Linden Lab reveals the future of Second Life

14 09 2007

Many people these days have certain ideas of how a virtual world of the future might look like. And most of them agree on the fact that it needs to be distributed and open source. Some people also say that they are waiting for a virtual world after Second Life as they only see today’s limitation of it ignoring that Second Life is of course not finished (and according to Robin Linden never will be. But that’s quite obvious, the web isn’t finished yet either).

Now Linden Lab was talking here and there about a) opening up their servers to make them open source, too and b) to make it possible to plug your own servers into the grid. As you might know many businesses demand such things as they want to host their own content themselves. They also made clear that these two things need to happen simultanously which means that there will be no open source server before the grid will be opened. This is due to business decisions I guess. Now opening up the grid is not that easy anyway as it involves many issues such as permission issues, topology maybe, object movement and so on.

How to go from there?

Now the big new here is that Linden Lab does not want to think about all this privately inside their offices but instead they want to discuss all this publically. For this to happen Linden Lab created the Architecture Standards Working Group which had it’s first initial meeting yesterday. It consist of a bunch of Lindens mainly hosted by Zero Linden and a bunch of residents who met mixed reality like in San Francisco and in-world connected by some audio gateway (which more or less worked ;-) ).
This does not mean though that this group is fixed. It was more meant to present initial ideas and get the discussion rolling and actually everybody is invited to participate! No decision have been made yet and everything presented is not set in stone yet. In fact there are workitems which are about verifying the architecture and thinking about alternatives.

How to learn more about all this?

According to Zero and Rob Linden they are working on getting all the information presented at the meeting into the Wiki as fast as possible. The raw IRC chatlog in which Rob and other have been taking notes has been posted to the sl-dev mailing list (unfortunately the archive did not work because of PGP issues). The agenda of that meeting can be found here.

How can people participate?

The discussion of the architecture will be done completely in the open which means with the existing communication channels: Wiki, Jira and the Open Source Mailinglist. Categories for this will be setup shortly.

There have been workitems defined during the first meeting which need to be worked on. These workitems will not be owned by a person but many people can actually do work for a particular item. What needs to be done is very broad. One topic is collecting possible use cases and user scenarios which this new architecture needs to fulfil. Another one is finding missing pieces in it and again another one is actually writing code. But as you can see there might be some work to do for everybody who is interested in this project.

There will also be follow-up meetings. Who gets to participate in these will simply be decided by whether they have done some work for the project or not. How these meetings will look like is somewhat open though. I guess there will be many sort of meetings, some just in-world, some mixed location like the first one and some maybe just in San Francisco (although an in-world event should be addable easily then). Of course there are also the office hours of the Lindens involved, mainly probably the one of Zero Linden.

A little bit maybe about the coding part: The new architecture is supposed to be very modular and pluggable and thus one can imagine a future system with components from many parties. All these need to work together and all the underlying interfaces and protocols need to be stable. To get to that goal it is needed that people indeed do write code to implement some of these components. One of the components could in fact be OpenSim, another one maybe a new search engine. So we need a lot of people coding stuff to get as many components independantly implemented as possible and try to cross check if every component works with all the others. That’s the way to find flaws in the protocol.

Soon I will follow up a post in which I will go more into detail about how the proposed architecture will look like and the story in how all this came into being (as much as Zero shared this with us). The slide above shows the proposed login process of the new architecture btw.

But all in all good times ahead and a Hurray! to Linden Lab that they really made the decision to do all this in the open!

Update: I started the project on the Second Life wiki and please feel free to add use cases, ideas and questions.

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38 responses

14 09 2007
Verdi

Thanks for the recap!

14 09 2007
Aleister Kronos

Great – you’ve added clarity to an unclear situation.

Thanks!

14 09 2007
Prokofy Neva

I hate this. I loathe it. And it is a HUGE FRIGGING SHAM and you should stop FAKING EVERYONE OUT WITH THESE BIG FAKE CAPITAL LETTERS THAT IT IS OPEN when it is closed as closed can be.

There is nothing worse than a fake open thing that is actually closed, disguised as open. It’s the biggest defeat for a liberal open society there is.

Number one: You do not declare a thing “open” when it is “open” only to those cramped, infantalized, geekified, and Lindenized enough to go on the uber-retarded non-user-friendly JIRI, or on the politically-correct Wiki that will be open only in the sense that people like Signpost Marv can openly come on and erase whatever you put on it.

Number two: the idea that “only the people who do the work get to be in the meeting” is the most stratified, hierarchical, just outright ELITIST AND DEEPLY FUCKED concept I have heard in a long time. It implies that even if something affects us deeply, unless we can code it, and work on it’s “architecture” or put it into an arcane, geeky format in this idiotic JIRA, we cannot democratically participate.

