Second Life worm causes unrest

Self-replicating worm slows game servers

Online gamers were locked out of Second Life Sunday, after a self-replicating worm planted spinning golden rings throughout the virtual world.

The rings caused game servers to slow down, and forced Second Life's creator -- Linden Lab -- to prevent people from logging on.

"An attack of self-replicators is causing heavy load on the database, which is in turn slowing down in-world activity," said the official Second Life Blog. "We have isolated the grey goo and are currently cleaning up the grid."

The game was reopened within 25 minutes, but the attack caused unrest among Second Life devotees who were already angered by previous flaws in the fast-growing game.

Over 1.5 million people have registered to use Second Life, and Linden Lab claims the population is growing by 38 percent every month. However, users have expressed concern that the growth in users has become "too fast to steer".

There are also fears that the virtual world is open to abuse, with many gamers abandoning Second Life following the emergence of CopyBot -- a program which allowed gamers to replicate virtual goods without paying the original designers. Others have complained that the online game has become flooded by virtual freeloaders, who sign up for free and spend no money in the Second Life economy.

Linden Lab has benefited from a wave of publicity over the past few months, with real-life brands including Adidas and Nike exploring ways to exploit the game by placing their products inside it. The virtual economy has become so vast that news bureau Reuters has set up shop inside Second Life, while tax authorities are reportedly looking at ways to get a slice of the action.

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