Aug 30, 2012

Digital Evolution

An initial Metaverse Blueprint. Beyond #SecondLife


Today’s post adds something of interest to the current discussion concerning the Metaverse; however instead of just going on about whether or not what we already have constitutes a Metaverse, or debating whether or not we’re looking at existing systems today as a possible path to that Metaverse, I’d like to offer a very different approach.







What I’ll be writing today circumvents that particular set of topics and gets right to the root of the matter by addressing what a Metaverse actually will accomplish. Call it a rough draft or a blueprint, these are the things we should be focusing on today if we ever want to realize that dream which is the Metaverse.


Bottom Up


Straight out of the gate, I will say that our approach thus far has been lackluster. This isn’t anyone’s fault in particular, we simply have our priorities askew. I applaud =ICAURUS= for taking some initial steps to go about this, but immediately I’m throwing the flag out onto the playing field for a penalty.


Addressing whether or not the next system has the appropriate rendering engine is a top down approach. We’re talking about the what instead of the how. This is a dangerous misstep and is usually the first mistake these endeavors make when attempting to build the Metaverse. For instance, let’s look at Linden Lab. It was built in the beginning under an assumption that they never really expected it to be as popular as it was, and so that philosophy dictated some decisions up front which came back to haunt them later on in the lifecycle.


Such thinking in the beginning usually leads down the road to situations where we’re talking about patching an outdated system. So let’s think about this from the bottom up instead of trying to build the skyscraper starting from the 100th floor and working our way to the basement.


Root Prim


To begin, let’s ask a very basic question -


What can the Metaverse actually do; or more importantly what is it actually accomplishing?


The simple answer to this is that the Metaverse is a Spatial Representation of Data, wherein the ecosystem supports many modes of interaction from local nodes (single user) to multi-node (many users) within a contiguous space.


The next question becomes -


What data can this system represent?


In order to answer this we need to start with an existing context. We could very well just invent new types of data, but it’s far simpler to begin with existing forms of data and go from there. So as a basis, let’s say that the most important foundation for a forward looking Metaverse client is that it begins as a functional Web Browser.


This becomes our metaphorical ground level in the skyscraper. From here we build upon that foundation to the top of the skybox, but for now we need to employ the KISS method (Keep it Simple, Stupid)


The Metaverse should be able to handle the basic standards that an existing Web Browser today can handle, and do so natively. Remember, we’re building an HTML5 compliant Web Browser first (and a damned good one). I cannot stress that last point enough, because the built in web browser for Second Life is horrible. In this proper context, the web browser becomes half of the integrated experience, and so you can’t afford to screw it up or treat it like an afterthought.


Ok, so why are we doing that instead of just building the 3D Metaverse up front?


It’s safe to assume that the foundation is a Web Browser simply because it is natively a 2D context of the same data that we would like to represent Spatially.


Now we start asking the important questions.


Let’s say we now have our HTML5 complaint web browser. What does it support overall? It can handle FTP, HTTP, HTTPS, image rendering, audio playback, video playback, animated images (GIF/APNG, MNG) and of course this wonderful thing called Add-Ons and Plugins.


As of this moment, an HTML5 compliant web browser can actually excel better at the obvious stuff than the best of our Virtual World clients. Now that we can acknowledge that, I think we’re in a better position to remedy this issue up front.


Modes of Operation


I’ve gone over this in a rudimentary fashion within the confines of the Second Life JIRA, but there is far more context than I let on for why I submitted it as a feature request. VWR-22977 

Built-In Web Browser Uses New Canvas Rendering Layer [Not New Floater Window] is a testament to just how far in advance I was thinking before submitting things. To this day it hasn’t been reviewed, nor did I actually ever expect that it would be. All I really wanted was to make certain it was on public display.


