Tuesday, 8 March 2011

Media filter

Media Filter

Many of you who watch our bi-weekly office hours are aware that we have had planned for some time to implement a feature into the viewer which would improve security in regards to connections the viewer makes to the internet. We have recently commited a "Media Filter" feature in Phoenix and in Firestorm viewers respectively, although neither viewers have been released yet with this feature.

There have been many accusations that the media filter has been implemented to specifically target Redzone. While this is untrue, it WILL have an effect on Redzone, however we've intended to make a feature like this long before Redzone was on the grid.

For those who are unaware of what Redzone is.. It is a product used by land owners to aid in detecting, banning and preventing greifers from accessing their land using several means including alt account detection. Alt accounts are detected by recording and referencing your IP address and account names via your media stream into a database which can then be cross referenced by Redzone Owners.

There has been copious amounts of controversy and drama surrounding Redzone, but to break it down there are two main argumental points in regards to this product. On one side of the argument is (that land owners should have the ability to protect their land and the current "Report abuse" tool is ineffective). On the other side of the argument (Users have the right to protect the identity of their alternate accounts and their privacy).

Both arguments are true and accurate. And while we do have team members who represent both sides of the arguments the official stance of the Phoenix Viewer Project in regards to Redzone is Neutral. We do not wish to get involved, period. The decision to implement media filter was based on the fact that users SHOULD have the ability to control the connections their viewer makes to the internet. This is no different in principle than any firewall built into your operating system or otherwise.

I would kindly ask you to not discuss the Redzone debate in our in world support groups or contact our support people in its regard as it cripples our ability to provide support to our users who need it and has nothing to do with our project. Instead, discussions about Redzone should be taken to the Redzone Forums here: http://isellsl.ath.cx/madsci/forum/viewforum.php?f=8&sid=f38c40179f37209231be6a3f63c254eb .

Now, more about the Media Filter..
When enabled, the feature works by informing you of a connection attempting to be made by providing you the URL it is connecting too and gives you four options (Allow | Deny | Blacklist | Whitelist). There has been a significant amount of drama in regards to the URL being displayed so we made a compromise that it would only display the domain and obfuscate (mask) the rest. It would look like this "http://mediaurl.com/....../..... " and this is how it sits currently in our repository right now. HOWEVER, recently LL has made a decision to remove the ability to hide media URL's from within the viewer... in that.. media URL's will be visible to everyone under about land.  You can see the JIRA for this here https://jira.secondlife.com/browse/STORM-1037. While we have not made a final decision on whether media filter will display the full URL there will be no point in us obfuscating (masking) it should that change be made final by LL. We WILL follow LL's Lead on this matter.

I would kindly ask that discussion about Media URL's be kept out of our in world support groups and support personnel as it cripples the ability for support to do their job. Any complaints please take up with Linden Lab on the above Jira link. This is their decision far more than it is ours.

When will Media Filter be available?...
We will very likely have a Firestorm Preview 2 release before we have another Phoenix Viewer update. We are aiming for a Firestorm Preview 2 release around  middle too late March. If you would like to get a copy of it, please join our in world group "Phoenix-Firestorm Preview Group" and watch for the group notice.

We hope to have a Phoenix Viewer update as soon as possible however that release is being held up while we investigate and try to resolve the stability issues present in version 908. We also hope to have RLVa updated as well.

If you have issues with, or complaints specifically about our policy in regards to following LL's lead, feel free to contact me directly via email at jessica.lyon@phoenixviewer.com. Please direct all other issues to the corresponding locations listed above. IE. The Redzone blog, or the LL Jira.


Jessica Lyon
Project Manager
The Phoenix Viewer Project, Inc.
March 8th Phoenix Office Hour Recording where I discussed and answered questions regarding Media Filter, Redzone, Greenzone and more..

For more information and an unbiased objective look into the topics discussed above please feel free to refer to the following articles.
Article by Doc Grun - Part 1
Article by Doc Grun - Part 2


  1. As regards data scraping, this is a barrel of fish which will stink for a very long time.

    As regards 908 stability, I wish you luck in that, and would merely add that this busy writing to disk that 908 and 818 before it showed is a real puzzle.

  2. Looks fair to me. This probably should have been implemented long before now, but certainly will be needed as more and more people start setting up media on a prim.

