While pulling dead flower stalks out of the ground yesterday another Second Life thought came to me. Here it is:
Second Life is, unto itself, an island, and islands sink in the big ocean of the Internet.
Hit the wayback machine to 1993 — Prodigy, CompuServe, and AOL are at their zeniths. None of them interoperate. To participate in a chat with a celebrity on CompuServe, one must subscribe to CompuServe. Their mail systems didn’t speak to each other. Their content didn’t flow. They were islands — the metaphor in those days was “walled gardens.”
Now, back to where we stand today. I use TCP/IP to get to Second Life. I don’t have to spend a dime to get an account or avatar. I only part with money when I want to upgrade to a premium account which gives me the right to buy “land” and become an economic operator. But, and this is the key “but” — I can’t host that “land” on my server. I can’t develop it and maintain it and profit from it on my terms, only Second Life’s.
Yes, Linden Labs is a very “open” company, building Second Life atop a lot of open architectures, and yes, Linden is trying to open up its APIs. This Linux Journal article is a good place to get the background.
“More than the blip of CopyBot, there are deep problems that need to be addressed in the context of creating an open source version of Second Life, notably as far as security is concerned. Most of them have to do with how open source clients would interact with Linden Lab’s servers, and how it might be possible to allow users to run their own Second Life servers – effectively creating separate virtual worlds based on the same protocols.”
When and if the 3D equivalent of HTML emerges (wasn’t it supposed to be VRML?) then I would be very interested in the development of a 3D presence for myself or my company. Until then, Second Life feels eerily similar to Prodigy, a 3D walled garden.