So here’s the bigger picture -


When you’re building a new Metaverse client from scratch, your first view looks something like this:



Viewer 2 New Layout (Web View) VWR-22977



It doesn’t look exactly like that, but it’s the best reference image I’m going to provide at this time. The most important aspect is in how our modes of operation behave, which can be simplified to what changes I’ve made to the top navigation bar -



Viewer 2 New Layout (Web View) VWR-22977.png (PNG Image, 1600 × 860 pixels)_1346327040024



Viewer 2 New Layout (3D View) VWR-22977.png (PNG Image, 1600 × 860 pixels)_1346327167868



The most noticeable thing about the change is two-fold: First, and foremost, the client acts like a native web browser wherein the rendering canvas uses the entire space which is now reserved for the 3D Rendering Canvas. In effect, we’re simply using two rendering canvases wherein only one is in view at any given moment while the other one is paused.


On the far left is a new type of button which does not exist on a web browser today, despite the other buttons being common to both a virtual environment viewer and a web browser (back, forward, stop, home – and I’d like to state now a reload button for area rebake)


So here’s the deal… this simple foundational change in the way things are organized from the get-go is enough to fundamentally change how we perceive the Metaverse and (interestingly) the entire existing Web.


Secondly, what this change implies is far greater than what was explicitly mentioned in the JIRA that I filed, but anyone who is savvy to give this much thought begins to see the implications this would have.


For instance, the default for a web server is index.htm or index.html and that’s how we know we’re at the “home page” location on a system. With a Multi-Mode Metaverse client, we gain something from this operational change through what can be said is index.vrtp or whatever extension you’d like to call it.


It’s your answer for universal Hypergrid teleportation. When a web address becomes capable of serving as a Metaverse teleport (representing a spatial location within the Metaverse) you’ve just opened up a Pandora’s box of opportunity. Instead of remembering a long SLURL, or HyperGrid teleport string, we can embed that as Metadata in a type of XML format on the root of a website along with the index.htm


That Metaverse Index File is seen by the client as a location with further XML data attached (like owner, description information, etc) and we can convey that in the client via a notification. When you visit that website with a standard web browser, you just get the website. But when you visit that same website (Say the Metaverse client sees Index.htm/html for the Web Browser portion of the client (consider this your dynamic brochure for a location), but it also looks for Index.VRTP (Virtual Reality Teleport Protocol).


In this instance, let’s say you’re browsing the Web with your new Metaverse Client. You type in and your HTML5 complaint web browser loads it up just like you would expect. Now, let’s say they had an index.vrtp on the root directory as well as the index.htm?


You’d get an unobtrusive notification saying that the page you are looking at has a location, and you may click to go there in the Metaverse. Or you may turn that notification off entirely and simply use in the 3D Address Bar instead of an SLURL/Hypergrid Teleport. If they have the index.vrtp on that server, you’ll get teleported to the location, and (as a really cool side effect) when you arrive, the location can have a website automatically loaded in the web browser portion as part of the location.


How about just an icon in the address bar that denotes the website has an available location in 3D and by clicking that icon in the address bar you will get the teleport? The same could go for visiting a location that has a website attached to it – an icon appears in the address bar that when clicked opens the homepage as set by the location owner.



Legacy of Advancement


This is just one reason to start with our web browser context first and translate it to the virtual world, but how about other contexts? How does our Metaverse client handle a FTP connection?


This is why we’re basing things first by building a Web Browser, because then we’ll start translating how the web browser handles existing standards and protocols into our spatial environment, all while not drastically changing the initial Web mode of operation. This way, if the new user can use the web browser, they will be right at home with the Metaverse view.


Back to the FTP connection… how does our Metaverse client handle that context?


This is why we’re framing this as multi-node and local-node operation. In an FTP scenario, it would dynamically generate the environment to represent the files (as the objects within the environment) and folders as rooms by which you can walk around in. This also works for parsing local directories (just in case you felt like walking around your Hard Drive).


Now we’re asking the obvious “Why the hell would we want to do this?”


Because I should also be able to attach hyperlinks to objects in the 3D space, and if that hyperlink is an FTP mode, then it is treated like a portal into a local-node space. I’m not breaking the metaphor of interaction and this is the most important part of immersion.


In an FTP or Local-Node context (your hard drive) the owner can set a similar VRTP descriptor XML in the root which defines whether or not it is a singular node (not multi-user; as in, I and many others could see it but not each other) or multi-user (multi-user space). In the context of the web, that’s a hell of a lot of people suddenly traversing dynamic spaces online (potentially 6 billion virtual spaces), and right now we shouldn’t have to worry about everybody running a special server to handle it. See the basic references at the end for the reason why.


