Land in Second Life™

Land is Second Life is divided into 256 X 256 m areas called sims or regions I use the terms very interchangeably. Each normal region has a single server core dedicated to running it - openspace sims are low-load special regions where four of them share a single server. They are limited to only 1/4 of the prims of a normal sim, and the avatar load is shared between them so they are not suitable for heavy extended use.

If you own the entire sim and have bought it as an island you can use the region/estate tools in the World Menu to access certain special features. This includes uploading new sim maps, altering the terrain textures, water height, sending messages to the whole sim, barring people from the sim etc. You can also set teleport points for all except the land owner, and you can grant the right to do most of these things to others by creating them as estate managers.

Sims can be, and usually are, divided into smaller units called parcels. Parcels can be owned by other people (the sim owner can always reclaim a parcel) which is one of the common reasons for dividing residential sims into parcels. Dividing a sim into parcels is also useful for the sole-user as there are tools to stream audio and video into Second Life, and these are controlled at the parcel basis. You might, for example, have three teaching spaces on the island and make each one a different parcel so they can stream separate audio and video signals simultaneously.

If all of the sim is owned by a single avatar or group, then the whole allowance of 15,000 prims is available, and can be spread across any parcels as desired. If, however, the sim is divided between different owners (even if one is a single avatar and the other is a group of which the avatar is the owner) the prims available in the parcels are divided on the basis of the proportion of the sim that is owned. This can be a little confusing, but if you own half the sim, you get half the prims available, even if you own it as several parcels. If you choose to put 7,500 prims on one 16sqm parcel and leave the rest bare you can.

The smallest parcel size is 16sqm, 4 X 4m. Parcels can be made up of these subunits stuck together in any shape.

The owner of a parcel can choose, assuming the region allows for direct landing, to direct all arrivals to a fixed point, or to allow free landing. There is an exception to this: anyone teleporting home will arrive at their home position even if that is not the default arrival point - however if they teleport into the parcel in other ways they land at the arrival point like anyone else.

Setting "home" (from the World Menu) is probably important to everyone in Second Life, but can be particularly important for students on academic islands. You can only set home in a location if you are the land owner, of if the land is shared with, or deeded to a group where the group allows you to set home on group land. This can be set by the owner and those empowered to alter group settings under Edit>Groups>Members & Roles>Roles and the Parcel Powers group of functions. Teleporting home is always the last sort of teleport to get broken, and can provide a quick escape if your students or staff are exploring the rest of Second Life and find something they're not comfortable seeing. It takes you directly to the location set as home.

For individually owned land, only the land owner can set the media URLs for streaming media, or a prim owned by the owner - this accounts for the number of scripted radio tuners and display screens, although many of them also provide functionality such as bookmarking to enhance their use. If the land is group owned, there is an option available under Roles>Parcel Settings to allow group members with that role to set the media and music URLs. This allows items deeded to the group and owned by these avatars to set the URLs, or any allowed avatars to set the URLs directly from the About Land>Media tools. Some level of control over this is a tool used by Linden Lab to assess responsibility for the content of streamed material. Although the TOS and Community Standards are almost certainly less restrictive than most insitution's codes of conduct if they are broken the land owner can be suspended or even banned from Second Life.

Land "ownership" is a fairly complex issue for many. Ultimately someone pays Linden Lab for the sim or sims that you are occupying. If you own the whole island, that is usually you or your institution. If you "own" land on the mainland that is also you directly. If you "own" land on an island that you don't own directly, you pay an intermediary who pays Linden Lab for the land. This can work out to be quite cost effective if you own small amounts of land as the fees for land decrease with area owned so the sim owner pays a lower rate than you would pay to own a small plot and can charge you a price between the price you would normally pay and the price they pay to make some profit. People who do this on any large scale are called land barons. If the person at the top of the chain stops paying their bills, Linden Lab have tools in place to shut down and/or reclaim the land. If you pay them directly, that is on you, but if you rent from another person and they fail to pay you may find your land is repossessed despite you having paid regularly. If you rent and stop paying the person you rent from, they have the power to repossess your land. This can be done by the unscrupulous too.

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