Linden Lab cuts viewer link to OpenSim

This past spring, Linden Lab warned third party viewer developers to drop support for OpenSim if they wanted to get access to new features. Back then, a back door was left open, in that users could modify the command path used to launch the viewer so that it accessed OpenSim instead of the official Second Life grid.

This week, Linden Lab closed that access route, removing support for the “-loginURI” parameter from the development versions of the standard viewer, reported OSGrid president Michael Emory Cerquoni — also known as Nebadon Izumi in-world. OSGrid is the largest grid running on the OpenSim software, and is commonly used as a development and testing platform for OpenSim.

“It really doesn’t serve much useful purpose,” said Scott Lawrence, director of open development at Linden Lab and a member of the open source Snowstorm  viewer team. Lawrence, who is also known as Oz Linden in-world, also added that he doesn’t expect the functionality to return, and added that Linden Lab’s Havoc license prohibits the company from allowing its viewers to connect to OpenSim grids. Lawrence made his statements in a chat with Cerquoni that was posted online.

As of this writing, neither Lawrence nor Linden Lab’s media representatives have responded to Hypergrid Business questions about this development.

“Now Second Life is officially dead to me, I will never log in to Second Life ever again,” said Cerquoni.

Little direct effect on users

The change will not affect current OpenSim users right away, though as it is rolled out to all the active viewers, it may become an issue.

Fortunately, the Firestorm viewer team has already come up with a solution. They have forked their viewer development, with one version of their viewer designed to work in Second Life and use the Havoc-licensed functionality. Another version, without the new Havoc code, can be used to access OpenSim and includes some OpenSim-specific functions, such as a grid selector.

(Image courtesy Firestorm Viewer.)

In addition, few OpenSim users have been accessing their grids with the official viewer, especially now that the latest functionality — mesh and media-on-a-prim — is available from the third-party viewers like Firestorm.

Crista Lopes

“My impression is that only a very small percentage of people use the official Second Life viewers to connect to OpenSim grids,”OpenSim core developer and hypergrid inventor Crista Lopes told Hypergrid Business. She is also a professor of informatics at the University of California, Irvine. “The ‘loginURI’ is quite inconvenient anyway. It’s better to specify the grid in another way — grid manager or something like that.”

She added that there are enough third-party viewers that will continue to support OpenSim. In addition to the Firestorm viewer, the Zen Viewer and the Teapot Viewer both support OpenSim and have the “V3” features like mesh and media-on-a-prim. Many users also access OpenSim through the older “V1”-style viewers Imprudence and Hippo, which do not support mesh and media-on-a-prim.

At Kitely, an OpenSim grid that runs on-demand regions in the Amazon cloud, the official Second Life viewer is currently a supported viewer. A Kitely plugin uses it, in addition to several other viewers, to automatically launch Kitely regions for users.

Kitely CEO Ilan Tochner

“Once the Second Life viewer stops being compatible with OpenSim, we’ll just remotely configure the Kitely plugin to select one of the other viewers people have installed or offer them an OpenSim-compatible alternative,” Kitely CEO Ilan Tochner told Hypergrid Business. “This change in the Second Life viewer might affect new people coming directly from Second Life but most of the people who log into Kitely usually have more than just the Second Life viewer installed.”

Users who don’t have a compatible viewer installed are automatically offered one by Kitely when they first log in, with Firestorm being the current preferred option.

Untether OpenSim development

One positive consequence of the Linden Lab decision may be that OpenSim viewers, finally decoupled from Second Life, will now be able to offer better functionality.

In some respects, having to maintain compatibility with Second Life has been an anchor for the viewers.

For example, OpenSim had mesh years before Second Life rolled it out, but it couldn’t be widely implemented because of the lack of viewer support.

“There are many Second Life-specific design decisions that can and should be abandoned,” said Kitely’s Tochner. “The third-party viewer developers who will choose to continue supporting OpenSim will finally be able to justify adding OpenSim-specific viewer improvements. If viewer developers and OpenSim developers join forces in adding those capabilities then we may be facing a period of significant improvements to OpenSim and finally seeing fixes to some of the annoying Second Life legacy bugs.”

For example, he said, map tiles aren’t calculated correctly for high-numbered regions, and neither are terrain textures.

In addition, users can’t teleport more than 4,096 regions in any direction.

Another problem is the assumption that all regions are 256 meters by 256 meters in size, Tochner added. OpenSim allows for bigger regions, but existing viewers sometimes have trouble accessing them. There is also “inefficient viewer cache logic which creates avoidable server load and requires some protocol changes to fix.”

