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Second Life Faces Open Source Challenges 198

Posted by ScuttleMonkey
from the war-on-two-fronts-is-never-good dept.
ruphus13 writes "Linden Labs has talked about Open Sourcing aspects of their platform for a while, but have not always followed through. Now, the OpenSimulator project has been gathering some solid momentum, and this was followed by an announcement by IBM that showed interoperability between OpenSimulator and Linden Servers. What this means is that you can use a Second Life client to log on to an OpenSim server. Beyond that, anyone can run their own server. 'Working with the protocols derived from the official Second Life client, and a knowledge of how Second Life works, these people have implemented their own compatible server code.' It is only a matter of time before users will be able to move profiles, virtual goods, and other elements of their 'second life' on to any server in a truly open world, thereby threatening Linden Labs' virtual world experience. With Google and Sun at the fringes of this space, things are going to get very interesting, virtually speaking."
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Second Life Faces Open Source Challenges

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 14, 2008 @06:32PM (#24188575)

    If so, why?

    • I dunno (Score:4, Funny)

      by commodoresloat (172735) * on Monday July 14, 2008 @06:33PM (#24188593)
      I'm still working on my first one here. But I hear you can install a feline module to get 8 more.
    • by ReverendLoki (663861) on Monday July 14, 2008 @06:46PM (#24188747)

      Does anyone actually use ____? If so, why?

      Now, replace the above blank with:

      • IRC
      • Sim City
      • Any computer game greater than 5 years old
      • whatever your little pet niche hobby is

      I've played with SL a bit, and so far I haven't found that bit that snags me in as a regular user (I'm still working in the "novelty" stage), but that doesn't mean I can't understand that it may have an appeal to others.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      Because I like virtual whores! Okay?! Satisfied?!

      Don't you judge me!

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday July 14, 2008 @07:38PM (#24189293)

      Yes, I do.

      Every time I see something posted to Slashdot regarding Secondlife, its always the same.. "I can't believe anyone uses this..." or "I logged on for 10 mins and it was so laggy/lame/crap".

      I use SL to chat to people, sure I could use an IM client, but quite frankly, I like being able to walk around things that people have created. Yes, theres a lot of crap out there, but theres also some great user content. I also make my own stuff, it gives me a little room to flex my creative muscle and share it too. Sure it can be laggy and crash, but let's not forget our favourite OS (linux of course) hasn't always been a dream to use, and I've been using it for 13 years.

      There are obnoxious people in SL, and yes, obnoxious people use linux too! Shock! Horror! They exist outside of myspace and secondlife.

      I guess my point here is, I don't mind that you don't like it, but there are people here that do, and dare I say it, enjoy logging in and exploring the SL universe. If you logged in for 10 minutes and then logged off you may just have missed out on actually enjoying playing a so called game without needing to frag something.

      Of course, this is Slashdot, where people voice their opinions.

      This was mine.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward

      If so, why?

      Because it allows me, a 37 year old man, to make real world cash as a female "escort"...

      Don't make a lot of cash, but 20 or 30 bucks a week for occasionally alt-tabbing and typing "ooh, yeah baby, I love it like that." isn't all that bad.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by fishbowl (7759)

      Live music venue! As a musician, I find it quite an effective outlet because I can create an environment and perform in it.
      Others give feedback, they enjoy it greatly as well.

  • by Todd Knarr (15451) on Monday July 14, 2008 @06:39PM (#24188663) Homepage

    One glitch in the summary: it don't work that way. Being able to have your own SL server doesn't get you access to Linden's grid. And that's what people want: to be on the grid with everybody else they know. If most of their friends are on the Linden grid, they'll want to be on it too and not off in some alternate grid where their friends aren't. And any alternate servers will have to get past the hurdle of establishing a big enough community to attract people or they won't last long.

    It's MUCKs all over again. SL has better graphics and a different programming language, but at it's heart it's a MUCK and MUCK social dynamics applies.

