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  ‘Second Life’ Client Software Goes Open Source  
Posted 2007-01-08 by Tony Walsh
Linden Lab announced today that their "viewer" client software for virtual world Second Life will be released "to the open source software development community." Moving to an open source model presumably allows external developers to modify the client software for better or worse, such as improving the end-user experience, creating a branded viewer, or facilitating replication of user-created content. Hacking the viewer to steal Linden Dollars (in-world currency) or to steal a user's identity will not be possible, according to Linden Lab.

On its FAQ page for the open source client, Linden Lab says that the move "will eventually increase the security of Second Life," and that "open sourcing the viewer will accelerate the development of new features..." An official and open version of the software, released under the GPL license will be available. The official version--the only version supported by Linden Lab--will be made available exclusively through the Second Life web site and incorporate "certain code changes and enhancements." Code not developed in-house will be "thoroughly reviewed" prior to integration.

The move to an open source client comes earlier than expected. In a Town Hall meeting conducted last December, Linden Lab's Cory Ondrejka said that an open source client would be rolled out in 2007. Last October, the open source timeline was given as "one or two years." One year ago this month, Ondrejka said Second Life would go open source "eventually." There's no doubt in my mind that some very large changes in Second Life's user-experience, society and culture will result from open sourcing the client.
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Comment posted by Prokofy Neva
January 8, 2007 @ 1:33 pm
Yes, and here are the changes:

1. Linden dollar will devalue significantly.
2. Land on the mainland will plummet in price.
3. Only island continents that master the new viewers to create custom experiences will win.
4. The open-source community is a closed shop for elitists, and they and the Lindens will now be the new walled garden that will toss around ideas and do them with less actual broad public than they had before.
5. The Features Voting Tool will become obsolete because anyone can go around it now to submit directly finished code to be GOM's by LL.
6. An interesting thing will develop on timing of releases and heads up of releases to commercial advantage of the short FIC list.
7. Educational and business applications will create heavily secured versions that will be the new Golf and even more of a country club network than the walled garden of the broad SL itself as it is now about which you complained.
8. Larger metaversal consulting companies that can put on rich-content real-time and frequently-updated shows will win eyeballs, contracts and even traffic eventually; the inworld original pioneers and small businesses will be co-opted or will die out.
9. The wind will be taken out of libsl and griefers' sales but new ones will come in their place.
10. The Lindens will turn off SEARCH PLACES because new membership and load problems will continue, thereby destroying a huge percentage of sales and forcing many people out of business.
Comment posted by TroyMcLuhan
January 8, 2007 @ 2:35 pm
Wow, this came sooner than I expected, because there are still pieces of the client code that are proprietary.

I was expecting LL to first publish the SL protocol (which the libSL folks have been reverse-engineering) and then wait awhile before open-sourcing the client. Instead, they're publishing the protocol and open-sourcing the client software at the same time. FYI, the now-published SL protocol is here:

I guess LL realized that as soon as they published the protocol, coders would be able to start writing their own SL client software (with confidence) anyway. Releasing the source code for the client will help the writers of new clients to avoid some pitfalls (by seeing what LL did).
Comment posted by Ian Betteridge
January 8, 2007 @ 3:25 pm
"Educational and business applications will create heavily secured versions..."

...which will also have to be released under the GPL, with source code included.
Comment posted by Prokofy Neva
January 8, 2007 @ 3:38 pm
We don't know LL's next move, the timeline for releae of the server code, and we don't know that in fact they may make the licensed versions for specialized business or education uses that have constantly been predicted.
Comment posted by Ian Betteridge
January 8, 2007 @ 7:48 pm
I don't think they'll make "specialized business or education" versions, although they ARE offering the code for businesses to do so if they way under non-GPL terms (adopting, basically, the same dual licensing structure as Sendmail or MySQL).

Release of server code is more complex, I think. They will never, ever release the backbone code that runs the money system, avatar identification and objects database, so they need to disentangle that from the general server code. But beyond that - I'd expect them to do it as soon as they can. It gets them out of the low-margin, hardware-intensive hosting business, which would be a major drag on their potential growth.
Comment posted by Ace Albion
January 9, 2007 @ 7:45 am
I'm sure I read that assets uploaded to SL are stored on the region/sim servers themselves, so disentangling that from the grid would be something. Still, you could maybe log into "Jane's Second Life World" eventually and show up in that world as Ruth with an empty inventory (or a local one to that grid) maybe.

I'm hoping they had put a lot more server side checks on certain things that maybe were trusted to the client before they opened it up. I think the megaprims were like this- constrained only by the way the standard viewer wouldn't accept sizes over 10 metres, the servers didn't care.

Campaigning for features may be more a case of siding up to some programmer types than going through a typical voting/suggestion process to Linden Lab. It'll be interesting to see if/how client useage restrictions might come into play. Eg- "To visit/rent here you must be using AceClient 2.0- click this prim so our website can check". And a gorean client that sends payment transactions to your master every hour to keep your L$ empty ;). It's all open, and you agree to a TOS when you download and install, but people generally don't read what they click through, and I see some fun down the line with this. The client on your computer talks to the SL grid with your voice- you have to trust that it speaks with your intent and not someone else's.
Comment posted by Prokofy Neva
January 9, 2007 @ 8:36 am
Sidling up is exactly the way to describe it, Ace, and that's why I say open source=closed society because it increases the sidling-up and the elitism and reduces the general community input into features. This will all play out in the coming months, and I won't even have to explain it any more to people.

Your concept of "To visit/rent here you must be using AceClient 2.0- click
this prim so our website can check" -- that's exactly what I've always been afraid of with vast scripted automated rental systems of the type that are now ruling 300 or 500 private islands and growing but mainland stores and clubs as well as residential communities.

Not only will people force others to go download and use their clients, they'll scrape all their commercial data and exercise espionage functions on them without any of the scruples that Linden Lab exercises.

And when I say "fear" I don't mean in a tinfoil and beFUDdled manner, but in fearing for the closing of what has been an open and creative society.

I think it's funny that people who have been bitching for 3 years that SL is a "walled garden" and a "snowglobe" don't realize that the worst snowglobes and walled gardens are going to be these data-scraping, spying dungeons arranged on home-brewed "Ace Clients". There will be no recourse against these millions of warlords.
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