Other features that OpenSim has that Second Life doesn’t include the ability to export and import entire regions in the form of OAR files, and the ability to teleport via grids via the hypergrid — not to mention the dozens of OpenSim-specific scripting functions. Dedicated viewer support can help make any of this functionality work better, and allow for brand-new functionality to be developed.

Will this hurt Linden Lab?

To some observers, Linden Lab’s failure to embrace OpenSim and the hypergrid is a sign that the company has lost its original passion and focus.

By isolating itself from OpenSim, the company may be trying to preserve its business model, but at the expense of having a role in the future development of the metaverse.

Justin Clark-Casey

“Personally, I think these moves are very short-sighted,”  said Justin Clark-Casey,  president and founder of the Overte Foundation that oversees OpenSim and an OpenSim core developer. “I believe there’s much more to be gained by collaborating with the widest community possible than trying to restrict contributions to those that only benefit oneself.”

Clark-Casey added that he himself uses the “-loginURI” setting extensively.

“I very much hope that independent viewers will continue to keep this option around,” he told Hypergrid Business. “I find it very sad that this simple functionality is being removed.  I see very little technical justification.”

The Linden Lab decision also underscores the problems created when an open source project, such as the viewer, is heavily dependent on a single company.

“There’s much more to open-source then saying ‘Hey. here’s the code,'” he said. “Governance is a critical consideration.  If a single company controls the direction of a project then it can make life very difficult for other people that are trying to help grow and extend that ecosystem.”

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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.

  • I don’t see how the SLViewer can remain open source, otherwise anyone could simply restore the function, which would then contravene the Havok license. And I don’t think Havok will allow that possibility to exist.

    • LordNine

      I pointed this out in the instance of unofficial and thereby unlicensed ‘forks’ of any of the SL TPV’s being able to dupe LL’s security protocols simply by using the original and licensed TPV’s identity to enable login to SL. A few devs said that if LL was really worried about it they could simply find the intruders through an identification string. My point was that it didn’t matter if LL ‘wanted’ to or not, they would have to in order to meet the requirements set out by Havok themselves ?
      If I am right, then all those self-compilers will be banned and only the few who are on the official TPV- Havok sublicense-list will be able to access SL. Furthermore, they may restrict any of those viewers makers from making an alternative(read OpenSim, Tundra2, Sirikata, OpenWonderland,etc.) capable viewer so that Havok can feel ‘safe’. Again, I was rebuked by several TPV devs who said that it was such a minor amount of code going into the viewer part that was owned by Havok that they didn’t think LL would be that strict about it. I then pointed out “Then why have the sublicense in the first place if it isn’t important to Havok ?” They seem to think it is just a CYA move by LL and nothing more. I hope for their enjoyment, they are right.

  • Second Life is going down the tubes and this is another example of why! However, their official viewer has been crap for at least two years! I want to see the open virtual worlds viewers to be 100xs better then anything LL can think of! If LL stills any code from our viewer developers then I better see a law suit against LL! The new CEO of Linden Lab is killing SL slowly and I only go into that grid when I really have too!

  • Nathan Adored

    Some months back, the makers of voicechat tech Vivox, who are the system SL uses for voice chat in world, made their services available to opensim grids in general. My understanding is they did this because they recognized that some other voicechat company could come along in their absence and sew up the market for voicechat on opensim grids instead of them, and they wanted to preempt that. Contrast that now to Havoc, who seem to think that only SL matters. My guess is that they think opensim will be irrelevant forever, and that the future is in SL alone. They will very likely regret that decision in a year or two. Particularly if opensim develop their own, better physics system that is open-source. They COULD, perhaps, launch a Kickstarter program to pay for it, say. I bet they could raise tons of money fast from people who want a GOOD vehicle physics system on opensim that compares to or surpasses the one by Havoc, and is open-source, just to get themselves AWAY from this sort of lunacy.

    • LordNine

      I would find out who made the physics in There, Inc. ‘s world and see if they would make one open-sourced for Opensimulator. Or, the OpenSim devs should join forces with say, the RealXtend devs, and share technologies (Bullet physics, Hypergrid tech, prim building, WebGL viewer tech, and so on) with one another to keep the overall costs of development for each of their platforms to a minimum and not only keep up with LL, but pass it.

