As was reported on CNN this morning: Second Life to go Open Source.
To me, this is great news. There seems to be a sense of shock and surprise in the education community about this development. Many people are worried what might happen as a result of this change in direction at Linden Lab. If you read the above article, they say that this has been in the works for the past three years, so not exactly a sudden development. I think that it’s a brilliant play by Linden Lab, and that it might just move Second Life out of the niche MMO market, and into a full blown development platform.
Immediately, I expect we will see two things emerge from this shift in software development. We will almost immediately see the release of a streamlined client that allows for easy navigation, camera controls and chat. The single biggest complaint about Second Life is the steep learning curve of the client for new residents. A simplified client will allow for an introductory experience for the user, and then other clients for the user to move to when they want to start building and developing in-world. This could even go as deep as special clients for estate owners to manipulate their land and groups. I also believe that there will be a slim client that will be released soon that will allow for communicating in SL from a text client (like an IM client) on the desktop, and maybe one for mobile phones. The possibilities are wide open at this point. We’ll have to sit back and see what develops. With CES taking place this week, I suspect the timing of this announcement was not an accident.
I am hopeful that the next piece to go open source will be the server. This will open the way for the development and deployment of everything from private mini-grids, up to huge educational and corporate grids. Linden Lab could then shift into the mode of coordinating all of these grids through a pseudo-DNS like service to track connections between grids, and to be a central database repository for L$ and in-world objects. If you couple these development with IBM’s announcements late last year about wanting to be the connection between different virtual worlds, we are beginning to see the laying of an early foundation for a true “metaverse” (term coined in the Neal Stephenson novel Snowcrash). This was indeed a very big day for Linden Lab, and Second Life.