    • by peipas (809350) on Monday July 14, 2008 @06:42PM (#24188701)

      I reckon if Linden's servers cost money and other servers don't, other servers will matter fairly quickly.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by TornCityVenz (1123185)
        Lindens servers don't cost money though, Not unless you looking to own land. If your looking to run a specialized Sim I could easily see poeple renting some billboard room on the linden grid directing interested parties to an "off grid" server. Certainly if the ease to connect to these servers is there it will happen.
        • by Todd Knarr (15451)

          And there's one of the rubs: it's not just connecting to those servers. It's all the avatar appearance and clothing and objects you own and places you've built. If those don't move transparently, then it becomes a huge headache for users to maintain multiple virtual existences. And they likely won't move transparently.

          • by jmorris42 (1458) *

            > It's all the avatar appearance and clothing and objects you own
            > and places you've built.

            Nah, having the places be fixed isn't that bad. Not being able to move your avatar would be close to fatal but since the client has to pretty much have that stored within it is only a matter of someone adding a way to save all of the details and get it recreated on another server.

            Objects will require some sort of central repository for portable objects because they can be scripted and the scripts stay on the se

      • by goodmanj (234846) on Monday July 14, 2008 @06:53PM (#24188807)

        Metcalfe's Law: the value of a network is proportional to the square of the number of users.

        Google's Law (which I just made up): the cost to run a network increases much less steeply than that.

        Linden's servers cost money, but their value is much much greater than your brother Ted's private server which he lets you on for free. That's because there's the potential for hot cybersex on Linden's server, but Ted's server has nobody but Ted, and ... ew.

        If Ted's private server gets enough people on it that hot cyber becomes a possibility, he's going to have to pay for it somehow... and then it's no longer a free server.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Lehk228 (705449)
      if the free servers set up some way of portaling to and from each other, even if it isn't a continuous world, perhapse more like zone lines in everquest, they could easily grow to rival the official world, especially with unrestricted content (other than that which is illegal) on private servers
    • by vertinox (846076) on Monday July 14, 2008 @07:01PM (#24188879)

      Being able to have your own SL server doesn't get you access to Linden's grid. And that's what people want: to be on the grid with everybody else they know.

      You could link the non-linden grids together so you can jump from one to another or at least communicate between servers or even patch the linden client so that jumping between Linden and non-Linden without trouble.

      You could go as far as to have the ability (with a patched Linden client) to receive messages from people on 3rd party servers.

      Suffice to say, for those more concerned about free real estate rather than chatting, it would be logical that people could create their own servers and just have URLs linking them so that you could just look them up in the open DNS and you can pop on their web server and look at whatever they've got going on as well as whoever else happens to be there as well.

      Imagine is Slashdot ran their own open source SL server where we could all stand around and post comments... Actually maybe that isn't the best mental image.

      Still, the idea of a 3d world without centralization is pretty nifty. Kind of like the old world wide web.

    • by jejones (115979)

      Well... there are some controversial things that Linden Lab has done, e.g. the notorious statement about what is "broadly offensive", or restraining everyone on SL because of laws in a country where SL wants a presence--that may well drive a sufficient number of people to alternate grids.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Gwala (309968)

      There's actually a few alternative grids with a reasonable number of users.

      osgrid.org [osgrid.org] is one of them, and is run on sponsored hardware (disclaimer: my company helps in sponsoring boxes for it), it's free to use and has a reasonable amount of content appearing.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by merreborn (853723)

      One glitch in the summary: it don't work that way. Being able to have your own SL server doesn't get you access to Linden's grid. And that's what people want: to be on the grid with everybody else they know

      There's some truth to that, but with the hundreds of third-party Ragnarok Online servers [xtremetop100.com] out there, it's pretty clear that there are plenty of people who are perfectly happy to be "off the grid".

      RO, for those unfamiliar with it, is a relatively unremarkable Korean MMORPG. Someone wrote a server emulator,

    • by KlaymenDK (713149)

      Todd Knarr (15451):

      Being able to have your own SL server doesn't get you access to Linden's grid. And that's what people want: to be on the grid with everybody else they know.

      For all its other issues, this is the #1 reason I don't like SL. And, it's the #1 reason I don't understand why so many companies jumped on this. Seriously, would you run your intranet on your own hardware rather than someone else's? Would you want to (at least *be able to*) run your personal web site on your own private hardware? I would. But hey, I'm a privacy nut and I know it.

      vertinox (846076):

      You could link the non-linden grids together so you can jump from one to another or at least communicate between servers or even patch the linden client so that jumping between Linden and non-Linden without trouble.