    • BigPauly Parnas

      A person from Intel is already fixing the Bugs in The Bulletsim Engine and it has been added to the Opensim GIT code. 🙂

  • Lani Global

    SL loses players every time Linden Lab makes giant TOS changes (such as their infamous viewer-massacre and content-copyright-grab in April 2010) . Their Third Party Viewer TOS is painted them into an ever-smaller corner. Now, this latest decision is evidence of the “bunker-mentality” culture common among executives of sinking companies. More sign of upheaval at Linden Lab… the recent departure of the Linden Lab CFO who oversaw the “age of decline”.

    LL finally gave in a few days ago, and enabled the SecondLife LSL script function “Teleport Agent”. SL’s own scripter community had been requesting that function for 5 years or more. They tout it as a marvelous development. But OpenSim has had this feature for years (osTeleportAgent ).
    Way to go, SL, you really are on the cutting edge, yep.

    • I fully agree here with Lani and with what most others are saying in these comments. LL are retreating into a corner they may well come to regret as SL continues to shrink and closes in on them. I don’t see it harming Opensim in the long term. On the contrary, I think cutting the apron strings to a blind and stubborn aunt can only do good. I hope now Firestorm/Phoenix will get rid of all the SL promotion locked into the viewer splash screen blocking out the many Opensim grids showing their pages. Personally, I like Teapot which is the closest yet to an Opensim flavor viewer by far. The new grid list function is great but now I just want to see viewers like this get rid of all it’s Second Life promo rubbish and fully embrace the free and open Metaverse – we can go a lot further than SL. I’m happy at the news.

      • Lani Global

        /me nods in agreement…
        “The great broadsword wielded by Linden Labs cuts both ways! ”

        The new technical roadblock impedes traffic coming and going. By eliminating dual-use of the viewer, tens of thousands of avid OpenSim virtual world enthusiasts will experience more difficulty logging into Second Life.
        The primary losers in this blood match:
        1. Those of us who keep 2 instances (or more) of the same viewer open in both OpenSim and Second Life.
        2. Those of us who go back and forth a few times per day between OpenSim and Second Life activities.
        Linden Labs may think they are “retaining players” by simply “making it more difficult for SL users to escape to OpenSim”, but the real world result of their action is actually yet another impediment to thousands of vital stalwart dual-world power users and talented creators.

    • Paul Johnson

      The fact that the CFO who was a part of a lot of that herpderp leaving actually shows that not only were they not part of the answer, but they know it and moved on.

    • BigPauly Parnas

      SL is doing and acting Exactly like AOL did when they owned the Market .. and we all know how awesome AOL is today dont we?

    • Mum of two

      I haven’t been around in SL for long at all so I missed the ‘ content-copyright-grab in April 2010’. My googling must be not so great as I couldn’t find anything about it. Could you (or anyone else) explain what happened please?

      If it means what I think it means I would think twice about logging in to SL again.

      • Hannah

        In spring of 2010 LL changed their TOS to restrict exports to items that are 100% created by you, yourself – meaning if you used a texture from an alt, you wouldn’t be able to export the object.

        The intention behind that change was to cut off the tide of full-perm freebies going from SL to opensim.

  • I saw the Twitter posts about this earlier today, but a lot of it was over my head. Thanks for putting this in terms those of us who are a little less technically proficient can understand.

  • What a relief.

    It’s positive that OpenSim and Second Life continue to part ways, not only server-side but client-side. As noted in the article, this will have favorable consequences for OpenSim, and as for Second Life, whatever it was going to be all along, it’s going to continue to be moving forward. That is to say, the expectation that somehow Second Life and OpenSim were all part of one developing integrated metaverse was always a problematic hope.

    This latest development establishes clearer technological boundaries on which to base development decisions. We’ve been kept on the edge of our seats wondering about an OpenSim viewer, and the Phoenix team has come through. Likewise, we’ve been waiting for the shoe to drop at Linden Labs concerning the use of their viewer with OpenSim and the shoe has fallen.

    For some, the crossover capabilities formed a kind of grace period, which is now gone. Yet with these developments one can choose a viable path in OpenSim or in Second Life without undue anxiety that one or the other is going to make the critical technological change that ruins an investment, at least in the short run. This is much better than all the prior speculation and uncertainty.

    I suspect this may all flair up again when the day comes that fully browser-based viewers become available, since they may be able to allow universal access just as Web browsers do now for websites. It seems however that for now we have reached a new and important plateau.

