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Second Life Client Now Open Source

Second Life Client Now Open Source

Linden Lab, the developer of popular virtual world Second Life, has announced that it has released the Second Life client under the GNU General Public License version 2.

Stepping up the development of the Second Life Grid to everyone interested, I am proud to announce the availability of the Second Life client source code for you to download, inspect, compile, modify, and use within the guidelines of the GNU GPL version 2.

The move will mean users and developers can modify the Second Life client for their own purposes and applications, or altogether build custom applications from scratch, using the base code as reference. For instance, Philip Rosedale cites, in an interview, alternative means to connect to the Second Life Grid, which he foresees.

“There are lots of handicapped people using ‘Second Life,’ It’s one of the really inspiring things about it,” Rosedale said. “There are a lot of ways of connecting people to their computers, not just mice and keyboards but gaze detection and neuromuscular stuff” that Linden Lab doesn’t have the manpower to address, but he hopes outside programmers will … Someone also could “hook up an exercise bike and fly around ‘Second Life’ while exercising,” he said, or write a program for accessing the world from a smart phone.

The bigger story, however, is Linden Lab’s architectural revamp of the system that runs the Second Life world, which is called The Grid, and the likelihood that it shall likewise be released as open source software. Currently, much of the system runs on proprietary communication protocols and Linden Lab plans to migrate to standard ones, such as XML. CNet cites some of the benefits of this revamp, along with the implications of the move to open source with the client software.

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One advantage of the new architecture will be that Linden Lab will be able to upgrade a few servers at a time and that clients will also be able to move to new viewer software at their own pace. Today, the entire Second Life grid must be taken down and all viewers must be updated to update the virtual realm. Another advantage will be that Second Life will be able to employ the broad technology already designed around Web standards, [CTO Cory Ondrejka] said.

Second Life recently met criticism for the way it publishes metrics (i.e., number of registered users vs. number of active users, etc.), which comes into the picture when advertisers pay for product placements in the virtual world. Then there’s the issue of “ownership” of in-world property.

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