And I’m sorry, that’s just completely unjust, and really frighteningly short-sighted.

People who pay tier should be enabled to participate in the decision-making about how their land will be devalued — or whether it will preserve value.

So I will scream, howl, holler, and give the lie to each and every post like this that does this ecstatic fanboyz craven shit, calling this “open”.

it is not open.

“nothing about us/without us”.

14 09 2007
Baba

CLOSED SOCIETY!

14 09 2007
taotakashi

Prok, “work done” does not only mean coding, it also can means collecting use cases. And if you think this architecture will not support some of the use cases you have in mind you should really add them to the wiki once there is a page for them.

The proposed architecture actually does not say anything about policies etc. The goal is only to make it support as many use cases as possible. What Linden Lab chooses in the end for the main grid they will run is up to them (and will probably take very much into consideration how it works now and what the community is used to).

Nevertheless it will also support separate grid or semi-connected grid which might have a complete different sets of policies. The goal here really is to set no policies in stone (code).

And again, this is not about new policies being defined, this is just a brainstorming process of how a new technical infrastructure can or should look like. What people implement on top of that is a different story.

So IMHO it is in fact as open as Linden Lab can get (technically. If you are talkign about policies and community it might or might not look different but that’s not the scope of this group).

15 09 2007
Gwyn’s Home » Open Second Life — The Roadmap?

[...] Nino dedicating a whole series on uncovering the way the SL Grid works, and proposing changes. Tao Takashi is also doing the same. The important thing at this stage is to raise awareness by calling interested people to the [...]

15 09 2007
Mkyschnitzel Campbell

Thanks for sharing it :)

16 09 2007
jadonchristensen

Hey, this is great news. I know I can lease a cheaper dedicated server with higher performance and more bandwidth than those card/rack mount servers that LL uses. I hope this become a reality.

17 09 2007
Prokofy Neva

Tao, you’re completely short-sighted and looking at this hugely narrowly. You imagine that “use cases” just exist in same abstract matrix, devoid of politics or social meaning. It’s insane.

The use cases will be steeped in politics. Example: If LL decides that they only want to provide grid-level services and only serve developers, that could have a devastating impact on the society, as everyone is forced to find a warlord/server host to ally with/gain protection from. I really see it as that stark, and it *will* be that stark.

What’s to stop anybody making Open Sim or hosting their own to abandon Linden Lab and its asset server, and simply use copybot or its offspring to copy the whole thing somewhere else — or not even bother to copy it, but just start it over somewhere else, with different values?

You imagine that technical infrastructure has no policies that attach to it or stem from. But of course it does — it is welded right into the structure.

The idea that you can hold an elitist “purely technical” discussion about the future of Second Life is truly appalling. It implies that really urgent outstanding issues, like the LL business model, the land auction, *people’s land and its intrinsic value or devaluation* and *people’s content and IP and inventories* are something that just “gets folded in”. “Somebody” decides that they don’t “need” this anymore. Somebody else smugly congratulates LL for dumping the blingtards, their inventories, whatever.

Code is law in these circles, and they never hesitate to pre-cook everything their way. I view this with the utmost loathing and suspicion. This isn’t FUDism or Ludditism; in fact, the people who think you can manage worlds by only focusing on narrow technological development are the FUDites and Luddites for refusing to understand that social media — duh– has a high social component built into it, and can’t be discussed or developed as merely a narrowly technological thing

Again, *nothing about us without us*.

17 09 2007
Nobody Fugazi

Tao – Linden Lab is too inconsistent. The search is a brilliant example – Linden Lab announced at one of those voice only InformationWeek meetings that they were going to use Google Search Appliance – something NOT published anywhere before, but which showed up on Prokaversed ™ – or the PrIC (Prok Inner Core).

When I pinged Jeska on that, her response was “oh, we’re being very open”. No, not really, but she really seemed to think so.

Issues such as that really throw a question mark at Second Life’s grid as a serious development platform when they can’t even use their own weblog properly. Why am I reading about this *here* instead of on the official blog? Has WordPress outsmarted them again?

So, no – they need to step to the line. This he-said-she-said business has to stop if they want people to take them seriously. Tell them to use their blog at the next meeting to announce these things.

17 09 2007
taotakashi

Yes, I know that they still need to learn to really be more open but I think they are trying. Unfortunately Open Source is not yet basic to their thinking because I’d expect to see things like the design of the new search engine being on the public wiki and not somewhere internally. Because of this and maybe a process of when to announce what by whom things like this example happen.

