I dream of a time when I won’t have to write things like this. When I can focus on uplifting, informative posts or essays or speeches in which I talk about neat stuff I’ve found, or connections I’ve tracked down, or some crazy hilarious thing that happened that I want to share with you.
But that day’s not here, so let’s instead talk about Metaplace.
In September of 2007, Metaplace was announced as an alpha  after nine months of speculation about what it was.  About a year later, the system was open to a selection of users in a “closed beta”.  Finally, it went to a complete open beta in May of this year.  Estimates are that about 70,000 “virtual worlds” were built on what turned out to be a neutral, facilitative background for multiplayer experiences. A lot of press is out there about this place, with a lot of haughty language, discussions of an “avatar bill of rights“, and the potentials for the future power of the metaplace arena. 
Faithful readers will of course know that the reason I’m bringing this up, this thing you might or might not have heard of, is because metaplace has announced that they’re shutting down.
In 9 days.
As of January 1st.
Let’s not think I’m exaggerating. The announcement came on December 21st, and is effective on January 1st. Less than two weeks, for people to pack up their shit, shit they worked on for months, shit that they were paying money for metaspaces to host.
Except they kind of can’t pack up their shit.
This is what I’m talking about of dreaming of a day. In that hopefully-mundane day, the closing of a website or a service would be tragic or delightful, but the data, which the users contributed and added to the place, would be something they could easily, and quickly extract out.
“Where’s your export function?”
Actually, that’s not big enough.
“WHERE THE FUCK IS YOUR EXPORT FUNCTION?”
Don’t waste my time apologizing for them. Don’t tell me I’m being too harsh. Maybe I should be giving them some big ol’ hugs here, a few days before Christmas, that they are closing up shop during the holidays and expecting people to go through the insane manual procedures they’ve blown in to get your stuff off. It’s a nightmare maze of manual URL grabbing, save-as lists, and weird commands that give you even more work. At the end of it, your data is a jumbled mess, subject to however you downloaded and classified it yourself, and prone to error because you were fucking trying to do all this during the holidays.
If your thing that takes in user content doesn’t have an export function, that is, a big button with a few selection boxes for exactly how much of your shit you want to take down, with one of the options being “all of my shit”, then they are stealing your shit from you.
Oh, sure, we have gigabytes of record of Koster bloviating about player rights and the meaning of games and what it’s all about in the process of building community around a virtual world, but here we have the real story: make no preparations for the end, assume all the stuff made with you is yours yours yours, and make it difficult for people to go elsewhere. Guess what, kids – it’s 2009. The days when it was this amazing crazy-ass thing that a server on a computer out there on the Internet could hold data for you and still be there when your browsed back… well, that was probably 13 years ago and counting. It’s not amazing anymore. It’s not something that lets you get away with acting like you just strapped together 400 milk jugs and put a wooden door down and miraculously floated down the fucking river. It’s basic shit. And along with something becoming basic shit is the idea of an open platform, of letting your company’s skills and interaction with customers define why they should keep their data, and not locking them up behind what they call a “walled garden” but which fails to make clear your users did all the gardening. Excuse time is over. It shouldn’t be the way it is now.
But it is. So Metaplace will die, as they all die, with a pathetic message blown out like it was all a big fun old time, and with a few mumbled incoherencies about being able to “manually save” some jigsaw pieces of your work, and a few articles and then a long black space where it used to be. A few people will mention it in the same breath as other failed virtual spaces, a punchline, an insider or industry reference, a few years down the line. Koster walks the Earth free. Baribeau becomes “community manager” of another unsuspecting chicken coop of suckers, unaware the flamethrower might be turned on at any moment.
I am saying, basically, that this is bullshit. It has to stop.
Raph announced this closure letting people know that even though he was shitcanning metaplace, there were still “exciting plans” afoot. To this I say no, you shitheel, you don’t get to have “exciting plans”. You get to desperately scramble to come up with some solid reasons why metaplace imploded, and why anybody should trust you with a fucking three-byte string anytime in the next few years. You get to grovel, and explain why there was no warning, and why the best lifeboat you can muster up for the people who trusted you with their creation and data is a Do-It-Yoo-Seff(tm) notepad-and-right-click combo, repeated endlessly, throughout Christmas.
Otherwise, O wise god of gaming theory, you are a fuck.
Metaplace has set up a new website/forum called metaplaceveterans.com which acts like it’s a hang-out spot for people who used Metaplace and want to connect. In point of fact, it’s an IQ test: if someone burns down your rented apartment, and then pulls an RV up outside your smoldering wreck, exactly how much of a gullible retard are you to happily get into that RV with what you have left? At best, it functions as an instant mailing/contact list entitled “People we can do whatever the fuck we want to and they’ll take it like little giggly bitches”. At worst, it just shows the level of ignorance implied in destroying metaplace so quickly, so viciously, and then smiling at the end like our awesome kegger got broken up by the cops.
How many more times? How many more?
Categorised as: computer history
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