      I don't think you can do that; I suspect the SL server code expects to run in data center

  • by gmezero (4448) on Monday July 14, 2008 @06:45PM (#24188733) Homepage

    The reality is far from what the submitter is claiming. Open sim has always used the SL client for access, and there are no plans for anytime in the future to allow people to transfer content on/off the SL grid to an Open Sim system.

    The IBM test involved a single OpenSim setup where bridge software IBM is working (with Sun) allowed a person to exit SL, and simultaneously login to a OpenSim system. NOTHING was transfered, the avatar shows up in OpenSim in Ruth form.

    Linden Labs has clarified that this was a proof of concept test, and that they would like to expand it in the future, but those goals are a good bit off.

    What IBM and Sun are working on is a handshake/system protocol for a transient user ID which online systems will recognize and auto negotiate log-in, and if you don't have an account, make you a default account on the new system. eg, you cross over from SL to WOW and if you don't have a WOW account, you start out in a default configuration based on some personality preferences you have preset.

    Calm down people, nothing to see here, move along.

    • by Gwala (309968)

      Actually, that's not true -

      One of the goals of the Architecture Working Group (which has members from IBM, OpenSim, Linden Lab, and others) is working on the inter operable protocols for removing centralization from the infrastructure (so it's more like IP: anyone can connect to anyone)

      This test was a test of the first draft of the teleport mechanism defined by the AWG standard.

      Link to the AWG group: here [secondlife.com]

      • by gmezero (4448)

        Yes, but the IBM project that this is related to is more about Virtual Worlds in general. The SL effort is low-hanging fruit because they already have a sizable commitment to both SL and OpenSim running internally, but the end goal is to develop a protocol for all Virtual Worlds to recognize.

    • Could we make it a bit more portable, though?

      For instance: If I buy clothing in Second Life, or pets in World of Warcraft, why not allow them to cross over? (Subject, of course, to filters/censorship of the target server -- giant walking penises are generally frowned upon.)

      Simple solution: OpenID and friends (XFN, etc). Allow a person to store their avatar, possessions, etc, on their own server (or on a free one, or a paid-for Linden one). If you want to allow commerce (selling clothing), require a signatur

    • Ruth? The old Ruth or the new cloud thing?

  • If people can run their own servers, perhaps Linden will be more inclined to shout down the "undesirables", such as the BDSM and Dolcett clubs, telling them "you can run your own damn server, get off of ours". While that may not be so bad in the short term as the existing users migrate, it would be bad for their sustainability as other people who might be so inclined can no longer find them over the SL servers.

    And who is to say when YOU will be one of the "undesirables"?

    Mal-2

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      Not likely. Keep in mind that Linden makes a profit off all transactions, and that fetish communities tend to involve a lot of obscure props in order to live up to their convincingness. Linden Labs is way too Libertarian to start developing any kind of paternalist tendencies, sort of like how ISPs should be.
    • by jandrese (485)
      Does LL even consider those activities "undesirable"? From what I've seen, the only thing they dislike is people ignoring the age ratings of the region they are in or crashing the server.
      • by isomeme (177414)

        LL's caught in the same bind Las Vegas got itself into a few years ago. For years, Vegas was the glitzy-slease capital of the world; people went there to sin and have a good time doing it. Then some bright marketing person decided they should market to families, too. Trouble is, you can't have Sin City and Disneyland superimposed without annoying both audiences. Recently, Vegas bought a clue, as evidenced by the sudden shift to the "What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" ad campaign.

        SL desperately wants

    • by ozbird (127571)
      I think you'll find the more likely scenario is Linden Labs will stand up a special server, b-ark.secondlife.com, for both users that want an "undesirable"-free SL experience and the rest of the population can get on with whatever it was they were doing.