As for the Architecture Group thing it is supposed to be on the wiki soon, one workitem was made for Rob, Zero and Liana.

See here: http://wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/Workitems_for_Meeting_1

18 09 2007
Roo Reynolds - What’s Next? » Blog Archive » Links for Monday 17th September, 2007

[...] taotakashi: Linden Lab reveals the future of Second Life – “Many people these days have certain ideas of how a virtual world of the future might look like. And most of them agree on the fact that it needs to be distributed and open source.” [...]

19 09 2007
Raph Koster finally reveils what Areae is all about: Metaplace.com « Tao’s Thoughts on Second Life

[...] big question is also what it means in relation to Linden Lab’s recent plans to create an open, standardized architecture for virtual worlds. And this is also where Raph Koster in the GigaOM article is maybe wrong when he states that Linden [...]

19 09 2007
Matt Schmidt

This sounds great in theory. I’m all for interoperability.

But… what’s so great about this? Someone is already working on a standard like this…

“For some time now, Laurence Rozier has been developing a message format that, among other things, can allow for interoperability between metaverse environments. Called Remote Actions Packets (RAP), it basically makes it possible for someone to do something in, say, Second Life and have that same action replicated in Croquet – and vice versa. RAP messages consist of an actor identifier, an action name, and an encoded list of stage directions.” (From Julian Lombardi’s blog)

I tend to agree with others that Linden Labs needs to have a bit of education on what “open” truly means. Their pittance of throwing us the viewer under an OSS license doesn’t cut it. Their continued claims of being “open” doesn’t cut it. Until the servers and the grid are completely free as in freedom, then Linden’s products are not open. They are merely a tad bit more transparent than what they used to be.

Open Croquet. Now there’s a model. Hey Linden, are you listening?

19 09 2007
theMediaman

Sweet! I can’t wait to bring my character from The Matrix Online into WoW! See what an axe can do against someone who uses bullet-time!

19 09 2007
Baba

@ Matt Schmidt: RAP has nothing to do with this. I see it as more about building an extensible architecture that abstracts the concepts of the virtual environment, avatars, and identity making them portable.

19 09 2007
Baba

I amost forgoet.. Croquet is smalltalk. Smalltalk is fail. It follows that Croquet is fail.

19 09 2007
TALL blog » Blog Archive » Metaplace - like Second Life, but open from the start?

[...] wonder how much Areae’s announcment influenced Linden Labs to announce their plans for the future of Second Life (or [...]

19 09 2007
pixelalo.com

Un standard para interconectar mundos virtuales

Linden Lab, autores del "Second Life" están dándole vueltas a la posibilidad de desarrollar un open standard para interconectar mundos virtuales, de forma que se podrán interconectar otros servidores del Second Life que no estén alojados …

20 09 2007
links for 2007-09-20 » What Future?

[...] Linden Lab reveals the future of Second Life « Tao’s Thoughts on Second Life a) opening up their servers to make them open source, too and b) to make it possible to plug your own servers into the grid. (tags: future secondlife virtualworld internet) [...]

20 09 2007
MeepMeep nv/sa » another Second Life contender ?

[...] the same day a Linden Labs article was published stating they are also working on an open standard for virtual [...]

20 09 2007
World Of Warcraft News

[…] wonder how much Areae’s announcment influenced Linden Labs to announce their plans for the future of Second Life (or […]

20 09 2007
More with Second Life and Open Source at

[...] colleague recently sent a blog post my way about the future of Second Life. Nothing major here, I’ve blogged before about Second Life going open source. I’m just [...]

20 09 2007
random

prok: remember, this is not about the future of second life as much as you think. it’s about the future of virtual worlds. all virtual worlds. it’s about defining a protocol to interconnect them, not describe how one or the other must be formed. second life or any other virtual world /could/ remain exactly as it is and adopt this inter-server communications framework.

21 09 2007
Reece

I wonder if anyones looked at the work they’re doing over at http://www.multiverse.net/ on a similar line. I’m not sure how much of their code/standards they’re planning on opening up though.

21 09 2007
Prokofy Neva

I totally agree that the Lindens need to stop creating little salons and fanboyz clubs and SL views and all the rest and just speak with one voice clearly and sensibly on their blog. That’s all there is too it. That’s been my stance from word one, and has been what I’ve lobbied for, for 3 years. I am not in any of these little coteries, and this constant game of trying to “show me up” as “hyprokritical” and actually being in on some inside dope is silly — all I do is sometimes go to office hours like anyone else can and try to pump them. The ignore a large percent of my IMs and emails, and when they do answer, they are spouting the line.

