New Linden policy may hurt viewer development

Linden Lab has issued new guidelines for third-party viewers who wish to include advanced new features that use the proprietary Havoc physics engine.

Of most interest to OpenSim users, the guidelines require that the viewer be “primarily focused on Second Life as a target market, and have a significant base of users within Second Life.”

While this is currently true of all viewers — given that OpenSim’s user base is tiny compared to Second Life, all viewers have a “significant base of users in Second Life” — that may not be enough.

That’s because the sublicensee agreement is even more restrictive, saying, “Sublicensee must require the Third Party Viewer to connect only to servers owned or operated by the Company [Linden Lab].”

Using Second Life viewer 3 in my OpenSim virtual office.

This is currently being discussed at length on the SL Universe forums with both OpenSim developers and third-party viewer developers weighing in.

Justin Clark-Casey

“Speaking as an OpenSimulator core dev, I do find the clauses in both [the guidelines and the sublicensee agreement] to be very disturbing,” said Justin Clark-Casey,  president and founder of the Overte Foundation that oversees OpenSim.

“[It] seems to force the third party viewer developer to choose between developing explicitly for Linden Lab only — i.e. no OpenSimulator accommodation of any kind, including such things as grid list, better hypergrid, etc. — and developing only for OpenSimulator and similar systems,” he added. “[And] even if the TPV abided by all the rules, they could still have their sublicense terminated for any reason whatsoever with 30 days notice.”

Potential workarounds

However, some commenters have pointed out that any viewer — including the official Second Life viewer — can be used to access any OpenSim grid simply by modifying the path. For example, instructions for how to do this for OSGrid are here, under “Connecting to the Grid with Viewer Parameters.”

If the grid users log into is hypergrid-enabled, then they can access any of the 70-plus other grids accessible over the hypergrid — and the number of growing every week, as a result of recent advances in OpenSim stability and easy-to-use setup tools like New World Studio.

Another option is to have a standalone software that handles the viewer selection and path configuration.

For example, the OpenSim-based Kitely grid has its users download a plugin that enables them to connect to Kitely using any viewer of their choice, including the official Second Life viewer.

Separate development

Another option is for OpenSim-specific viewers to be split off from the ones focused on Second Life. This will allow viewers to offer more OpenSim-specific features, such as better hypergrid functionality.

This is an issue that has long been debated and discussed in the OpenSim community.

However, the OpenSim user base is tiny, and most users come over from Second Life, where the ability to use a familiar viewer would be a significant advantage.

The one exception is private company and school grids, where the users are completely new to virtual worlds and use whatever viewer they are prescribed. In these cases, however, the best solution is a viewer hard-coded to access just that one grid, so that users — especially young children — aren’t tempted to explore other grids during school or work hours.

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Maria Korolov

Maria Korolov is editor and publisher of Hypergrid Business. She has been a journalist for more than twenty years and has worked for the Chicago Tribune, Reuters, and Computerworld and has reported from over a dozen countries, including Russia and China. Follow me on Twitter @MariaKorolov.

43 Responses

  1. In order to take that snapshot, I actually created and started writing a document in Google Docs in my virtual office. I’ve done that before for work — I wrote an entire story here the other day — but for this picture, I was just goofing around… and one thing led to another … and before I know, I’ve got the beginning of a noir crime story:

  2. graymills says:

    I wonder whether this will also stop ToS-compliant export of objects via the likes of Imprudence. That could persuade some educators to leave SL on the basis that they no longer have a fallback position in the event that SL heads south.   

    • graymills says:

       Just to explain my reasoning here, namely that some TPVs might be put off by the increasingly prescriptive stance taken by LL and stop development. I’m hoping more generally that at least some TPV devs will develop non-Havok versions for OpenSim.

  3. Ener Hax says:

    way to build love Linden Lab! this will backlash onto Linden Lab and simply perpetuates their image of not caring about their customers or the community

  4.' Zauber Paracelsus says:

    More than just hurting viewer development, this seems to be a pot-shot at competitors!