      For all the media hype about flying penises and furry sex, you have to go out of your way to actually find any. Maybe if you stopped searching for "BDSM" and "Dolcett" (whatever that is - an Italian motor scooter?), the "problem" would solve itself.
    • by Erbo (384)
      I wrote something about this recently where I came to the same conclusion: The Coming Disneyfication of Second Life [wordpress.com]
    • by vyrus128 (747164)
      BDSM and Dolcett clubs

      Completely offtopic, I find it strange that I had to go to the Spanish Wikipedia to find information about Dolcett, because the English article was speedied in 2007, apparently after some argument (though of course it's impossible to tell.)

    • BDSM clubs are undesirable? I thought that was the whole point of SL. That and furries.

  • Resources (Score:4, Insightful)

    by KalvinB (205500) on Monday July 14, 2008 @06:48PM (#24188769) Homepage

    Running MMOs can take a lot of resources depending on what kind of functionality you want to provide. While in theory "anyone" could run their own server, logistically it won't happen.

    And that's of course on top of the whole community issue. There needs to be enough flexibility so that my server has something different to offer than their server.

    • by vertinox (846076)

      Running MMOs can take a lot of resources depending on what kind of functionality you want to provide. While in theory "anyone" could run their own server, logistically it won't happen.

      People their own 50+ player count gaming server all the time. They tend to be FPS games or Ultima "Offline" servers, but the technology is there for those who want to pay for the bandwidth and CPU cycles.

      • by eggstasy (458692)

        Second Life is fundamentally different from other client-server gaming architectures.
        For starters, the server is not a stand-alone application. The backend consists of a wide variety of servers, namely, all content is centrally stored on an Apache cluster, there's a MySQL cluster for metadata, there's a server just for message routing and topographical server adjacency, and the actual physical simulator which is a fairly heavy application.
        It's not possible to simply run a batch file with the server and the

    • Exactly. If Linden Labs has such trouble keeping their own grid up, what hope do us mere mortals have?
    • Which is why server interoperability is so critical. If everybody can serve their own _piece_ of the world, and interconnect these, then unless you get the equivalent of Slashdotted, everything chugs right along.

  • MySpace 3D (Score:4, Funny)

    by halsver (885120) on Monday July 14, 2008 @06:51PM (#24188783)

    Coming soon to a tacky interweb near you!

  • After seeing Wall-E, I'm thinking we need to make sure virtual worlds remain only a tool to cross distances and not the destination in itself. It can save on gas and enable us to live and learn in distant locations, but the idea of Virtual living is the beginning of a downward spiral.

    • 1) Wall-E had nothing to do with virtual worlds.

      2) One shouldn't base real-world hopes or fears on unrealistic movie plot elements.

      • by lymond01 (314120)

        1) Wall-E had nothing to do with virtual worlds.

        Err...did you see the movie? People were so wrapped up in their video-fed lives they didn't even know there was a pool or, in fact, that they were using their "monitor" to talk to the person right next to them on their "virtual vacation".

        2) One shouldn't base real-world hopes or fears on unrealistic movie plot elements.

        I wake up, shower, sit to check my email and news at home on the laptop, sit to drive to work, sit at work staring at my monitor, sit to drive

        • Err...did you see the movie?

          I did see the movie. The humans were not immersed in virtual worlds; video-conferencing is not VR. There was nothing to suggest that they were involved in a three-dimensional interactive environment like SL. Unless you want to consider any kind of live conversation -- e.g. talking on the telephone -- a "virtual world"?

          I think I'm only one-and-a-half activities away from the humans in Wall-E. Unrealistic indeed.

          I wasn't referring to mere lack of physical activity, although that

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I lost all interest in SL when they started catering to all of the "think of the children" demands. First they were banning child avatars. Then they were banning avatars that were adults but could possibly be perceived as underage (i.e. anyone under 6' tall). Then linden labs started required age verification (credit card, etc) to enter into "adult" areas of the world (but of course you still couldn't have short characters there). Pedo-hysteria was running wild throughout SL, and then they banned gambli
    • by jmorris42 (1458) *

      > Pedo-hysteria was running wild throughout SL, and then they banned gambling.

