Well, dear readers, our friends at the Lab have done it again -- shafted the residents and merchants that support Second Life, and shot themselves in the foot into the bargain.
Today, LL announced that the Linden Dollar Authorized Reseller Program would close as of August 1. The link to its SL Wiki page already has been deleted, and only an announcement that the program is closed remains. Read LL's blog post here: https://community.secondlife.com/t5/Featured-News/Concluding-the-Authorized-L-Reseller-Pilot-Program/ba-p/2941442
The reason given is that LL has, over the past two years, provided more ways for residents of Second Life to buy $L, especially non-US residents who do not have access to PayPal, so the third party resellers are no longer necessary.
The changes made to the Terms of Service two years ago, when LL closed two-way third party $L exchanges, impacted a lot of residents. Many believe that new US regulations on virtual currencies, or at least the Treasury's interpretation of the laws, was the driving factor behind this move. The $L Authorized Reseller Program was put in place as at least a partial solution to those difficulties.
Most of the largest third party dealers went along with this. Even though they could no longer buy back $L from residents, creating a two way exchange, they remained in the business of selling $L. Over time, the program gained additional approved resellers, until there were about 29 choices in addition to the official Linden Lab exchange.
Now LL has decided, once again, to intervene in their virtual economy. In my opinion, the move is not, as the previous one probably was, in response to a changing Real World legal environment, but yet another attempt on the part of LL to appropriate a Second Life revenue stream developed by the residents for themselves. (In their blog post, LL even states this is a "business decision.") I am also bemused by the fact that LL is now calling it a "pilot" program, a term that was never used to describe it before. I suspect they did this to try to make it look like they are canceling a small, unproductive, or even failed effort -- when in fact the Reseller program was large, active, and growing.
This sort of behavior on the part of the Lab is not new. They increased the costs of private estate ownership to give a greater competitive edge to their own Mainland regions and keep more of the income from estates for themselves. They introduced themed areas like Nautilus and Bay City to try and get a share of the themed estate market. They decided to charge fees for people making skill games and running skill gaming regions, skimming off a goodly percentage of that income. Linden Homes took a huge share of the "first home owner" market away from resident landlords and estate owners.
Second Life is a business. I understand that, we all do. Unless Linden Lab earns a profit on Second Life, our beloved virtual world will vanish. That's a fact of life, and no one with three working brain cells would assert that LL should provide us with our world simply out of the goodness of their hearts. But when clever residents come up with ways to make money in SL, it smacks of bullying for LL to usurp those income streams by fiat. Moreover, moves like this lead to uncertainty on the part of entrepreneurs. No one is going to invest a lot of time, effort, and money to build up a virtual business if they think that as soon as it's a success, LL will come and take it for themselves.
The right way to profit from a virtual economy is to set the rules and then LEAVE THEM ALONE, for pity's sake. If the economy is stable, it's more likely to grow...and so will LL's cut. Trying to grab a bigger slice of a smaller pie is self-destructive over the long run.