This is why the architectural foundations of this are far more important than what rendering engine we’re using. While the rendering engine is important, it pales in comparison to the “how this thing operates” versus the “what it looks like” eye-candy portion.


In the structural portion, we’re looking at a hybrid decentralized system of operation. In the dynamic modes, we’re connecting to each other in a peer to peer fashion. So you wouldn’t necessarily have to be running a special server to have an environment. A standard Web Server right now becomes a potential Metaverse Space just by adding those XML descriptors, or using in-world Hyperlinks to those dynamic spaces.


What about using media from existing servers online within the virtual world? Instead of uploading a file to an asset server, maybe you already have the media on a server of your own? Why not have the ability to state a web address as the file location?


Now we’re talking native context for existing MIME types, which already have the storage part down pat. Speaking of which – wouldn’t it be great to natively open PDF files, Images, Audio, Videos, and more in the Metaverse? Again, the web browser does this without even thinking twice… but the current generation of virtual world viewers simply.. well, they don’t address this very well if at all.


Hopefully you should see why starting with an HTML5 web browser as our foundation makes sense?


How does the Metaverse translate in 3D what a Web Browser handles effortless in 2D?


Using the Web Browser as our Metaverse Checklist.



After we are comfortable handling the translation of existing data into our Metaverse context, we can move on to Metaverse specific contexts which need to be addressed.


For instance, a universal passport/avatar. Translation of Metaverse currencies via Exchange Rates. A Metaverse Location Crawler to work as a Search Engine. A marketplace system that is built into the client – which actually becomes damned easy when it has a native web browser context. Decentralized Asset Storage systems that are secure. Authentication. Building an SDK and licensing it.


The last item on that list is the least obvious. It’s not mandatory but probably a good way to monetize the work required to build such a system. Setting up the spaces requires no license per-se but if you want to build a new product or plugin with/for it then there is a license. Think of it like a Metaverse App Store. Or just monetize a percentage of the apps themselves and make the licensing and SDK free… whatever floats the steampunk airship…


There is a lot to solve here, and the rendering engine is probably the least of our worries. As a matter of fact, if this was properly built – then we could substitute any modern graphics engine on top of our foundation and it would work.


Plugins and Add-Ons


Just like a modern web browser, the Open Metaverse client should support an extensible plugin architecture for add-ons and outright browser plugins. Maybe the Web Browser portion just handles Chrome Extensions natively, but the Metaverse mode has its own add-ons architecture and maybe an SDK for  full blown plugins to extend the viewer capability much further.


This concept of building the base system and then allowing a plugin architecture and add-ons is not new. Web browser already do this as a defacto, and even if we were to look back at Cyberpunk culture, (Shadowrun) we had decks where there were slots to load custom “apps” which extended or improved the custom experience.


I’m going with the fictional Metaverse concept here, and our current generation of actual Web Browser as proof this is the right approach to our future Metaverse system. Modular and Extensible.



Open Metaverse Foundation


Should be the equivalent of the Mozilla Foundation in regard to the Metaverse. Time to shake things up and become cool again.



Basic References


Let’s say you’re an aspiring coder (or team of coders) who are looking to tackle this next step of the Metaverse… below I’ll list some exceedingly helpful pointers for reference. These links should give you a head start for the foundation aspects:


P2P Architecture – Solipsis Decentralized Metaverse. It offers Area of Interest Networking, and a peer to peer method for handling larger amounts of people. When the system starts scaling upward and becoming popular, you’ll be glad this is in your back pocket to load balance against. This is likely the diamond in the rough that would allow the entire pre-existing Internet to be turned into dynamic multi-user spaces – ie: Instant Metaverse. The website is locked down tight and may never return – however I do happen to have a copy of the source code and research paper archived if anyone is interested.


Asset Servers – I could suggest something like Owner Free File system. It’s a multi-use blocks storage paradigm (Brightnet) that would allow the budding Metaverse creator to balance existing caches of users against having to centrally store it all. Saves a lot of redundant bandwidth and processing.


