Second Life … still controlling the (virtual) world!

Wow … what a quick reaction … but not quite enough, in my opinion. Linden Research quickly announced the release of the Second Life client into Open Source. I actually love the name of this blog post by phoenix linden … Embracing the Inevitable.  It announces the release of their client software into Open Source, and where to go and get it.  There is an issue though … they are still holding onto the control of the virtual world by not releasing the server software … yet. As David Kirkpatrick at Fortune reports:

While this initial step will open up what is essentially the user’s
window into Second Life for modification, it will leave Linden Lab in
control of the proprietary software code for all Second Life’s backend
services – the server software that makes the world exist. However,
executives say that 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 functions. They say they have been preparing
for the open source move for about three years.

Yes … this is not enough to provide a free and open platform for virtual existence. I do see where this is a prudent business move to create even more of a lock on the entire market though. Linden seems to now be pushing to create de-facto standards of their client APIs and protocols by creating a group of developers who write to this environment.

My worry is if it took them three years to get the client out to Open Source, how long will it take them to get the server software out?

I believe that the pressure is mounting as other well-funded companies continue to explore the space … as this quote from IBM demonstrates:

IBM Vice President for Technical Strategy Irving Wladawsky-Berger, a
close student of Second Life, heard about the impending move toward
open source from a Linden employee. “They have the right thought,” he
says, “which is that open source things work with the marketplace. But
this is a field in its infancy that will be very competitive. Linden
Lab might end up with a huge leadership position in a certain class of
tools for virtual worlds, but those might not be the right tools for,
let’s say, a surgeon learning a new procedure in an immersive online
environment. Second Life can be wildly successful, but so can others.”

I do not think that IBM and others are sitting still. Neither am I. I’m heading over to download the APIs reference materials now … 🙂

P.S. I just thought of an interesting “client” to create for Second Life. What if there was an “augmented reality” client that was created that would overlay the Second Life world onto the real world? Maybe create someplace in the desert – like at Burning Man – that would allow you to have GPS tracking on yourself, and then wearing augmented reality goggles you would be seeing some portion of the Second Life world? As you wandered around the desert, your view would be augmented with the terrian of Second Life, and the other people wandering around in reality would be overlayed with their graphical avatar. Hmmmm …

Open Source Second Life

It’s really not a question of if.  It will happen.  It’s just a matter of when.

Second Life is gaining more and more attention, and more and more users.  As I write this there are now 2.3 million user accounts, with 20,000+ users now on-line.  It’s really impressive … but another lock-in application.  Once you join and begin to pay … you are captive forever.  This is obviously a good deal for Linden Research, Inc. – the owners of Second Life – but not the way that the Internet likes to evolve and develop.

For those not yet familiar, Second Life is a very impressive virtual world.  The kind of place that was forecasted and imagined by authors for decades … the kind of place described in Snow Crash.  In Second Life you can create an avitar … a character … to represent you in the virtual world.  You can wander through a wide range of virtual land, buildings, boats, businesses, and fantasy objects.  If you want to, you can purchase virtual property, and “own a home.”

The problem is that it is all a huge lock-in right now.  You are limited to their servers, their designs, their tools, and their rules.  Oh … and you pay their rates.  Want to buy some land?  Here is how to buy land in Second Life.  Want to buy a private island?  Here is how to buy a private island in Second Life.  Wait!  What is going on here!  These rates are even higher than my real-world property taxes!

So what can I do about it?  Nothing.  Right now, there simply is not a Open Source Second Life solution.  Let’s call this Third Life.  (Of course that domain name is already taken …)  What has to emerge is the Open Source platform that I can download and install on my own hardware and bandwidth.  Where I can set the rules, and define how things work.  Of course, as my server would only represent some small parcel of land, I would have to work agreements with others to create portals to travel between my land, and other peoples land.  So maybe several of my friends and I might join our servers together to create a larger landmass.

There are even some other interesting ideas that could emerge from this … such as using a commercial for-pay service like Second Life as the “connector” between private servers.  What if there was an apartment building in Second Life, and when your character comes to the door of my apartment in Second Life, I actually have the option to connect my server to the other side of that door?  So entering that portal transports you from Second Life to my private server.  To me, this is the inevitable future for virtual worlds … one that is open and interconnected, freely allowing people to pay to use “hosted virtual worlds” like Second Life, or to choose the option of hosting their own.