      Because Linden Labs is based in a civilized country. Unless they totally relocate to some third world pesthole where they can just bribe people to look the other way (and good luck getting good connectivity and clearing credit cards) they have to live by meatspace laws. That leaves the kiddie fuckers banned pretty much everywhere. And since they are in the US they can't run online casinos either. Just sticking the word 'vir

  • OpenSim grids (Score:2, Informative)

    by ckrinke (1325905)
    There are a number of grids using OpenSim. DeepGrid and OSGrid have been in existing for over a year. Others less then that. The common OpenSim grids in order of their appearance are DeepGrid (http://deepgrid.com), OSGrid (http://osgrid.org), OpenLifeGrid (http://openlifegrid.com) and CentralGrid (http://centralgrid.com). There are several thousand users. Not large by SecondLife standards, but growing rapidly. And some of these grids encourage individuals, companies and universities to attach their sims at
  • by MrSteveSD (801820) on Monday July 14, 2008 @08:10PM (#24189595)
    I've used Second Life several times over the years and every time I look, it's like being transported back into 1998. Perhaps some of the dire graphics can be blamed on user generated content, but even the areas created by Linden Labs look terrible. There are plenty of good game engines about and I am sure they could be adapted.

    Then there is the issue of the build tools. So much of the Second Life experience is supposed to be about building things, so why are the build tools so awful? Why after all these years is there still no ability to just upload a simple .obj file which is pretty much a standard in the 3D Graphics community?

    The Second Life client is also a complete memory monster. On a 2 Gig system it will happily chew up over 600 megs, and completely unnecessarily since minimizing the app seems to kick in some garbage collection which slashes memory usage dramatically. The memory usage then rapidly starts to build up again.

    Second Life also has some serious DRM issues. It seems to be quite common for creators of content to make their goods non-Transferable. So if you ever want to leave Second Life, you will have to just kiss goodbye to much of the money you have spent, because you won't be able to resell many of your purchases.

    Before too long, some people who actually know what they are doing are going to come along and blow Second Life (and it's 1998 graphics) right out of the water. It will hopefully have a client that has simple off-line build tools which behave just like other 3D apps but also support import of standard formats such as .obj. The build tools should help you build things, not hinder you like the tools (and 10 meter object Restrictions) in Second Life.
    • by eggstasy (458692)

      Did your 1998 computer have a "NASA" or "DoD" sticker?
      Let's have a contest! Which of the following pictures depict a 1998 game character and which is from a Second Life avatar? :)
      See if you can guess!

      http://www.fpsteam.it/img2006/sin/sin_elexis_bathroom_04.jpg [fpsteam.it]

      http://farm4.static.flickr.com/3246/2670018726_c289810160.jpg?v=0 [flickr.com]

      (There is no such thing as Linden content, if you mean the Welcome Area, it was built like 4 years ago by a friend of mine, as a contractor... when SL had a completely different engine...

    • Second Life also has some serious DRM issues. It seems to be quite common for creators of content to make their goods non-Transferable. So if you ever want to leave Second Life, you will have to just kiss goodbye to much of the money you have spent, because you won't be able to resell many of your purchases.

      Here's a hint: Don't buy non-transferable items. Noone is forcing you to spend your hard-earned L$ on anything. Plenty of free stuff lying around for people to use.

      This isn't any different from you not h

    • by LingNoi (1066278)

      One of the biggest issues I have with the build tools is that the prims that are the basic building blocks take up more verts then if I could just model what I wanted to in the first place.

      This isn't the case every time but if you want to build something which has a lot of different curves in it you have to do some really ugly things to get it looking right and then it takes ages to download for anyone that visits. It's so stupid and Linden should just as you said, let people import simple .obj files.

      There'

  • SL is an artificial economy. If you can copy items and easily add new 'land', then those things have no value.

    Replacements for SL will have trouble attracting creators as SL has or those items having any "status" or "$$" value.

    Put another way-- I can play EQ on a simulated server and give myself anything. But what would the point be?

    • Yeah, because a service where anyone can copy information instantly and anyone can easily create content without worrying about limited resources is completely worthless and nobody makes any money there doing anything except selling "real world" goods, which also wouldn't count for some reason.

    • Perhaps you want to do a sociological experiment to see what a post scarcity society might look like?

      Or perhaps the experiment is to expose a bunch of people who live in an artificial scarcity world to a post scarcity world and see how they react back in real life.

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