Feel free to make this a community reference for ideas on where the pieces of the overall puzzle lay for aspiring coders. Add your own references to the comments below.


This is only a very rough stream of consciousness post, and shouldn’t be taken as an “entire” proposal. The only thing I wished to convey was the proper starting context and metaphor of interaction so we (as a community) could start off on the right foot.















Aug 27, 2012

Raptor-Jesus was CEO

Because if we’re going to say #SecondLife was never meant to be the Metaverse, we may as well go for broke while we’re at it.


I love revisionist history. It takes a well known fact and reinterprets it in hindsight in order to fit a current situation or belief. Case in point, the assertion that Second Life was never really meant to be a/the Metaverse but from the beginning it always was a games development platform.


Clearly there is evidence of Linden Lab treating it like a game platform from the beginning, but there is a much deeper context being intentionally overlooked here, and that alone is quite disturbing.



Let’s say for the sake of argument that Second Life really was meant to be just a game development platform, and the early evidence of that facet exists along with Cory being a game development veteran. Well, if this were the case, then Cory would also know that if he was developing a game development platform he was building an SDK to an engine in order to license the technology for third parties to utilize.


That is essentially how every other company which looked to offer a game development platform went about it. Unreal Engine, Unity, Crytek, you name it. Instead, Linden Lab built the foundation of an open ended sandbox virtual environment, and gaming happened to be one of many facets that such an environment could be utilized for – though it is pretty obvious that gaming wasn’t the main focus of building Second Life.


Either they were building an amazing foundation for the Metaverse or they’ve spent 9 years making a lackluster games development platform when compared to every other games development platform available.


You’ll have to excuse me for remaining positive about this and choosing to believe that they were making an amazing Metaverse platform and not a lackluster game development platform.




“I’m not building a game. I’m building a new country.”


When the CEO of a company flatly states they aren’t building a game but something vastly different – a new country, it takes quite a lot of creative license to state otherwise. While I won’t go so far as to say that Linden Lab never once stated they were just building a gaming platform to develop on, what I will state is that there is a much deeper context in that scenario. It’s not a black or white situation as some like to suppose.


It’s a little too easy to look back and say “Of course it’s not the Metaverse. It was never meant to be!”. In some sort of revisionism I guess this makes sense, because nobody wants to look like a fool for believing that the plan overall included being a Metaverse and not just a games development platform all along. When the current situation no longer fits, we try to save grace and pivot like it was all just some sort of misunderstanding…



Silly residents, where did you ever get the notion

that Second Life wasn’t a games development platform?


I dunno… maybe we got it from the CEO of Linden Lab? Maybe we got the impression through initial open source efforts which looked to expand into something bigger? Maybe we got that inkling from interoperability discussions that Linden Lab was a part of? maybe we got that inclination through the countless decidedly non-games applications that Second Life was really good for. Hell… maybe we got that notion from the idea that the simple matter of building a Metaverse as your path to a Game Development Platform seems like the longest possible route in much the same way as building a whole country to landscape your front yard seems a bit out of the way.



Something more plausible…


The reason that Linden Lab would state it’s a gaming development platform is much simpler than we might suppose. Essentially it boils down to the fact that your average investor has absolutely no idea what a Metaverse is, they haven’t read Snow Crash (and many of you haven’t either) but they immediately understand the analogy of a video game and the platform by which one can develop said games. One gets you a ton of money, and the other rots in obscurity because you may as well be speaking a dead language.


It’s a very loose analogy, but it still isn’t quite lying in a board room to state that they are investing money into a next generation video game toolkit. So whatever we saw afterward was essentially just keeping up appearances to appease investors who didn’t really grasp the nature of what they were really building. Whenever those investors would inquire further, you just show them all the game aspects of the system that their money helped facilitate.


I remember in the late 1990s talking to corporate entities about this coming virtual environment and Metaverse thing, and I garnered the same blank stares as likely Philip did under the same premise. So how did I, personally, make the analogy to those corporate big wigs who could invest and fund that future? I did what Linden Lab likely did and simply explained it as a game development platform, because they could grasp gaming but not the Metaverse.


