Linden Lab announced another change in SL costs and perks!
As we users have been asking for tier to go down it is great to see them take another step in the right direction but part of making SL nicer for Premium users means it is also going to get a little less nice for basic users.

You can read the full blog here;

In short;
The good news;

Land prices go down;

This really is a big deal because it’s even for those of us who own grandfathered regions.
Unlike the last time they lowered the prices, this time every landowner gets to enjoy the change.

Premium and basic accounts change;

We’re going to get more from being a premium account owner, which is great because to be brutally honest I’m only premium because you kind of have to when you own a sim, to buy land, get quick support, etc.
When we lost the 24 hours a day chat support I considered abandoning my premium account because that really was the main reason to be premium for me at the time.
LL has tried many times to add extra value to the premium account but most things they tried didn’t really impress me, regular gifts, premium areas, etc.
I had no need for any of those things and the only improvement I actually welcomed was when they gave premium account holders extra groups!
They are doing this again but frankly I’ve managed fine with the 60 group limit, are there really many people who want more than that?
As for the cap on offline IM’s…. I didn’t even realise there was one.
My IM’s all go to e-mail, I don’t think I miss anything.
More improvements are promised; more Linden Hom themes, more limit increases, etc.

But all this comes at a price, yes premium membership is going to get more expensive;

As you can see you’ll now pay about 12 bucks a month for premium membership, however if you pay annually it will actually be cheaper.
Which is nice… if you can afford to pay a hundred bucks in one go.
I can’t.

I’m not sure being a premium member is that interesting for most users and I doubt these changes make it become more appealing to become a premium user.
But that is just from my personal perspective, other premium users may be rather happy with all the extras they get.

The credit processing fee goes up;

In short processing credit fee doubles.
This is a bit of a shock because that can add up.
I’m not good enough at mathematics to calculate how much extra this is going to cost me each month but I reckon it will bite a big chunk out of the decrease in Tier we’ve just been given, perhaps even swallow it whole.
Either way I think that there not being a maximum fee is also a bad thing.
After all those who make the most money in SL are also in many cases the ones who make a biggest impact on most SL users by making stuff many of us want to buy or organising events and running sims most of us want to visit.

It is great that land is getting cheaper while other things are getting more expensive, but in the end the balance should be that SL in general is getting more affordable for us or at least not get more expensive.
Those of us who create all those experiences, run shops, own sims, etc., are already and still paying lots of money each month, seeing any kind of cost potentially doubled is a bitter pill to swallow.
This hurts the people who are the backbone of SL, the content creators.

As you can imagine there was quite a bit of chatter on the forums so Grumpity Linden responded in this thread;

A few points he made;

Land prices:  Full estates get ~$20/mo reduction in price. For the first time we are also reducing GF/BD region pricing.  This is not a frivolous gift to the 1%. This has real and proven effects on the rents many more pay. 
Premium prices are going up on June 24.  Starting June 3 and until June 24,  Premium accounts have 3 weeks to pre-pay an additional cycle of premium at the old rates.  Best deal is, of course, prepaying for annual regardless of your current level. We hope you can take advantage of it. If you’re paying quarterly today, you can continue as quarterly. We will no longer offer it to new premium signups.  With the new prices, VAT will be charged on monthly and quarterly but not annual (of course only in the countries where VAT applies).
We looked. We hadn’t raised premium prices in the history of premium prices in SL. Crazy! A lot of value has been added to premium over the last few years (new Linden Homes, double tier, reduced mainland prices, premium access, more offline IMs, more transaction history, more groups, more animesh, experiences, and yet more to come) and we are raising prices to reflect that.   
We’re not lowering limits out of spite, groups really are quite a strain on our back end for a variety of painful historical reasons, including overloading group functionality instead of having other tools.  This subject alone is worth a novel liberally sprinkled with tears. So anyway, we don’t hate basic users, and in fact we work hard to retain our free-to-play offering as one of the most generous across many industries. But yes, no big surprise, we do want to nudge active residents to become subscribers, because we think it’s a great value, and – as many have noted – we’re also running a business. But no, we’re not shutting our doors to non-premium residents. Rumors of our insanity and villainy have been slightly exaggerated.  
Fees to process credit are going up, effective June 24.  L$ buy fees are not. Yes, this is another step in rebalancing the economy.  It’s also the right step, because the regulatory climate has evolved dramatically since SL first started out, and in order to continue to offer a platform for creators to actually make money, we have a lot of ongoing work to keep up with those regulations. Compliance is generally no fun (shh don’t tell our compliance people I said so – they’re wonderful and actually think it’s fun!) but it keeps all of us in business and the bad guys out. If we weren’t doing this work, we would literally have to stop offering the ability to process credit. 
We’re making lasting investments into SL in infrastructure, features, and content.  While we set aside some special morsels only for premium members, the work we are doing benefits everyone – region crossings, attachment reliability, marketplace improvements, inventory stability, land auctions – are just a few examples.  No one project will please all of our residents, but we make an effort to address the needs of all communities in turn. We can’t get everything done immediately, but we’re focused and determined to keep SL successful and evolving. It’s a unique and thriving world we work hard to support. 
Look, this is obviously a bitter pill.  We can’t keep slashing land prices at the rate we did last year.  We can’t raise other prices and yet keep everyone happy.  But we sincerely believe this is the best path forward – and hope you will come around too. 

