[extropy-chat] Open Second Life client

Giu1i0 Pri5c0 pgptag at gmail.com
Tue Jan 9 08:03:54 UTC 2007

The Second Life <http://secondlife.com/> client source code has been
released yesterday 8 January under the GPL free software license. The
announcement on the official Linden blog is titled Embracing the
"Releasing the source now is our next invitation to the world to help build
this global space for communication, business, and entertainment. We are
eager to work with the community and businesses to further our vision of our

Inevitable in the sense that this was the only survival strategy for Second
Life. It enjoys market leadership at this moment, but there are competitors
on the horizon completing the development of more open systems e.g. Open
Croquet <http://opencroquet.org/> and Multiverse
<http://multiverse.net/>that will eventually permit users developing
and running their own virtual
worlds on their servers, which is, I think, what most serious operators
(game developers, large companies and organizations wishing to host virtual
intranets for employees and virtual extranets for partners and clients,
media groups) really want.

The open-sourcing of the Second Life client is of course discussed
everywhere in the blogosphere. Cory Doctorow
"This is HUGE… by opening up the source code for Second Life, Linden is
inviting a competitive marketplace for Second Life hosters. Indeed, they
describe a "Second Life grid" of multiple Second Life hosters who
interconnect—the way that today's Web consists of a single Web with millions
of servers that are all linked together by their users".

Only the client (for Windows, Linux and Mac) has been released as open
source software at this moment, and Linden retain the ownership of the
server software. This means that users can study the client source code and
propose modifications and improvements, but cannot run their own private
virtual world on their own servers. But CNN Money
the company's eventual intention is to release an open source version
of that software as well, once it has improved security and other core

The Second Life Open Source developer
website<http://secondlife.com/developers/opensource/>has all
information on how to participate in the further development of the
platform and a wiki <https://wiki.secondlife.com/> editable by registered

As an avid Second Life user, consultant and "serious" application developer
I have made a significant investment of money and time in Second Life, and
in the last few months I have often been afraid of losing (part of) my
investment. In fact, I was persuaded that if Linden did not start opening
the platform very soon, Second Life would fade out with the arrival on the
scene of open platforms more suitable for business applications, but I did
not think they would start opening the platform so soon. If, as we hope,
opening the client software is the first step towards opening the entire
platform (or at least licensing the server code under suitable conditions
including the right to modify it), then I think serious operators will be
much more willing to invest in Second Life: they will know that they will be
able to run their own modified versions of the server if they need to do so.
If I could run a Second Life server, the first two changes I would do are:
permitting users choosing freely their own SL name, and in particular using
their real name; and integrating a real-time voice system.

So now I think the push of serious operators in Second Life will continue.
The most ambitious large company in Second Life that I am aware of at the
moment is IBM. One of the things they will do on their megasim (12 islands
arranged on a 2x6 grid) is to facilitate connections between current and
former IBM people in the "Greater IBM Connection". My understanding is that
they also want to explore ways for Second Life (and Virtual Reality in
general I believe) to add value to real business. Evidently they are using
SL themselves as internal workspace (social networking, meetings,
presentations etc.) and my understanding is that they want to find out how
it can be used effectively in different industries. MIT Technology Review
reports <http://www.technologyreview.com/BizTech/18016/> that "IBM, with its
worldwide operations, needs a chat medium with which employees can confer
with one another. While instant-messaging programs and video conferencing
have been available for many years, the creative freedom offered by Second
Life has not. Software programmers often go into the Second Life world and
outline their projects in a three-dimensional format. Some of the
programmers' work is done in their private Second Life facilities, but much
of it is open to the public. Ultimately, IBM hopes to lower programmers'
travel expenses by conducting meetings and training sessions at the Second
Life islands".

On a less ambitious scale, the Second Life
chapter<http://transhumanism.com/secondlife/>of the World
Transhumanist Association <http://www.transhumanism.org/> has just passed
100 members. In 2006 the WTA was among the pioneers to start using Second
Life for major educational events and conferences, including the mixed-reality
Transvision 2006
<http://uvvy.com/index.php/TransVision06_in_SL_Report>conference on
island <http://uvvy.com/index.php/Uvvy_island_in_SL>. So far Second Life has
been a very useful workspace and outreach tool for transhumanists. With the
beginning of the open sourcing process, we are now more confident in
continuing our investment in Second Life and plan more ambitious activities
for 2007 <http://uvvy.com/index.php/Current_events>, including, of course, a
mixed-reality event for our conference Transvision 2007 in Chicago.
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