So I don’t understand what all this crap is about “Prokaversed”. I have nothing to do with this statement of Jeska’s and similar Linden’s statements and they weren’t said to me as some kind of “FIC,” that’s utter bullshit. First of all, Meta Linden spoke about search elements as being “like google’ in her office hours, which I’ve posted on my blog in the past. Secondly, there was an InformationWeek interview with an mp3 that got posted on metaversed.com in which Jeska said something about this Google stuff. But then due to InformationWeek not wishing to have their interview posted there (i.e. they are in competition), it was taken down. I have no idea where it is now, and I had nothing to do with the interview, the posting, or the content, so stand down, penguin-boy.

Random, I’m not stupid, whatsoever. I totally “get” that it is not just about second life, but about all virtual worlds and the entire Metaverse. Duh, much? And that’s why I *bother*. Because the most robust, most integrated, deepest, most realistic virtual world is…Second Life. It sure as hell is not Active Worlds, There, Entropia, or Vside, as interesting as all these things are. It sure as hell isn’t scrabble on Facebook.

And that’s why it matters that we take a look systematically at the deep and immersive and interactive world they *have* created, with all its social, cultural, economic, political, etc. facets — NOT just its technical features — and discuss how it will be thinned out/evolved/transitioned/apportioned, whatever.

Defining a protocol about how worlds connect is a highly political thing. Because people who *don’t give a fuck* about protection of IP, about land value, about economic instrucments are doing this planning. It’s like saying “Let’s have all the anarchists who demonstrate against globalization and smash Starbucks windows at every world economic forum be in charge of how globalization is going to happen.” It’s EXACTLY like that, in fact.

Second Life will most decidedly NOT remain as it is under the pressure of open source and globalization and integration. And that’s imporant to figure out, watch, mitigate — or it will be as destructive as real life globalization is.

And of COURSE Area’s announcement influenced SL coming out gushing about their gadzillion servers and their hookups to cell phones and frozen avatars (!). Go read the transcript, my God, it’s giddy nonsense. It was only unleashed to play catch up with Raph. And that’s retarded. Raph’s thing is a different premise and there is no need to backdate SL and try to emulate it.

The worst thing about the geeks hogging and hijacking the entire Metaverse debate is they make this assumption — based on NOTHING but their own parochial interests — that people WANT to move seemlessly and endlessly from world to world.

Who says they do?

Most people keep their World of Warcraft in one place, and if they bring it into SL, it’s only to discuss a raid or sell a version of the armour, but they don’t *play* World of Warcraft in SL. That would be stupid. And they don’t try to build a mall or a home and rent it in World of Warcraft.

The use cases, as they so fussily call the meaning and substance of the worlds of the metaverse, are not something they can just catalogue in advance and pwn. They have to really be discussed in their own right.

A protocol about money is the single most important feature of any open-architecture anywhere. So why do geeks only get to discuss this? Why not business people, economists, users?

I can imagine a real country having a monetary policy change of this magnitude — conversion of their currency, for example — without being able to at least discuss it.

21 09 2007
Mentifex

When the programming environment of Second Life for users gets really sophisticated, expect to see some entities of artificial intelligence taking up residence in Second Life.

22 09 2007
Open Source moves into the virtual world? « Globalization, Psychology, and Whatnot

[...] Open Source moves into the virtual world? From Linden Lab Reveals the Future of Second Life [...]

22 09 2007
ahoving

Wow, I stumbled upon this conversation in the course of doing my SL class homework this week and it’s clearly way over my head. But as a one-year resident I can follow enough to understand it’s all very big. As someone who lives and plays (and hopes to work) in SL, I encourage all sides to keep the dialogue going. Thanks to the tech heads for connecting all the 1s and 0s; and thanks to the folks like Prokofy for reminding them that there are people here.

22 09 2007
taotakashi

Well, I think the people behind doing the protocol are quite aware that there are people there. It’s not really just the tech side what drives them to say “Hey, let’s make this cool tech just because of the joy of it” but what drives them, too is to enable all sorts of new stuff to be made by these people.

After all something like SL wouldn’t have been invented if it would just been about technology. It’s also a vision of how to communicate together, how to make cool things happen and IMHO an interconnected grid serves that more and 1000s of individual virtual worlds.

Yes, there are issues involved in all of that but it’s also my firm believe that the protocol should be as open as possible but also to support such limitation if somebody wants to put them in place. DRM in the music industry might show you that limiting something through tech is not really going to work. It’s more of an annoyance of the honest user, people who want to get around that will find a way. In the music industry case there are of course different reasons why sales are not that big anymore (like the emerging Long Tail where no1 hits do not work that well anymore).