  5.' Wayfinder Wishbringer says:

    “Of most interest to OpenSim users, the guidelines require that the
    viewer be “primarily focused on Second Life as a target market, and have
    a significant base of users within Second Life.””

    “That’s because the sublicensee agreement
    is even more restrictive, saying, “Sublicensee must require the Third
    Party Viewer to connect only to servers owned or operated by the Company
    [Linden Lab].””

    Is Linden Lab aware that these clauses are severely monopolistic practices and opens them up to all kinds of potential litigation… including heavy Federal fines?

    We’re talking monopoly, anti-competitive practices, you name it. I can’t even imagine all the possible ramifications. I can imagine LL is sitting smugly back and thinking no one will bother to sue them (or hoping they will, so LL can tie them up in litigation for years). Myself, I’m pretty much ignoring LL these days. That’s why OpenSim should have created a totally new VR product from the start, rather than trying to clone sL.

    • I do not see how this is monopolistic. Second Life is not a public utility that functions as a sole provider in a geographic area, nor are they acquiring other companies and becoming the only provider of a service in the marketplace.  They are simply moving forward with technological improvements that constrains their previously more open policy towards third party viewers, which was always at their discretion.  Their terms state: We do not guarantee that Second Life will always be open and accessible to Third-Party Viewers and Developers.

      That said, I agree, as Justin Clark-Casey indicated, that this sounds very disturbing.  And I think Ener Hax captures the emotional aspect quite succinctly.

      As I understand this, the issue has arisen because Havok technology will now be a part of the Second Life viewer and the licensing requires that such viewers connect exclusively with Linden Lab servers.  If that is more or less the contention, would third party viewers derived from Linden Lab viewers not be able to continue, if they accessed physics in a different way when connecting with OpenSim?  Is there no possibility of an OpenSim – Havok license arrangement?  I’m thinking about how Vivox recently became available to OpenSim hosts of any size.

    •' Fred Leftwich says:

      Starting from the SL base was positive imo, but I can see your point of view.  Would OpenSim have this growth and visibility without the foundation built by SL….dunno.

      But obviously now is a time for innovation while maintaining the core structure.  Like ethernet, standards are hard to give up and people will cling to the standard while embracing improvement.  OpenSim has a foothold and must now improve and offer solutions to user’s demands for the emergence of the hypergrid and grid-wide content protection.  Optimizing asset movement between grids and protecting content imo are the two things that will revolutionize this whole thing. 

      Respect to SL and what they started, but they are not the endpoint.

  6.' WhiteStar Magic says:

    The latest in LL innovative policies should & “MUST” be viewed as the ‘Big Red Flag’ of things to come.  Many flags have been raised, each one getting bigger & brighter, this one being the biggest yet….  Funny how things happen right on cue… Step back and look at the policy changes & deployment changes for the past 12 months and you get to see the bigger picture, ignore the minutia, smoke & mirrors and focus only on the “official details” … don’t have to be Sherlock Holmes to apply deductive reasoning & logic to see where it’s headed.   In other words, look at the whole forest and not just the trees in front of you.
    Seems the only rational step would be to jump into the Radegast camp and start moving that viewer forward as an official Open Metaverse Viewer.   Written in C#, can use CPP.   Latif, bless his tenacious soul, has pounded on that codebase and   kept it going when no one else wants to help….   SO STEP UP before Lame Labs Pushes you out the door and you have to “Crawl Up”.
    Radegast Info:                   (The Main Website)    (The Wiki)  (SVN 🙁 )
    Are there any other NON-LL Based viewers that can be used with OpenSim ?  Not that I am aware of as REX is pretty well gone it’s own way.   Unity is NOT OpenSim so not an option.  Radegast is it and it’s pretty far ahead.
    Without a doubt, some will jump up & down to refurb ancient V1 codebase which is extremely limiting.  Others Will want to rework V3 in a manner to suit OS and not have to comply with LL restrictions (short lived plan that, wait for the next set of policy announcements June/July-ish).
    In quick summary, the Grimm Reapers (LL Policy makers) are coming down the street and killing along the way…  They are only 1 1/2 blocks away, you see them  coming but refuse to act & save yourself & your family….  
    If your auto mechanic tells you the tires on your car are bald, unsafe and won’t last any longer, do you still go for a 3,000 mile drive across the country on those tires “knowing” that they likely fail & kill you and/or others ?    Time to change the tires eh!
    A last word to the naysayers.   These things are not in anyones control.  Lame Labs has an agenda & plan which they will execute, regardless of what anyone says or does.  It’s their business and therefore their right to run it as they please.  They will not come out and tell you “6 months from now LL Source can only be used for TPV’s that connect only to LL and should a TPV connect to another platform they will be blocked from LL services and subject to legal actions”.  BUT they have been hinting subtly, then not so subtly, and now just saying “this is the way it is”.   Time to stop playing the ostrich game and get proactive in a replacement viewer  to benefit the entire Open Metaverse and PHOOEY on Lame Labs and their passive aggressive tactics & business process.

    •' Fred Leftwich says:

      The Tighter the Grip, The More That Slips Through Your Fingers.

      We are not in the heads of the management of SL, but that doesn’t prevent us from seeing a bigger picture; in fact in may help us see the bigger picture.

      Anyone with half a brain will be able to see these restrictive policies will ultimately lead to open viewers which will service the needs of their users regardless of how draconian SL wishes to become.  Are they draconian atm?  Well dunno, maybe not yet, but their recent direction is not encouraging.

      These policy declarations smack of desperation in some sense, trying to bind the yoke of the metaverse while they still think they can.

      I am shaking my head at all this.  It seems so foolish long term for SL, but maybe I am just an ignorant dolt.  Time will tell.

    •' LordSir says:

      Actually, are you sure REX isn’t interested ?

       I know they have talked with several of the OpenSim developers before about modifying the Naali and Web Naali Viewer for OpenSim.

      However, at the time it seemed no one in the OpenSim community wanted to dedicate time to creating the plugins that would be needed to make it work perfectly with all the various sims ?

      It was in fact suggested by Ilan at Kitely that they thought that RealXtend should be the ones to do the plugin coding in order to make it more appealing an option to SL based viewers.

      Perhaps now that everyones eyes are opened to what LL plans on doing with their viewer in the future (basically, close-sourcing it), it is time to re-evaluate such a posture and open talks in earnest, in cooperation with, the RealXtend team and its truly open-source and capable viewer ?

      •' Ilan Tochner says:

        Hi LordSir,

        I have been talking with the realXtend developers for many months now about getting their viewer to be able to import OAR files, manipulate prims collaboratively, and use SL/OpenSim based Avatars so people will be able to migrate their content over to the realXtend architecture. They are very receptive to the idea but are limited by their own companies’ commercial commitments regarding what they can focus on. Many of the required components already exist in prototype state in previous versions of their solution. With the help of the capable TPV developers, the community could have a non SL-derived working viewer in a matter of months. All it needs is for TPV developers to decide that they are tired of swallowing whatever LL gives them and shift their focus to an open, well designed, professionally developed, and community driven viewer architecture instead.

        For those who don’t know, the realXtend architecture runs on Windows, Mac and Linux. It has proofs of concept running on Android and iOS. It has a thin HTML5+WebGL viewer and a thin Flash based viewer (both in late Alpha). It is, in my opinion, a great open source option for the development of a free metaverse not run by one company’s financial interests.

        The realXtend project should get the TPV and OpenSim developer community’s help so we can finally free ourselves from the shackles of LL’s legacy.