So that means they said one thing on the corporate side and were building something very different in practice. I suspect this is apparent by the later reactions in Linden Lab when it became pretty friggin obvious they weren’t trying to build a game platform but looking to sneak into being the Metaverse. That’s not what those investors were told their money was being invested for, and so there came a hissy fit of corporate proportions. You may remember a huge portion of Lindens suddenly not being employed by Linden Lab, right? We may as well state that this was akin to Nikola Tesla convincing J.P. Morgan to fund his wireless telegraph system when in reality the point was to build a wireless electricity system that would be free for all.


When J.P. Morgan found out – he had it shut down.





J.P. Morgan was not amused with Tesla and his “free electricity”


We can look at it as the time when Philip Rosedale was replaced (or stepped down) and Mark Kingdon was put in charge. Starts to make a hell of a lot more sense when we use critical thinking. Mark didn’t seem to really grasp the system itself (Second Life as a product) and ended up focusing on the enterprise solutions. Maybe the future then was still a games development platform, even though they decidedly weren’t focusing on that. There was even a time when Linden Lab was focused on interoperability and standards – however short lived that multi-venue discussion was.


In comes Philip again as the interim CEO while Mark made a lateral demotion. But while the board of directors pondered on how to get their return on investment, the same question likely came up, and they got the same answer -


So when were you going to build that games development platform you promised?


And Philip likely replied the same thing he already had –


“I’m not building a game, I’m building a new country.”





This was pretty much the look on their face


The board of directors then replied –


This again? Seriously? *sighs* Fine. If you aren’t going to build the games development platform you promised us, then we’ll find somebody who will.


Ergo, Philip left again – and who took his place this time? Rodvik Humble, an executive from Electronic Arts who oversaw The Sims franchise and with extensive video game background. Who else was appointed in this time? Kim who had experience with Activision/Blizzard. Who else? Will Wright (SPORE) on the board of directors.


Like all good rumors, there is a tiny bit of truth within it in order to remain plausible. What was touted to the investors in private was likely a games development platform, but what they actually were building before they got shut down was the foundation for The Metaverse.


Now that they have somebody in charge that is more than willing to follow the original statement of “games development platform as subscription service” – Rodvik Humble, et al. we are simply resuming the original statement and repurposing the foundational Metaverse platform as a walled garden and focusing on the gaming elements once again in order to appeal to… gamers.


Was it always supposed to be a gaming development platform? Not at all. It was really close to being the foundation for the entire Metaverse, and they had to make some shit up about it being a game development platform to keep the money coming in from investors.


What we have here is a clear case of that little white lie in the beginning, coming full circle and becoming the truth instead of remaining the lie. What you see today and over the past few years has been that wrestling of a Metaverse Platform (square peg) into the round hole that is the original assertion of game development platform.


Essentially – this is the biggest shame of all, because a "games development platform” is a polite way of saying “Neutered Potential”.


What could have evolved into a spectacular Metaverse instead must now settle for lackluster, underpowered game development platform. At least if you want to make a fair comparison to actual game development platforms available. In this context, Linden Lab likely goofed because where they could have excelled amazingly in the Metaverse domain and dominated the market, they instead chose to go back to the games development platform – by which it doesn’t compare well to actual game development platforms out there.


Now, the reason that I personally say that Second Life wasn’t going to be the Metaverse are different. Not because they never intended to be… no, it’s because I know all too well corporate politics usually forbids the evolution of a Metaverse. Those investors and board of directors always act predictably in the long run.


In the meantime though, it’s still the best for what it is. Even if it’s a zebra attempting to run in the Kentucky Derby. That’s why I choose to stick around in Second Life – because who won’t admit that watching a zebra among thoroughbreds isn’t amusing?





Aug 26, 2012

Snow Crashing

What is this Metaverse thing anyway? #SecondLife


Over the past few days I was handed the link to a recent post by Fleep concerning the pros and cons of making a Metaverse. I’m not entirely certain that’s a good way to put it, but I suppose it was more along the lines of:


Second Life is great, but a Metaverse it is not nor ever will be.


After reading her post, I have to admit she makes a compelling case. I really don’t see much in that post which I can debate, and while we would like to hold the flag up and plant it squarely on the “Second Life is the Metaverse” side of the fence, it would be much wiser to take a hard look at what we do actually have today before we start holding our breath.




