Monday, January 1, 2007

A Different Threat Exposed by Copybot

It's been a while and the great threat of Copybot has come and gone, but there is another threat waiting in the wings which the Copybot investigation revealed to me.

When the Copybot fiasco occured in late 2006, many people became worried about things like intellectual property rights and theft. Ultimately, the reaction to Copybot caused more damage than the program itself, and the chat spam from the ineffectual Copybot Defeaters that could be found in nearly every store in Second Life for a month escalated the chat lag problem to new heights. However, the Copybot fiasco is over, and Copybot is not the threat I'm going to talk about today.

Copybot was created by a member of a group of coders working on creating an Open Source client for Second Life with the blessings and support of Linden Labs. As well as being able to copy objects and textures directly from the client, these programmers were able to create a stripped-down version of the Second Life client with a miniscule system footprint. A Second Life Bot.

The ability to create automated users in Second Life may not seem like a threat at first. It seems like a grand oppertunity. You could program your own store manager or a robot bartender for your club. You could sync up a group of robots to perform in-world plays. There are so many possibilities, but there is also a hidden threat.

First of all, Second Life has a cap on the number of users in a single simulator region. This cap is 40 in most sims, while private islands can increase the cap if they wish. Every robot will count toward that cap. Very soon it will be possible to shut off whole sims by logging in fourty robots at a time, without the large system footprint of the full Second Life client.

Second of all, several stores are already hiring players to sit on pose balls and demonstration objects while leaving their client AFK to act as models. This is a somewhat honest line of work in Second Life, but it will go the way of the Dodo when store owners can just run a few robots complete with mild interactive scripts that AFK players couldn't do. Worse yet, every one of those dress-up dolls will cost the sim one connection. With just a few stores that have three to five models each you'll cut the number of people actually able to visit those stores in half, not to mention people who live in the simulator!

This is my prediction of a critical threat in Second Life. I hope that I'm not the only one who sees this coming, and that the Lindens are already working on a plan to absorb the impact of Second Life Bots. In any case, heed my warning and don't contribute to the problem when it occurs.

13 comments:

Dwight J. Dutton said...

SL was already headed down the tubes and I didn't even know about this yet!

Apple of said...

I don't really see this as a problem.

First of all, Linden Labs could likely easily only allow one or two connections from any given computer, if it really became a problem. It honestly doesn't seem to me like this will ever even get to that point, however. You may have a few isolated incidents of abuse, but then... there's isolated incidents of abuse for all manner of things in Second Life.

Secondly, your concern about losing the 'idle modeler' line of business isn't really a Second Life killer. It may be honest work, but it's just not a vital part of the economy. People who are willing to make money this way will find other ways. We've been using computers to automate simple, repetitive tasks in real life ever since their conception. I don't see why we should stop now.

So yeah, a good observation, but I don't really see it as a threat of any kind. :)

- Harle Armistice

Brad said...

Harle is correct about multiple connections, and the model gripe sounds to me like carriage makers complaining when cars were invented. LibSL forces a monolithic LL to rethink things (which is good!) and SL often closely resembles RL in that business opportunities come and go all the time.

- Leam Cunningham

Borba Spinotti said...

I agree with apple of that limiting the connections per computer is a step in the right direction. But if we are about to enter an era of a) widespread SL usage and b) alternative clients with yet-to-be-determined security features, isn't the DDOS attack the thing we ought to be scared of? It has always been possible to coordinate players to this effect, but bots open up a scary new realm of mindless vandalism.

Anonymous said...

It is very widespread already. Bots using camp areas and now creating profiles and joining open groups.

Harry Linden viewed bot after bot landing on protected land in our sim after I set the land to payment info only.

SL's resident numbers are bloated by the use of bots as well as I feel the constant rezzing of these bots are what is affecting teleporting and database issues at this time

Clarrice Cinquetti said...

Hopefully Linden Lab stops this program before it becomes sold grid wide.

The camp bots are making a fortune but calling it a fight against camp...well then where is all this money going they are making??

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