SecondLife Goes OpenSource

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Chief Linden, Philip Rosedale said today that Linden Labs is going to make the core codebase for SecondLife available to developers.  Considering that the contents of SecondLife has been developed entirely by user “residents”  and the number of registered avatars has grown exponentially over the past year, the move to open source is a natural progression.  After all, Linden has a limited number of developers and there is much work to be done to meet the needs of its growing population and to make the software more palatable for less powerful computers (like most of us have).

Given the growth of SecondLife, the vision my many in the software development community that a 3D web is the shape of things to come, and the success that other projects like Firefox and Linux have had using the community to build the code; this move is smart and should help keep things moving.  It can also lead to some interesting new capabilities:

“There are lots of handicapped people using ‘Second Life,’ It’s one of the really inspiring things about it,” Rosedale said. “There are a lot of ways of connecting people to their computers, not just mice and keyboards but gaze detection and neuromuscular stuff” that Linden Lab doesn’t have the manpower to address, but he hopes outside programmers will.

Someone also could “hook up an exercise bike and fly around ‘Second Life’ while exercising,” he said, or write a program for accessing the world from a smart phone.

“All that becomes extremely easy to do,” said Rosedale, who will speak tomorrow at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.

The details for the more technical readers out there, according to an AP report are as follows:

The code will be available under the GNU Public License, a widely used agreement among open-source developers that allows them to legally modify and share software. Linden Lab will review and test some add-ons, modifications and bug fixes, and incorporate them into the official version of the viewer, which can be downloaded for free.

Monday’s announcement doesn’t cover all the software behind “Second Life.” The program that controls the underlying infrastructure will remain proprietary, though Rosedale said open-source “is absolutely our direction.”

Fortune has an exclusive interview with Rosedale as well as comments from Electric Sheep, one of the largest in-world construction companies, and IBM who worked with my company, Circuit City, to open a virtual store in SecondLife.  It’s worth the read.

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