        • I second this reply and we would be very interested in kicking in resources towards making this work for everyone

          •' Ilan Tochner says:

            Thank you Tranquillity 🙂

            I contacted the realXtend developers and asked them to weigh in so we can get this community project moving forward.

          • graymills says:

             Just to clarify, this is the new realXtend we’re talking about, i.e. that is no longer OpenSim-compatible? Also, what happened next?

          •' Ilan Tochner says:

            Hi greymills,

            Yes, we’re talking about the new realXtend architecture that isn’t based on OpenSim or the SL viewer. The architecture includes a server component and a viewer component (both an installable version and a thin-client version for HTML5+WebGL / Flash 11).

            The viewer can be made to support OpenSim protocols, prims, SL avatars, OARs/IARs etc. Some work had already been done for a previous version of realXtend that was also not based on OpenSim/SL to support some of these capabilities but it needs to be completed and ported to the newer version.

            I’m talking to the realXtend developers, but there’s nothing new to report at this time.

          • Toni Alatalo says:

            Hi – I am from realXtend, we talked about this again with Ilan yesterday.

            I posted some remarks as a reply in the realxtend mailing list / Google group,

            There are many ways how different kinds of Opensim interoperability is possible.

            We are now very busy with a launch of a new open public world realXtend world, a specific commercial application, featuring both native Tundra and a browser based ‘WebNaali’ variant made with Flash (Away3d and Xiff for XMPP). More about that in some virtual worlds news in tomorrow or Tuesday or so 🙂

    •' WhiteStar Magic says:

      The schedule is on… they are doing their thing, their way.
      Everyone should step back and look at the signs.  Coincidentally (I do not believe in them at all) here is something else that is cooking / brewing in the witches pot:

      @Maria Might be something for you to follow up on as well ….   Maybe a little forensic digging and see the pattern of changes which are leading up to … something….  Just a thought 😉

  7.' Sarge Misfit says:

    It always seemed obvious that there was a need for an OpenSim viewer that was not dependent on SL. This new policy is going to do a lot to doing just that.

    •' Fred Leftwich says:

       Real talk.  Poignant.  Shame really but the compulsions of people cannot be held back by restrictive corporate policies.  Better to acknowledge and support the population’s inclinations than resist it.  There are always ways to profit no matter the way you steer the boat.  It is simply a matter of corporate vision.  I am seriously doubting SL’s management direction lately.

  8. graymills says:

    @google-70d1c4b28dd2d98792c36278fe85ea9f:disqus I think Radegast has a lot going for it, not least accessibility support. Hopefully it will run on high-end Intel-based tablets as well so it provides a mobile option. That said, my recollection is that some operations are currently either missing or very circuitous because of its modular nature. It’s not exactly a platform that fashionistas will relish either! What’s the issue with Kokua?

    (and apologies for top-posting — can edit but not delete)

  9.' Guest says:

    We could just write open source replacements for that functionality, and not have to sign that license.  shrugs

    •' Fred Leftwich says:

       I assume this will happen if the desire is there.  Or alternatives will emerge to satisfy the demands of consumption.

    • Revel Peters says:

      in the end they created opensim to work independantly of sl I imagine and hope that the same will happen with a viewer.   The LL decision will eventually force people to choose.  There are a lot of viewers with no real presence in SL that exist its probably time for the opensim community to have its own viewer, but it should have done that awhile back its just making the need for that more urgent.  If I could code worth a darn I would pitch in but reality is I just have to hope that there are some coders who make the choice to work only on opensim viewers.   There are developers who work only on opensim server technology and who are progressing that so hopefully the same will occur with the viewer.  Logically its possible and LL is drawing a line in the sand so now we watch and wait hehe. 

  10.' kripken says:

    > In order to be eligible to obtain a Havok sublicense, a TPV project must: [..] Be using open source licensing that permits linking with closed source components

    That right there seems to prevent ALL the current third party viewers. They are all based on the SL client, which is GPL. The GPL is not compatible with linking with closed source components. Or am I missing something?