It is interesting to read, for the first time (in my case anyway), that groups really are quite a strain on SL
I guess this is common knowledge but I’ve never heard a Linden confirm this.
I can think of a few solutions that will cut down the amount of groups in SL drastically while making them actually better for users.
Few ideas are to delete groups owned by people who haven’t been online for years, create subgroup options, let groups have more roles, etc.
For my 1920s Berlin sim there are dozens of groups!
We are am active roleplaying community that has been around for literally a decade, we need all these groups but often only because we run out of roles, permissions or need a way to communicate privately as a group.
We would need just one group if we could have some of the things mentioned above.
Another option would be to move some of the group functionalities to the SL website.
If that website had some of the options Facebook has we could have pages for each group with a forum, chat option, etc.
Perhaps even some functionalities that are integrated with inworld options.
More about how groups could be improved here in this old blog I wrote in 2012;

And yes, the buy fees are nog going up, that is great but I don’t even remember the last time I actually bought Linden Dollars.
Even when I just started in SL I would try and make money inworld in stead of buying it.
It was quite rewarding to make my first Linden Dollars.
Increasing sell fees damages the profit (if any) people make who work in SL, the content creators, the sim owners, the event organisers.
I understand that this price has to go up but the increase is rather extreme and I am not sure the tier discount carries this extra cost.
Not to mention that countless shop owners, creators, event organisers etc. don’t even own land so they don’t at least get a tier discount to outweigh the extra costs.
Unless the owner of the land where their shop is located decides to lower their rent because tier has gone done 20 bucks, this change is quite damaging to many of the most important people in SL.

This means that the general overhead for these people goes up, they need to somehow make this money back and they’ll do this by making their stuff more expensive.
Of course if you’re not a shop owner it may be harder to do this after all, if you raise the rent in your sim tenants may simply go elsewhere, if you start charging a fee for your club you may end up with an empty joint.

So in short, SL is getting better in some ways but worse in others.
Which isn’t good.
I think premium accounts can be made more attractive without having to take away from other members.
But even with all the new changes and bonuses, is having a premium account actually worth it?
Is what you’re being offered really worth the new costs?
For me it used to be 24 hour chat support for emergencies, but that’s gone.
The extra groups was a great bonus but 60 is enough groups.
I don’t mind having more but I don’t feel comfortable about those extra groups coming at the cost of basic users losing some of theirs.
My blog is full of ideas that can make the premium account more worth it and I’m sure most SL users could make some great suggestions as well.

In short; this change doesn’t make premium accounts more attractive, it has achieved the opposite effect.

As for things getting more expensive in any way for any SL users, I think that is always a bad thing.
Not just because I’m a cheapskate Dutch person but because SL is more than just a game for many of us, it is how we make a living or it at least helps us pay some of our bills.
I would make more money flipping hamburgers a few nights a week than I do working more than full time creating experiences in Second Life.
Credit processing fees have seen several increases without us seeing much happening to outweigh those extra costs.
When some things get more expensive others should get cheaper or parts of our virtual society are getting damaged.
Again, those of us who own land at least get a discount to counter these extra costs but creators, shop owners and others who don’t own land but do cash out are only going to see a decrease in their income.

What if cashing out keeps getting more expensive and people just start asking tenants, customers or clients to start paying them directly via paypal?