Viewer Innovation is Officially Dead
On 24 February Linden Lab announced a new policy for third party viewers. These sections are new:
2.a.iii : You must not provide any feature that circumvents any privacy protection option made available through a Linden Lab viewer or any Second Life service.
2.i : You must not display any information regarding the computer system, software, or network connection of any other Second Life user.
2.j : You must not include any information regarding the computer system, software, or network connection of the user in any messages sent to other viewers, except when explicitly elected by the user of your viewer.
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.
The first section means viewers will no longer be able to show online status of avatars who have elected not to have their status known. This week the Lindens will break the llRequestAgentData scripting command that gets such status, breaking many scripted items. (the command will report only the status of the script creator and current owner).
The second section will break the ability of viewers like Phoenix to indicate the viewers used by other avatars.
The fourth section is the most problematic. Why? Because it changes a policy in operation since 2007 and because the Lindens are being cagey about just what does and doesn't break the new policy.
For sure it will break things like the secondary attachment points of some viewers, which allow avatars to wear two or more objects at the same position. Linden viewers don't do this and show secondary attachments hanging randomly in space near the avatar.
Essentially the last section cripples third party viewers, limiting them to the state of the art of Linden Lab's viewers-- and we all know how super cool the Linden viewers are!
I have to wonder-- back in the days when the Linden viewers 1.x were showing my hair and shoes stuck up my butt after teleport, would they have jacked Nicholaz Beresford, who fixed the problem in his viewer?
Also consider-- Nicholaz gave his fix to the Lindens, and it still took them the better part of a year before they fixed the bug in their viewer.
Back in 2007 the Lab, at CEO Philip Rosedale's urging, made the viewer code freely available for use. Here's the first paragraph of the press release:
San Francisco, CA — January 8, 2007 — Linden Lab®, creator of 3D virtual world Second Life® (www.secondlife.com), is releasing the code of its Viewer application to the open source software development community. Developers can now access the source code to the Second Life end-user software in order to make modifications, enhancements and to add new features. The move marks Linden Lab's continued commitment to building the Second Life Grid as an open, extensible platform for development, rather than a closed proprietary system.Hmm. Did you get that second sentence? Developers can make enhancements and add new features?
Clearly the lab is backtracking on Philip's vision.
Whatever happened to:
"Open sourcing is the most important decision we've made in seven years of Second Life development. While it is clearly a bold step for us to proactively decide to open source our code, it is entirely in keeping with the community-creation approach of Second Life," said Cory Ondrejka, CTO of Linden Lab. "Second Life has the most creative and talented group of users ever assembled and it is time to allow them to contribute to the Viewer's development. We will still continue Viewer development ourselves, but now the community can add its contributions, insights, and experiences as well. We don't know exactly which projects will emerge - but this is part of the vibrancy that makes Second Life so compelling."
Now is the time the Lab was supposed to opensource the server software-- not backtrack on a bold and smart decision it made five years ago!
Linden Lab has shown itself perpetually incapable of incorporating third-party enhancements into its viewer. Are we to suppose this will change? I hardly think so.
I've been using third-party viewers since they first became available-- first Nicholaz', then Emerald, now Phoenix, and I have Firestorm in the wings, awaiting the day when I'll have no choice but to migrate. My experiences in the world have been wonderfully enhanced, from the days when my hair and shoes stayed in place after teleports to Phoenix' built in radar and AO and flexible preferences. I cannot IMAGINE going back to a Linden viewer.
Which leads me to wonder-- since Phoenix changes my viewer experience by getting rid of that horrible fricking bar on the right side of my screen, is it in violation of the new policies?
Linden Lab, you are once again, as usual and as always, showing contempt for the innovation and hard work of the the community, throwing away thousands and thousands of hours of labor done to make Second Life better.
That said, the least you can do is to clearly spell out what does and does not violate the new policies.