    • You are missing that version 2 and above LL code – which includes Snowstorm and those viewers derived from it, like Firestorm – are licensed under the LGPL, which does not have this problem.

  11.' Timothy Rogers says:

    I see this as good and bad, I see it as good because we have been needing a viewer developed strictly for opensim grids. Perhaps this happening will start and give us the push in the right direction to get this started. Now it does make it hard on current viewer devs, they are now torn between two paths. This really will start to raise some questions and eyebrows.

  12.' Fred Leftwich says:

    SL may do whatever they desire as is their right.

    But if they draw a line in the sand, they must be prepared if people call their bluff.

    I question why they feel they must always exclude instead of include.  Magnetic attraction draws people together and can create geometric progression through synergy.  Polar opposition just pushes people apart and dissolves progress through chaos.

    Personally I now spend most time on OSgrid and not SL.  I still have my SL homestead but more and more I am questioning why I am spending $40 a month for this…dunno….why so defensive and protectionist SL?  I don’t get it.

  13.' Mobius Ryba says:

    Actually -I don’t see it as a particularly harsh thing for LL to do with the sub-licencing. They paid money for a Havok licence and are letting TPV’s use this code. To set out in the terms that it shouldn’t be used on what are essentially competitor grids – is not an unreasonable thing to say in my opinion.

    I think what will likely happen is viewers will be made to check what grid they are connected to – and if it’s not a Linden Lab grid – to disable the functionality of the Havok code. TPV’s do ok without the code with only mesh upload needing the code for the physics model work, and possibly the upcoming pathfinding.
    At spome point, an open source alternative may be found. Or of course a TPV could raise the fund to buy their own licence and take it to whatever grid they want! :p

  14. Han Held says:

     This is a logical step in the elimination of third party clients. This goes back to 2010 when LL made changes to their TOS to render exports nearly impractical, and was continued when LL eliminated viewer tags and began to dictate what features TPVs could include in their clients.

    Opensim has become a rouge threat, and LL loses approx $365 each time someone creates a region outside of SL. And this is how they are going to eliminate that threat, and stem that loss.

    They are aware that the developers of the largest TPV (Pheonix) will not leave, and the number of developers working on Kokua is too small to drive or support any real change, and is to small to take on any sort of leadership role in the opensim arena. Smaller projects such as Henri’s Coolviewer is in even less of a posistion to support the Opensim community.

    Knowing that there is no VIABLE viewer development community outside of the SL, Linden Lab has chosen to target the viewer developers such as the Phoenix crew with a choice: “work for us, or you don’t get to play with the toys secondlife residents will come to expect”.

    Given that choice, I believe it’s a given that the Phoenix team will cut all ties with Opensim and do whatever the Lab tells them to do. It’s hard to blame them -opensource is largely about ego gratification and if you want ego gratification then you go where the numbers are. It’s not rocket science. Yes, opensource is also about “scratching an itch”, but looking at the numbers, the people involved who are in it to scratch an itch aren’t enough to drive any sort of direction in viewer development. At least not from where I’m standing.

    SO, once TPV development has been marginalized, the Lab will continue to roll out features intended to shut down opensim. In two years, in five years you’ll have two competing options: opensim, which in two years’ time will appear anemic, with an increasingly dated feature set and unsupported by (then-current) viewers -and Secondlife, which will have the support of current viewer development, a rich array of gamified features, managerial and support options missing from opensim (eg estate windlight) which will be delivered as closed-source modules bolted on to the increasingly negligble open-source viewer framework (think of the relation between Darwin and iOS and you’ll see the future of SL viewer development).

    For all the rhetoric, Linden Labs has been the one leading the direction of the metaverse -and now that they’ve decided to trim their coat-tails Opensim will begin to drift off into irrelevance except for people like me who see what the future holds and decide to hole up in our standalone bunkers and visit each other through the hypergrid, the metaverse version of ham operators that operate outside of the internet.