    • bristle

      it time for opensim to be on it open with its own client (viewer). its only a matter of time for LL to not have an open source viewer. you need to have a client-server point of view anyway.
      i would like to have an api design that i can work with. panda3D is all api which works with c++ and python. on snowstorm, its really confusing and some of the things i dont need. so a smaller client that is expandable would be so much better.
      i still believe in the “second life” way, but i dont like what LL has done. instead of partnering with second life an opensim, they are trying to kill opensim like they did with xstreet.

      • Paul Johnson

        The irony is I have a feeling the fact that whether or not TPVs will continue to be able to use Havoc (if they even are right now), and the popularity of TPVs with the established base, is that this is likely to force Linden Research back into a position where they may need to either strongarm Havoc or drop them to keep customers. I honestly can’t see them going back to a closed source model, if only because it would require re-implementation from scratch of a great deal of code they’ve already GPL’d (since that’s a one-way decision).

  • Joe Nickence

    Just another step into a walled garden.

    • Paul Johnson

      Never attribute to malice what can be readily explained by stupidity. I’m not 100% sure that the post-Philip management “gets” how dependent their entire platform is on development by the users. Sadly, a lot of users seem to have the mindset, which hinders their own experience and enables bad decision making at the lab…

  • I think this will give the motivation for opensim people who can code to create a better opensim viewer as they can no longer piggy back. I doubt it will change much in second life. Second life is something I left behind in 2007 I started using opensim one day out of curiousity and kept using it because I found that it actually worked. If there is a will to keep opensim alive and I think the will is quite strong we will have a supporting viewer that will belong to opensim for a change and only opensim. LL doesn’t want to play with us anymore that’s fine they can continue to shrink and the rest of the metaverse can continue to expand (works for me lol)

  • Wayfinder Wishbringer

    Linden Lab… short sighted? Surely not!

  • Tampa Powers

    Looks like little Linden Lab is scared, how cute.

  • Excellent positive analysis on the future impact on TPV development! My first impression was actually negative, and I was shaking my head in disgust.

    Fortunately, the reaction of TPV developers seems to be radically the opposite. Freed at last from having to develop viewers having LL’s limitations in mind, and fully able to embrace all the nifty extra features that OpenSim has, the new OpenSim-only viewers will certainly be much, much easier to use on OpenSim-based grids, and that’s a plus.

    Kudos to the TPV developers willing to support two different branches of the SL Viewer.

    The only nagging feeling I have is that OpenSim might, in little time — say, a year or two — become something so entirely different from Second Life that every hope of moving content between both will be utterly lost. I personally consider this to be its biggest advantage. If not, well, then why stick to a “Second Life clone” anyway? One might rather start completely from scratch…

    No, right now, the biggest appeal of OpenSim is that it is “as close as Second Life as possible”, lacking a few things, and adding a few more, but it’s the “99% compatibility” that is so appealing, IMHO. Fixing LL’s age-old bugs is ok. Going around its limitations is fine. I’m even happy about the way OpenSim’s LSL adds so many new, useful functions (which we have craved for years!) but makes sure they’re kept separate, so that programmers willing to support both technologies know what they can use and what they can’t. So all these minor ‘cosmetic’ changes are more than fine.

    The problem begins when the changes are so radical that OpenSim will start to have little resemblance to Second Life altogether — and just become Yet Another Virtual World. And we know what happens to all of those. There is a danger lurking ahead, and it will be very interesting to see how OpenSim developers will tackle that.

    But it’s also fun to see Linden Lab “fearing” OpenSim more and more.

    • I’m with you on this. OpenSim’s major advantage over Open Wonderland, Open Qwaq, Sirikata, Vast Park and all the other platforms out there — both open source and commercial — is that it’s so close to Second Life. Millions of people know how to use it, and there’s a ton of material for it — not just virtual content, like you mentioned, but all the training materials, wikis, etc… etc…

      So far, however, the OpenSim community seems to be dedicated to keeping things as compatible as possible. In addition to being leverage all the Second Life materials, this also allows backwards compatibility. An object created two years ago, can still be uploaded into OpenSim today. Ditto for OARs, IARs, and so on.

      Hopefully, any new features will be added on top of the existing infrastructure, or, if replacing old stuff, doing it in a more-or-less transparent way.

      There are 200 grids out there running on OpenSim (and that’s just the public ones I’m aware of) — that’s a massive investment in content right there.

      I know there’s technologists out there eager to start fresh with something all new, free from the hangups of the past. But most folks are happy to settle for something that’s good enough, that works now, that they already know, instead of waiting for something perfect that will either never materialize, or will force them to start all over again from square one.

