Linden Lab pushes Second Life into something closer to a Web 2.0 social media platform with its new Facebook-like extension – which unfortunately lets anyone post anything to your profile by default.
This past spring, Linden Lab warned third party viewer developers to drop support for OpenSim if they wanted to get access to new features in the Second Life MMO social platform. This week, Linden Lab closed that access route, removing support for the “-loginURI” parameter from the development versions of the standard viewer, reported OSGrid president Michael Emory Cerquoni.
Linden Lab cited a conflict with the licensing agreement they signed with Havoc, the creators of the advanced in-game physics system used by Second Life.
“It really doesn’t serve much useful purpose,” said Scott Lawrence, director of open development at Linden Lab and a member of the open source Snowstorm viewer team. Lawrence, who is also known as Oz Linden in-world, also added that he doesn’t expect the functionality to return, and added that Linden Lab’s Havoc license prohibits the company from allowing its viewers to connect to OpenSim grids. Lawrence made his statements in a chat with Cerquoni that was posted online.
As of this writing, neither Lawrence nor Linden Lab’s media representatives have responded to Hypergrid Business questions about this development.
“Now Second Life is officially dead to me, I will never log in to Second Life ever again,” said Cerquoni.
A Second Life resident named Botgirl interviewed Zombie Linden on the matter, and during the interview reminded him that Linden Lab once encouraged open standards (at one time Linden Lab was fully engaged at one time under the direction of Mark Kingdon in developing the original inter-grid teleportation protocol between SL and OpenSim). Some of Zombie Linden’s statements in the video were startling – he said that the Second Life community is dysfunctional and thrives on drama. When Botgirl put it to him the Lab would rather stir up drama than worry about releasing new features and fixing bugs, he didn’t deny it. In fact he had already said rather cynically, “The more drama we create the more time and money people spend on the grid.” He also dismissed Linden Realms as a lame feature, despite the fact that it has driven some of the more compelling technical features of Second Life to appear in many months. To be honest we’re not completely sure how much of Botgirl’s interview was fabricated – there’s no way to know for sure.
Financial reality seems to be hitting Linden Lab hard – the once-touted commercial applications of the Second Life platform didn’t exactly fail to materialize, but they did fizzle, and without this key element driving the Second Life technology forward, the fortunes of Second Life have begun to change as regions vanish dozens at a time from the grid for various reasons.
While the change to OpenSim access from the official viewer doesn’t affect more than a tiny percentage of Second Life users, it does signal a change in the weather. In practical terms, users of Firestorm will be unaffected as the developers of that client solved the problem by forking the code (creating a special version just for Second Life). As for OpenSim, they can no longer claim direct interoperability with Second Life, and the draw from the Second Life community is somewhat less – not a positive situation for a grid that already contains only about 200 sims, and has only about 15,000 users at this writing.
After publishing this article, we received a posted comment from none other than the editor of Hypergrid Business, Maria Korolov. She brings some new information to this story that you may find surprising. We found it surprising, and frankly, we shouldn’t have, because we’re supposed to do better research than what we did, but there you go.
Here’s what she wrote:
Quick correction — OpenSim is not a grid, but a software platform which can be used to create grids.
Currently, Hypergrid Business is tracking over 200 public grids using this technology, with over 22,000 regions and more than 260,000 registered users. And these numbers are undercounts — OpenSim is used by government agencies, schools and private companies, with some private deployments that I know of numbering in the hundreds of thousands of users.
Scotland, for example, has a nation-wide educational grid running on OpenSim, and a school district in Georgia rolled out a grid for its 3,000 teachers and 38,000 students earlier this year. Major corporations like IBM and Siemens also have OpenSim grids. Companies use them to create 3D models of buildings, ships and equipment, do virtual safety and design walk-throughs, training and simulations, disaster simulations, and much more. Schools use them to simulate missions to Mars, recreate history, perform Greek plays, research environmental issues, and develop 3D building and programming skills.
In addition, of the 200 OpenSim grids that are public, only three quarters report their user numbers, so all we know is a minimum number of regions and users — not the total.
And OpenSim is growing fast.
Meanwhile, Second Life has 29,500 regions, a drop of 2,342 regions from its peak in June 2010. Concurrency has been slipping as well, and the company no longer publishes its usage numbers.
Linden Lab could have had a big share of this growing market. But it’s one attempt to create server software to sell to schools and companies was woefully overpriced and under-powered — companies, schools, and would-be grid owners could get more features, at zero or low cost, by using OpenSim instead.
There are now dozens of vendors offering OpenSim hosting for those who don’t have the time, energy or technical expertise to run OpenSim themselves.
Editor, Hypergrid Business
The point we’d been trying to make is that Linden Lab may have been shooting itself in the foot with this latest move, and the numbers provided by Ms. Korolov appear to support this more strongly that we had any inkling of. From these figures, it appears that just taking the OpenSim usage numbers alone into account, virtual world usage is vastly greater outside the boundaries of Second Life than within them.