Raising the Walls

Return with us now to those thrilling days of yesteryear…

The occasion was SL7B, June 2010, when Philip (Linden) Rosedale, founder and Chief Ineffectual Figurehead of Linden Lab, gave not one but two speeches — partially because Mark (M Linden) Kingdon was simultaneously being shown the door.

From the transcript of Speech #1:

Second Life is this wonderful, beautiful city — once you’re in it and you’re having this amazing immersive experience, you’re just totally blown away by it. But the city itself is surrounded by huge walls and a moat. It’s like a medieval city. To actually get into it you have to invest an enormous amount of time and energy getting across that moat, and over the walls, and into this amazing new world of people inside that are waiting inside. And I think that in our excitement about the success of Second Life — in its amazing initial growth and the amazing things that you guys have done and that we’ve done together — we were getting ahead of ourselves a bit as a company and this is what we really talked about in this restructuring. We were building these sort of rickety — we were in many cases building these bridges and scaffoldings that sought to get different types of people across that moat and over those walls, whether we’re talking about international Residents, or the community welcome areas, or enterprise or education users — we’ve been sort of building these little, thin bridges that try and quickly get everybody kind of over that wall and into Second Life. And of course, you can understand why we’d do that, because it’s just so fantastic an experience once we can get people there.

But I think what we have to do — what I know is the kind of thinking that’s informing our planning process going forward — is ask whether instead we can stop doing those many, many peripheral, highly usage-specific things to get people in here — and instead just take a step back, look at the basic problems that we are all faced by, and by fixing them, fill the moat. Tear down the walls.

[emphasis added]

Now, fast forward to February of this year, when the Lab changed the Third-Party Viewer (TPV) Policy; specifically, this addition:

2.k : You must not provide any feature that alters the shared experience of the virtual world in any way not provided by or accessible to users of the latest released Linden Lab viewer.

… which basically means, to TPV developers, “If the Linden Viewer can’t do it, yours isn’t allowed to.” It also means “If the Lab decides to discontinue a pre-existing function, you TPV’ers must also cease offering it.” The first, immediately noticeable effect of the change was the permanent breaking of viewer tags — i.e., in a gathering of avatars you can no longer see, either by text or color-code, how few people are using the Linden viewer versus how many are using which TPV.

Since they couldn’t make it better, they made it impossible to see how many avvies had voted with their pixel feet.

Finally, we come to the Lab’s decision this week to remove the “-loginURI” function from (currently) development versions (and eventually, official release versions) of the Linden viewer. As analyzed and explained in understandable terms by Maria Korolov of Hypergrid Business, this simply means that the common user who has a presence in SL and any of the OpenSimulator worlds will not be able to use the official Linden viewer to access both.

(According to Oz “Mr Personality” Linden, it has something to do with the sub-license(s?) that grants permission to SL to use the Havok physics engine, which permission is not transferable to other grids.)

BFD, right?

Chances are, if you’re one of those thousands of avatars who visit SL and OS worlds, you use a third-party viewer anyway. Perhaps you use the same TPV for both… or perhaps, as in my own limited case, you use something like Firestorm for SL and something like Imprudence for anywhere else (see the remarks from Christa Lopes quoted in Maria’s blog).

I, for one, would love to have a single viewer that I can use in all worlds I visit – but it seems now that my habit of keeping two different TPVs on my desktop is going to be “the wave of the future” for all Transworlders, because of that SL policy change quoted above. To put it another way: soon, TPV developers will have to address the same decision the Phoenix/Firestorm group already have made: fork the viewer code into one that works in SL only, and one that works everywhere else but SL.

What all this boils down to is what Feline Slade said last month in her blog: “We are not the Customers the Lab wants.”

The Lab wants customers who blithely spend way too much money for pixel land they don’t really own, and for the “limited licenses” called “Linden dollars” to obtain virtual goods that neither the buyers nor sellers really own; customers who remain blissfully unaware that there are other virtual worlds Out There. The Lab cannot best their competition, so they remove any possible mention of it, including the ability to use their in-house viewer to get there.

Granted, everyone stopped listening to Philip years ago — his own employees as well as “his” Residents — but its obvious no walls are being torn down. They’re being built ever higher.

Soon, you’ll attain the stability you strive for, in the only way that it’s granted: in a place among the fossils of our time.

— “Crown of Creation”, Paul Kantner and Grace Slick (after John Wyndham)


4 responses to “Raising the Walls

  1. Excellent post Lalo. Very unfortunate for those of us in the nomad community. I wouldn’t give too much of a damn, except that (I hate to admit it) the official SL viewer actually works better for me in OS worlds for certain functions such as mesh uploads.

    So the moats are refilled with burning oil, the bulwarks are reinforced, the drawbridges raised…wonder what will come next?

    • Thank you, Moni :) I had you in mind while writing it – you’re the most nomadic avatar I know – but there are many others who create in one world and export to another, for which one needs to use the same viewer at both ends.

      And thanks also for mentioning mesh, as well as other advantages the V2-based viewers have over V1s like Imprudence. Remind me to try using Firestorm if we meet in InWorldz…

  2. This is why I blew off his talk yesterday at Virtual Ability and his chitchat at Burn 2.0 this year. Dude’s the perfect example of why “acta non verba” means nothing to LL/SL development and planning.


  3. Pingback: The Viewer is Critical Infrastructure | Virtual Vision 2020

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