Their are two possible solutions for this to occur … one is for Second Life to open their platform – and source code – to the world to use.  The other is for the next generation of virtual worlds to emerge from the Open Source community.  I hear rumblings of Second Life/Linden Research and what they might do, however it appears to be to push the business model and “open standard” more than Open Source.  Of course, there are other people like Glyn Moody who also see Why We Need a Open Source Second Life.  Even Ben King at The Register articulates the value of Open Source Second Life in his article Open sourcing Second Life.

The most impressive Open Source solution that I am now seeing is Croquet.  Croquet is being developed by some brilliant minds, and is already out there and working.  I’m about to install the lastest versions and begin to experiment, however much of the core is in place.  As the networking layers solidify, we’ll see how quickly you and I can get our own Croquet servers up and running, and begin to link them together via portals.

What is interesting is that I am beginning to see a parallel between this, and the beginnings of the World Wide Web.  Instead of Web Servers, we have Croquet Servers.  Instead of hyperlinks, there is now the world of TPostcards.  And unlike the World Wide Web … the client and server are the same.

I can’t wait … and I know it will occur.  It’s all just when …

Can I collect Virtual Unemployment?

Ok … I love to see where this is going. Someone in government begins to see the “dollar” volumn of commerce within virtual worlds … and they soon think “Gosh … how can *we* get a cut of that?”

I had really thought that taxation was something done for a purpose … not just because it can be done.  If the government is going to tax in virtual worlds, then are they going to begin to spend that money in virtual worlds?  I can’t even wait to learn about the newest virtual pork-barrel projects that are going to show up on the scene.  Politicians are going to begin to cater to the special interests of “furries” or some other group within Second Life … just to get their real-world votes?

If government really gets involved in Second Life, for example, then I wonder if they’ll set up the various programs to assist the “needy” or “unemployed”?  Hmmm … maybe I’ll be able to create a new character in Second Life and have them left homeless … file to collect virtual-unemployment in Lindon dollars?  Convert those on the various markets to real dollars?  Wait … I’ll create 100 characters in Second Life and have them ALL file for unemployment!  At that point will the government create “virtual immigration”?  I won’t be able to create a character or enter a virtual world without a proper passport that will limit me to one virtual character at a time?

It is amazing the times that we live in where the government is considering that they tax the creation of virtual wealth … however this will begin to set some precedents on how virtual worlds are looked at by laws, and general definitions.

Congress to look into taxing virtual worlds. Blog: For at least the past couple of years, one of the biggest questions in virtual world circles has been whether or not the U.S…. [CNET]

Croquet SDK Beta v1.0 Released!

Wow … I have been too heads down on projects lately … I missed the
release of the new Croquet SDK Beta!  I’m downloading it as I
write this … and will begin to write more about what I find.

For those who are not familiar with Croquet, it is a full blown 3d
virtual world platform being developed by an amazing team.  It is
cross-platform for Windows, Mac, and Linux platforms and is able to be
networked for multiple users to interact.  If you go to the web
site, check out the FAQ, and the Screenshots … they are really worth
seeing so that you can get an idea of what is possible.

What I am currently most interested in is the state of the networking
components.  These were rough when I played with Croquet last, but
to me hold the real network effect value of the platform.  This is
where I am able to “hyperlink” between spaces, and into other
spaces.  Consider that this is the equivilent of hyperlinking
between web pages in the Web … but that I am moving from space to
space in a 3d universe where much of that universe does not exist
initially on my machine.  Oh yeah … it’s all Open Source!

I’ll blog more about my experiences … I’m also starting to learn more
about Second Life and will be comparing and contrasting my experiences.

Croquet SDK 1.0 Beta released!

The Croquet Software Developers’ Kit 1.0 Beta has been released. This
represents the first complete public release of the core Croquet technology.
Croquet is a new open source software platform for creating deeply collaborative
multi-user online applications. It features a network architecture that supports
communication, collaboration, resource sharing, and synchronous computation
among multiple users. Using Croquet, software developers can create powerful and
highly collaborative multi-user 2D and 3D applications and simulations.

More gaming platforms

A friend of mine sent me these two links for some new gaming projects. Or they are new to me. 🙂

Alice is a “3D Authoring system” … I haven’t yet had time to look at it. GameMaker is “a program that allows you to make exciting computer games, without the need to
write a single line of code”.

Both of these look interesting and I’m going to go and check them out.