    • Paul Johnson

      Indeed, the big compatibility makes it easy to develop content for Second Life without paying through the nose on uploads to avoid the inconvenience of working on temporary uploads.

  • Mircea Filipescu

    Expected from Linden Lab. Like most companies, they’re not someone to care about the users or who their actions might harm. Thank goodness they at least open-sourced the viewer… otherwise OpenSim would have been dead right now, and SL as a technology and platform would have been lost. They surely don’t have any vision and understanding of open-source otherwise.

    That being said, the entire Havoc license thing is more than certainly an excuse. I’ve never heard of a license that can tell someone what they can or can’t do with their software outside of that component. Licenses cover how and when you can distribute a piece of code, and if it can be used commercially or not. LL saying Havok’s license is restricting them from allowing a client setting for custom login URI’s is like saying “The people from Havok force us to color our menus green due to licensing”. The company that owns Havok probably doesn’t even know what a simulator is, how the SL client works, etc. and cannot give directives to LL as to how they develop and use THEIR own software.

    That’s the most hilarious excuse I ever heard. LL should have at least had the guts to say “OpenSim is ruining our business, we’re cutting support out because it’s best for us” rather than making such stories up. But it’s simply their way of doing everything, and some of us have seen it for years. After their identity theft system, there is nothing I don’t expect from them.

    If there will be any good in this, I hope opensim will at last decide to make it’s own official viewer. Maybe something like SL viewer 3 (from the last version that worked) but optimized for OpenSim. Most custom viewers are diverse, and are bloated with a lot of complex features and menus I don’t use and even understand (re-implementing the pie menu and viewer 1 skins, a dozen new chat windows and radars, etc). Not that they’re bad, but the official viewer is more clean and simple (hence why I was using it for OpenSim as well).

    Overall, I hope it all goes well for OpenSim. And not so well for those Lindens who care only about money, policies and rules they make to feel better about themselves. They ruined SL over the years with their attitude and bigotry (some of them, I met nice Lindens too) and turned it from a great open environment into their own playground where they remove / change / restrict whatever they feel like. Let’s let them have their restricted and poorly-governed project, and take open-source SL into a different direction where it belongs.

  • Derpanese

    Fools. Everything is so much better when users can create freely. I hope the LL grid dies.

  • LL is infested with a relentless case of greed…nothing more…the whole precipice of their fioundation now is make more $…bleed as many as you can…use till they figure it out…

  • Dave Bell

    I’ve been using an OpenSim-legal viewer in Second Life for several weeks, and I don’t have any problem with the missing features. It’s essentially Mesh uploads and some aspects of building for the Pathfinding system. If you don’t build, it doesn’t matter.

    Linden Labs are doing a lot of work on switching from UDP to HTTP, and on using more different support servers. and that all could affect viewer compatibility. The new Server Side Appearance has been delayed a lot, but it will be another barrier against OpenSim, and another obstacle to content theft. They don’t mention the content theft implications.

  • Micheal Saunders

    To put it plainly, Linden Labs are afraid that ‘IF” by the 22nd century and if opensim and Secondlife are still running, LL are going to lose the virtual market to Opensim, because of ‘all’ the strict rules they impose and the rules that they turn a blind eye to if it disrupts their economy,,, one such rule (which is totally disagreed upon by everyone in SL) is that everything anyone creates in SL is now the sole property of Linden Labs and they can do whatever they feel like doing to it, and a ‘blind eye’ rule, is the skill gaming, I asked LL once about this and all they told me was “Look at and review the terms and conditions on skill gaming” which to me is saying “if you misinterpret it, then it’s totally your own fault”, and ‘NOW” they incorporating the Occulus 3D virtual system into their viewer.

    It seems LL want to as far distant to Opensim and to be as proprietary as they cam get.

    I run my own Opensim system on my home server and enjoy hypergrid jumping around other grids just to see what people have done,, LL won’t do that because it’s not financially beneficial to them. They get enough money from setting up private regions, premium memberships, people buying mainland, etc etc,,, so why not just have a region that is hypergrid enabled, where people from other grids as well as SL residents can go, but HG jumped av’s can’t go beyond that region, only residents of SL can go beyond that region, a region where everyone SL residents and HG residents can exchange items for free, being that HG residents won’t have access to SL’s e-commerce, item exchanging would have to be ‘buy for L$0’ or just free to take a copy. or if no rezzing is imposed, then items could be just be ‘dragged and dropped’ on to the av.