Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Second Life world is flat

Some folks have gone really excited about the "news" that Linden Labs is going to open source the back-end of Second Life. The amount of attention this non-news has gained, confirms my observation that Second Life is at the peak of the hype. Why? Because there really is nothing new or spectacular here in the story most bloggers and authors refer to. It comes down to Joe Miller, VP for platform and technology development at Linden Lab stating the following at VW07:
  • "We’ll be open-sourcing the back end so sims can run anywhere on any machine whether trusted by us or not."
OK. When? Under which conditions? How? Just this statement is not truly shocking if you ask me.
  • "We’ll be delivering assets in a totally different method that won’t be such a burden on the simulators."
If I understand correctly, the move is primarily driven by the lack of capacity for the back end run by Linden Lab.
  • "Very soon we’ll be updating simulators to support multiple versions so that we don’t have to update the entire Grid at once."
Again my question: when? When is very soon?
  • "We’ll be using open protocols."
Which ones? I heard rumors that IBM is having talks with Linden Labs on protocol developnment. With the WS-* disaster in the back of our minds, of which IBM was one of the key creators, we should not expect any added value really here. In fact if I were in a very cynical mood I'd say this is the kiss of death for Second Life, but it's Saturday so I am not :-).
  • "SL cannot truly succeed as long as one company controls the Grid."
The bottom line, although it should read that SL cannot survive as long as one company controls the Grid (please note the uppercase G here. As if we are talking about the Matrix. Would have been even more striking if also an uppercase T was used).

Dana Blankenhorn wonders out loud if open source can save Second Life. He invites people to share their insights. My 2 cents is that Second Life is nothing more than a finger exercise for really successful 3D virtual communities, which will not be mainstream before 2009-2012. Linden Labs have done some pioneer work in the area, and they and the users of Second Life (I refuse to use the term resident), including the big companies that have jumped on the phenomenon will have learned for their experiences. But they will come (or already have come) to the conclusion that the Second Life world is flat, meaning they can fall off at any moment.

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