In any case Second Life is a pioneer in it’s field anyway so anybody being active here should know or learn how to live with change anyway. And if you do that I think you have quite a lot of possibilities to profit from that (I don’t just mean money with profit btw).

22 09 2007
wmr

You are right. I have the same view on this issue, but I do not know how to write so beautifully. Subscribed to your blog.

23 09 2007
dizzybanjo

Just to clarify the Google search thing.. I was present at that Jeska Linden talk with Mitch at Dr. Dobbs. I recorded it, with Mitch’s permission, so that Nick over at metaversed could hear it ( after all anyone could have gone to that event it was clearly advertised ) . There was a misunderstanding about how that mp3 recording could be used and it ended up linked to on metaversed.com but was subsequently removed at the request of Mitch.

I don’t see the harm in people from LL talking about all this stuff at various events and stuff seeping out through blogs, on which they can be discussed in terms of their implications – surely thats a part of a healthy debate. But I agree there should be a centralised system of announcements from LL.

As far as the future of SL goes – I agree with Prokofy that vast areas of the community are not properly represented in this evolution. I think its going to be down to residents to make themselves involved, at every possible event with LL representation present. Frankly I’m constantly surprised by the lack of numbers at office hours. Conversation does tend towards the technical, but is that because the right people arnt there ?

Somehow though, I still have faith that the collective creativity of the second life society will adapt through this change.

23 09 2007
taotakashi

As for communication I think they should not only announce things on the blog when they are finished. Linden Lab should discuss the whole project more publically (esp. viewer related projects as the viewer is supposed to be open source). That way people can just go look e.g. on a wiki what the actual state of the project is.

Of course it’s a challenge to explain changes when they happen but I think with being committed to Open Source Linden Lab needs to get used to that. There are probably good reasons for changes and if they are explained well it should be not that much of a problem. Moreover you have the community to explain it for you if they just understand the process more.

I also think that Linden Lab should engage in the discussion outside their realm more (like on blogs). Most of the speculation and rumours are just around because Linden Lab is silent. That way disappointment is more probable to arise because people might expect things Linden Lab never said they will do.

I also understand that you sometimes have to be careful what you message to the community in that it does need to understand it right. But many projects (I guess search is one of them) do not need that level of secure messaging.

And regarding resident involvement I agree that it needs more residents to become involved. I usually hear people complaining a lot but never showing up in office hours to discuss things directly with Lindens. And while there are some highly technical ones, e.g. Robin’s office hour is not technical at all (as not technical as the topic virtual worlds can be that is ;-) ).

As for the architecture project I think it’s merely a tecnical project but during the first meeting it was also clear that this cannot stay isolated. Linden Lab is pretty aware of the community which they need to support. And while I personally think that such a protocol should be as open as possible but in a way that each party participating in such an architecture can define what limitations they want to impose on agents, regions or objects. For the Second Life grid I don’t expect really any change when it gets ported to that new protocol. It even needs to be seen how big it will actually grow in terms of 3rd party hosted regions.

And regarding adaption I think you have to adapt in such a new medium anyway all the time. Your business today is most likely different from the business you had 2 years ago. That’s probably true for any business you do wherever on the world.

(but I wonder why we only talk about businesses, what about the average non-content-creator-user?)

27 09 2007
Scramjet

Nobody writes:
When I pinged Jeska on that, her response was “oh, we’re being very open”. No, not really, but she really seemed to think so.

Issues such as that really throw a question mark at Second Life’s grid as a serious development platform

Because the great Nobody Fugazi says so.

Thus saith the Load. I mean Lord. I mean Load.

9 10 2007
Wero Notes » Roundup of Links Sep. 27

[...] of Links Sep. 27 Linden Labs encourages open standards for virtual worlds. Your Truman Show – really strange, from their site: “Your Truman Show extends personal [...]

11 10 2007
Linden Lab to partner up with IBM and other virtual world providers to create a Virtual World protocol. « dev.comlounge.net

[...] has been some activity about the Second Life Grid Architecture (SLGA) project (wiki here) which is about opening up Second Life to provide a standard protocol for [...]

11 10 2007
New Blog is up! « Tao’s Thoughts on Second Life

[...] and Zope. It will definitely also cover some Second Life related stuff in this area, esp. if the SLGA gets [...]

20 10 2007
The Future of Second Life « PacificRim Exchange

[...] October 20th, 2007 · No Comments There’s a good blog post over at Tao’s Thoughts on Second Life about the newly created Linden Lab Architecture Standards Working Group: Linden Lab reveals the future of Second Life [...]

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