they use inworld methods, if not more. Freebies, which actually are not "always crap" as so many people seem to think, but are often good quality products offered free by creators as a way to incline potential customers to want more of their stuff, are a popular section of the site. Granted, about half of the stuff there is "crap". The other half is decidedly not. A discerning shopper knows the difference. Contrary to Linden Labs claims that the freebies come up first in searches for any items, its actually difficult to find the freebies unless you click the Free category link. In addition, there is an Advanced Search option that allows the user to completely fine-tune their search, including the order in which the search results are displayed. In other words, Linden Labs lied. A lot. It is of note that until Linden Labs bought the site, Xstreet charged a commission for every sale. Period. This helped a lot of business owners to get their products out there and selling without a large outlay of real cash. Given that a number of business owners in SL are poor folks struggling to make it, and have turned to SL as a way to make real money from creating virtual content, (trust me, folks, this works a lot better than pay-to-click, stuffing envelopes and other lame options available to the disabled and otherwise disadvantaged in the employment market), many people could not afford a huge outlay of cash to list their items. Yes, the problem goes a lot further than the L$99 LL wants to charge for the freebies listings. That's a drop in the bucket as far as impact on the market of SL. The biggest "ouch" is going to be the $L10 listing fee per item per month. For instance, although I am full-time employed, I am not well-paid. I make less than 10K a year at my job. My real-world business is still new, and I started it with nothing but what I had on hand, no backers, no sponsors, no large sum of money to invest, so its growing very slowly. I don't have another $40 to invest in listings fees for my 800 top-quality products I had hoped to launch on Xstreet in April, after I've finished taking 800 or more pictures of them and uploaded them to SL and stuffing them and boxes filled with items into vendors inworld. The Xstreet branch of my business is now officially stalled at the gate. I cannot dump that much real money into it. In fact, my newbie efforts that have sold slowly over the year I've been learning to make better items are getting pulled prematurely, because I cannot afford to list them. I won't be able to afford to list on Xstreet at all unless I can manage to become successful on inworld efforts alone. This means that the Xstreet beginner-business advantage has been completely crippled, taken away. The only people who will be able to afford to list on Xstreet are business owners who are already successful, or people who actually do use SL as a "game", and happen to have money to "waste" on it. Apparently, Linden Labs is now willing to lose even more of their users by driving out the kind of people Second Life was supposedly originally designed for. I think its time they took the wheelchairs out of the displays at the Welcome Centers now. Second Life officially has little to offer people with disabilities and fixed incomes searching for a creative way to supplement their incomes and do something useful with their lives in an ever-narrowing jobs market. As for the debate about whether or not Second Life is really a "game"...well, at this point, I'd say its on its way to becoming nothing but expensive entertainment. I suppose it was only a matter of time, really. The real world still drives the virtual worlds on the internet. In the real world, you nearly always have to have money to make money. Otherwise its a long slow climb and takes a great deal of patience, perseverence and dogged determination to make your way. Second Life used to be different than this, and there a person's dreams of creating and advertising products other people wanted to use, regardless of why they wanted to use them, could lead to a real world paycheck, food on the table and running water. Second Life just got a little closer to resembling first life. I'll be pulling my products from Xstreet. I'm not angry. Linden Labs has every right to do whatever they wish, anything from promoting and encouraging and expanding to driving their own product into the ground. Its their program. I just know better than to stick around while a ship goes down, hoping I can somehow manage to save myself from drowning. I'll be keeping an eye on the other sites emerging for this purpose, and if they take off, and more people start using them, I'll be advertising and selling my products there instead. When I start making the kind of money LL wants for the use of Xstreet, I'll not be giving it to LL. Its a dog-eat-dog world, folks. Right? LL provides the venue, but when they start making it difficult for the little guy to use that venue, the little guy loses the obligation to repay the favor. I do business with people who do business with me.