    • Do you honestly believe there is no one out there capable of moving viewer development forward? Do you believe the viewer and protocols to be so complex that it can’t be moved forward in any direction, whether by something brand new, or continuing open sourced extensions to the current codebase?
      If so, you should really take a look at the plethora of game/rendering engines and components that already do the vast majority of the rendering work required, and in a lot of cases, do it much better with real lighting and all the graphics features now used in the majority of modern games.

      All it takes is some time and/or money investment. Believing that only one company, or one set of people are able to write software is silly.

    • But since it is open source we are free to fork the project if the Phoenix or any other viewer becomes too restrictive.  In point of fact they are putting in effort of late to have the Firestorm viewer work well in Opensim.  I am sure they realize that much of the community and especially hackers to help innovate new features is not chained to SL.

  15. foneco zuzu says:

    Hans, Real World is showing that nothing is granted!
    Beliave Me, the day Lind Lab closes the connection to Tpv’s will be the day hackers will make it useless! 

  16. foneco zuzu says:

    But i dont believe open sims will die cause of lack of havok, in fact if one thing this can bring is a increase on users visiting and knowing that Open sims are in fact more stable and more innovative then SL and free, and no matter what, nobody will stop the thousands that already downloaded your sim on stick, or Diva Distro or New Worlds or OS grid launcher, cause those know that the future of virtual Worlds is no more in the hands of Linden LAb nor money makes!

    • Han Held says:

       opensim won’t die, it will simply become less and less relevant (due to missing features that SL keeps to itself).

      Also, these changes mean no more grid managers, which in turn means less and less people being brought over from second life.

  17.' guest says:

    I see this as a corporate “temper tantrum”  of such a juvenile nature that it should be laughed at.  I think this move will hurt the Labs more than anyone else.  What makes LL successful is social acceptance as a fun thing to do.  Start teling people they have to use a specific viewer when they’ve enjoyed one developed that works the way they want, and they will start looking for options.  The Havoc code arguement doesnt hold either, as OpenSim doesnt USE havoc, its wasted code.  The Real Life is fulll of rules, and policies, and standards.  People come to S/L to get away from that “crack the whip” mentality.  (Well , there are exceptions to that even.)  Devs arent getting paid to develop their products.  There’s no profit in it to go either way.  As a Dev, they’ve just been given two Contracts, one is a blank piece of paper, the other is a list of do’s and donts written by LL…… at no profit….. Fork in the road? maybe.  As to who will benefit the most from it, only time will tell.  Corporate history is full of examples of “forward thinking” that nearly ruined the businesses that developed them.  Edsel, Dodge LeFemme, “Copeland”,  Palm OS6, New Coke… ect. ect.   The Lab may be playing the worst hand of poker ever with these new policies. 

  18. Ok, enough.  I will no longer pay $295/month to LL for a region and take their abuse as well.  I will rent at most a quarter region to keep a social and event presence in SL.  LL does not deserve the level of spending I have been giving it. 

    Opensim development can incorporate over time any worthwhile features of SL or better as witness past developments.  So why am I still in SL?  The people mostly and I will miss that huge inventory, unruly as it is with paltry LL tools.  I will also miss being able to purchase for relatively little most anything I don’t feel like creating or have the time and skills to create myself.  But there is a LOT of free and/or inexpensive content in OpenSim grids as well. 

  19.' Valiant Westland says:

    Customer Service, Innovation & Value, not threatening developers is how LL should compete!  “The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin (LL), the more star systems (Grids) will slip through your fingers.” ― Princess Leia

  20.' ARazgriz25 says:

    IMHO, SL can rot in a big grave.
    The Community is Crap,
    The Technology is Crap,
    Everything about it is Crap.

  21. This is still in a state of flux. We are hoping that