Monday, January 8, 2007
Second Life frees source code under GPL
The virtual world Second Life has released its client source code under the GPL free software license. This is HUGE.
Second Life is distinct because it allows in-game creators of objects to "own" them, sell copies of them, give them away, and license them under Creative Commons. Most other worlds require that you assign all your copyright to the game's corporate owners -- and prevent you from doing some kinds of creative stuff to avoid copyright hassles (musicians in Star Wars Galaxies could only perform compositions provided by Sony, for example).
But there's a fly in the ointment -- it's not very meaningful to amass in-game wealth if your ability to use it is contingent on your ongoing good relations with a single company. What good is your wonderful Second Life real-estate, architecture, gadgets and wardrobe if Linden Labs can throw you out at any time? It's like amassing Soviet-era rubles -- you could only spend them in Russia.
But 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.
This turns Linden wealth into real-world wealth. And it also takes an enormous stride towards turning Second Life residents into real citizens instead of mere customers. Citizens get to petition for redress of their grievances from a state that represents them; customers can only take their business elsewhere. Customers only ever get to love it or leave it. Citizens get to change it.
A lot of the Second Life development work currently in progress is focused on building the Second Life Grid — a vision of a globally interconnected grid with clients and servers published and managed by different groups. Expect many changes and updates in the coming months in support of this architecture. Much of the recent work has centered on securing the code against potential threats. More recently and still in development, we are moving more of the communications to reliable and cryptographically strong secure channels.Link (Thanks, John!)
At Linden, we have always been strong advocates of the use of open standards and the advantages of using open source products. Though Second Life makes abundant use of non-standard technologies, our basic UDP protocol message system for example, we rely on open standards and open source implementations when appropriate and available. Since many of the components that will make up this network are not yet done, we are not publishing long white papers or RFCs at this time — instead, we are giving everyone what we have along with a goal of producing those open standards with the input and assistance of the community that has brought Second Life to where it is now.
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