OpenSim built by eavesdropping on Second Life

Many people think that the OpenSim platform was reversed engineered from Second Life’s browser — but this is not actually true. It was actually built based on eavesdropping. No, not on company phone calls — on the communications between the Second Life browser and the Second Life servers.

Servers are the machines that run the virtual worlds. Browsers are used by people to visit the virtual worlds.

It seems it all started with “bots.”

Am I human? Or am I robot?In Second Life, the more visitors locations get, the higher they rank in the search results. To make their destinations seem more popular than they actually were, Second Life users created software programs that would pretend to be actual people. In order to build these programs, or “bots,” these inventive folks eavesdropped on the communications between the Second Life browser and the servers that run the world to find out which messages they would have to send to make the bot do things — like go inside a store.

Am I human? Or am I robot?

But the “bots” could do more than that.

Charles Krinke, one of the developers behind OpenSim — the open-source alternative to Second Life servers – recalls when he first learned about the “bots.”

“One day, two years ago, I got my Dr. Dobb’s Journal and I open it up and there’s a big article on Second Life,” said Krinke. “And I go, ‘Holy Toledo!’ this sounds really interesting. And I had an account, and I had an occasion to sell a piece of property — and it sold in 30 seconds.”

Krinke discovered that it was a bot that bought his property, and, as an engineer, this caught his attention.

“I spent a month learning how bots work,” he said.

This led him to the discovery that the people behind the bots had put the instructions for how to interact with Second Life into a library of messages. For example, one such message could be “search classified ads.” This library, later renamed LibOpenMetaverse, was a collection of about 600 different messages that Second Life servers could understand.

By using this messages, you could trick Second Life into thinking you were an actual human navigating the world through its official browser. Instead of, say, a soulless machine.

But this message library opened the door to much more.

With just this library in hand — without knowing anything about how either the browser or the Second Life server platform worked on the inside — a community of volunteer programmers were able to recreate the Second Life platform, a project which became OpenSimulator, now most commonly referred to as OpenSim.

And OpenSim became the foundation on which the next generation of the Internet was built.

Okay, I’m just guessing about this last part. But, from what I can tell so far, OpenSim is far ahead of any other candidate for this slot.

Maria Korolov