The recorded history of Second Life’s open beta (which, after all, only lasted 11 weeks) is highlighted by collaborative group projects. We’ve seen the first one: Wild West Town in Oak Grove. Parallel community projects, started at about the same time, were the first builds to appear in the regions of Bonifacio and Dore. There’s an implication in the written record that those regions were brought online specifically to accommodate the projects — which appears to be confirmed by this archived SL Forum post by Ryan Linden (March 20, 2003, before beta opened), and definitely reinforced by this announcement from Haney Linden, four days later.
The five selected are, Cyber Punk, Dark Wood, Oriental, Native American and Venice.
[from Ryan Linden’s post]
Of those five, only one survives. The Native American village was (according to Marianne McCann) where the stage now sits in Oak Grove. I can only guess that it was very short-lived: it never received a landmark icon on subsequent World Maps, nor can I find any snapshots. Venice and “Cyber Punk” — eventually to be called Nexus Prime — were placed in Bonifacio.
|Photo credit: bUTTONPUSHER jONES; 2nd Look Image Gallery|
Above: Venice, approximately a year after its inception. Below: Venice today — not looking at all Venetian, but still bearing the group name and the original land claim date.
|Photo credit: Enebran Templar; Snapzilla|
Above: Nexus Prime in 2005, looming over the Bonifacio wing of the Ahern Welcome Area. Below: Nexus, past its prime (August 2010)
Nexus Prime was, in its day, extremely popular. Archived “office hour” transcripts at the Second Life Wiki quote Torley Linden saying it was what drew him to SL, and Torley has contributed a lot of images of it to Snapzilla. Three months after the initial build in Bonifacio, it expanded to include the full sim of Gibson (named, of course, for the putative “father” of the cyberpunk genre of science-fiction)… and the dramatic demise of Nexus Prime, as well as evidence for reconstruction, will be discussed when this travel(bl)ogue reaches that region.
The remaining two community projects from that first batch of five were assigned to Dore. “Dark Wood” (later revised to Darkwood), a medievalist roleplay area, also received its own sim by June 2003, and will be discussed then. “Oriental”, as Ryan Linden referred to it, was a project conceived and organized by Yuniq Epoch and called Yamato, though that name never made it to the World Map.
|Photo credit: Oz Spade; SL Wikia|
The name that appeared on the map was “Shangri-La”, and — as the sole survivor of those first community projects — still bears that name, and most of its original appearance, seven years on.
On a whim of the Lindens of the time, Yamato/Shangri-La was rescued from the depredations of time, neglect, and vandalism by converting it to Protected status (a.k.a. “Linden land”) and adding copies of the Orientation stations as a refresher course. Those are all still there, and they all still work.
Two more incidental surviving artifacts of Dore’s early days on the Grid are worth note — two gold-capped pylons on the road leading from the Welcome Area to what now is the multi-sim city of Nova Albion.
More of the prolific Alberto Linden’s work (October, 2003), they were initially part of the bridge to “Linden World” — not the alpha phase of Second Life, but a short-lived amusement park organized and built in the manner which still obtains for events like “SL(x)B” and (until this year) “Burning Life”: a lottery for Residents to obtain the parcels upon which to build.
|Photo credit: Oz Spade, SL Wikia|