    The latter may well require more functionality than what will currently be in the filter to make it non-intrusive enough to use. Domain level filters for would be an example. I don't want to be asked for every separate YouTube video for instance (that being one of the more popular things to put on media prims.) The current filter is a good start though.

  3. I am unsure about directing Redzone discussion to the Redzone website. A big issue is whether the people running it can be trusted, and posting there will give them an IP address that might be linked to an SL account. If they regard you as hostile, what then?

    Redzone is an SL issue, the Lindens have to deal with it, it seems to be in breach of the TOS, and it may be better debated on the Second Life forums.

  4. What needs to be made very clear is that Redzone is a scam. It does not work as advertised. If you use dynamic IP's (as I do) Redzone will fail to detect my alts. If you use a shared internet connection (say you decide to log in to SL from your friendly neighborhood coffee shop), you can be falsely tagged as a griefer if someone else has EVER logged in from that location and done such activities.

    Furthermore, Redzone STILL violates TOS by collecting private data, even if it does not display it. Doing this also violates some privacy laws in certain states an countries. So, if you use Redzone, you could be sued for breaking these laws.

    Last but not least, all this information is going into a database somewhere - can ZFire Xue be trusted not to reveal or exploit this data? I think not.

    While I am glad of the Media Filter, I am displeased that Phoenix has not, as they should, taken a stand against this scam artist.

  5. @Daaneth: EXACTLY THAT.
    Yes, I also think that the Phoenix team should have taken a stand AGAINST RedZone and any other privacy-invading data scrapers

  6. Thanks for taking some leadership on this issue while Linden Labs, by its silence, appears to be doing nothing. I realize there are two sides to it but it is taking an unconscionably long time to sort it out, which only leaves a residue of bitterness on both sides. This could be a textbook case of how NOT to address a problem.

  7. I second the concerns regarding directing the redzone discussion to the redzone forums.
    1. The redzone forums are OBVIOUSLY not a neutral ground for discussion, as they are hosted by the redzone makers.
    2. The redzone forums are heavily moderated, I dare to say censored in that zFire Xue (maker of Redzone) deletes any thread or post that displays a view not in agreement with him or criticizing his products. He even bans and deletes users for asking questions, all the while the other attendees are free to flame anyone who asks critical questions. This is not a mature place for discussion at all.

  8. This is not a place to discuss Redzone, and I applaud the Phoenix team for their stand.

    You people who wants Phoenix to take a stand against Redzone, seem to have missed the point where Jessica mentions that individuals within Phoenix are for and against.

    A split team is the worst thing that can happen to Phoenix.

    Phoenix is a viewer building team, not a political party. They build their viewer and keep things neat. With a Media filter, they give users what they have always given users: Free choice to do what suits them best, whether for or against whatever current mass discussion is raging through SL.

    So give it a rest, already, and keep Redzone off here.

  9. Will this interject another step in intentional browser use? Or, will the media filter only work on non intentional use such as media stream?

  10. Thanks for the media filter. However, only showing partial urls are behind the times as LL have for once moved at lightening speed to enable the showing of full urls.

    I understand Phoenix's position on this issue as this issue can only be resolved by Linden Lab.

  11. It's all drama; RedZone and Media Filter. It all stinks. A better idea would be to leave it be and focus on useful performance improvements.

  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

  13. Gem's blog: An Open Letterto the Phoenix Team: "To the viewer team who stated their stance in the RedZone/Spyware matter were NEUTRAL You seem to miss the point that one cannot be neutral..."

  14. An open letter to Gem.

    RedZone is a LL issue, not a Phoenix viewer issue.

    Maybe you should get your information straight. Last I checked, Phoenix is -not- a part of Linden Labs, and as such have no influence whatsoever on TOS violations.

    Give it a rest and keep this Phoenix related.

    Go complain on the Second Life forums instead of bringing it here.


  15. Let all discussion about RedZone take place somewhere else. RedZone & GreenZone forums, but basically it's an issue for LL.
    As regards of 908 stabilty, that will be greatly appreciated, Phoenix haven't been this unstable ever, I think.

  16. I am a new Phoenix user and also new to the World of LL...I love the viewer but would enjoy more stability in the future. Keep up the good work Phoenix.

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