Snow Crash





I’m just as much (if not more) of an advocate for a Metaverse as anyone. However, we have to keep in mind what an actual Metaverse will be once we get one before we start labeling what there is today inappropriately. That’s not to say that Second Life isn’t a compelling service as it is, far be it. I think it’s great – but I never did recall stating it was “The Metaverse” nor even “A Metaverse”. Quite the opposite really.


The Metaverse, for all intents and purposes, is a decentralized collective of virtual environments operating under the premise of interoperability. There isn’t a single owner of the Metaverse, and to wit, there isn’t a single space. There may exist many gateways into the Metaverse, operated by larger companies or groups, but they are all popular hubs into the greater collective. In the context of the famous cyberpunk book Snow Crash, the popular hub was a world called The Street. Keep this in mind as you continue reading, because this is highly relevant.


In the grand scheme of things, there is likely many spaces in that decentralized collective and many of them may in fact have their own currency. Now, when I speak about “many spaces”, I’m not dictating the idea of sims like we see with OpenSim or OSGrid, or even with the commercial aspect that is Second Life. That is just a single mode of operation, and a method of entertaining that notion. What we have today operates more like a loose collective of Burbclaves as described in Snow Crash – a wholly independent and operated corporate nation with its own declaration of sovereignty. In so much as this analogy holds up, each of the Burbclaves also had their own currency (Kongbucks from Mr. Lee’s Greater Hong Kong, for example), and so too do these little Burbclaves we call “virtual worlds” such as the many grids encompassing say… InWorldz, Avination, SpotOn3D, Second Life, and whatever others are out there.


So a Metaverse wouldn’t necessarily consist of a collective of HyperGrid enabled sims, though through interoperability they could be included in the greater premise.


There is an analogy that I consistently use when describing what the present landscape looks like and what the future Metaverse would be like, and I have yet to sway from it. Essentially it goes like this:






Imagine you are back in the year 1990-ish. A short while ago there were (and probably still are) many Bulletin Board Systems (BBS), but today there are some larger players on the block offering a more compelling user environment. These companies are AOL, Compuserve, and Prodigy. Now, this is before the World Wide Web really took off, so these companies enjoyed a majority audience and what can be seen as a collective monopoly over the pre-web days. For those in the know, AOL, Compuserve and Prodigy may as well have been using a customized version of WildCat BBS software (which was a GUI BBS system).





You’ve got mail! *shudders*




Over the next few years, more and more people started to be introduced to this whole “World Wide Web” standard for hyperlinking and HTML pages online, and over time people began to see these “Web Browsers” as more useful than the proprietary software and protocols from AOL, Prodigy and Compuserve. Even local news started asking “What is this Internet thing?”


Of course, the early web browsers sucked royally compared to the proprietary services, so nobody really paid much attention to them. But after each release, those web browsers all began to standardize and get their acts together... except Internet Explorer which to this day apparently hates you. Some of them were open source, while the big players were run by major companies – Microsoft (Internet Explorer) and Netscape (Navigator) being the big two. For those old enough to remember, those were the times when the great browser wars happened between Microsoft and Netscape – both looking for dominance in this new Web playing field. Interestingly, Netscape was a company that believed the browser itself was the key to monetization and offered a “premium” version of the software.


In those still early days, the likes of AOL, Prodigy and Compuserve all believed that this “World Wide Web” thing was a fad and they had no reason to enter into that space while it was young. After all, they enjoyed a commanding audience and were making money hand over fist on subscriptions. So much so that AOL briefly bought Time Warner (which in itself is huge).


But something happened during this time that those companies didn’t apparently expect. The World Wide Web actually did take off and gain traction. Each successive iteration of those web browsers got better (except Internet Explorer), and the content on the Web continued to expand. Everyday people could just make their own homepages for just about anything they wanted – and of course we all remember the horror that was Geocities (though at the time you have to admit it was the thing to do).


With open standards, the web (which only a short time ago was scoffed at) was now greatly accumulating content at a pace that AOL, Prodigy and Compuserve couldn’t keep up with. There wasn’t enough people working for them to aggregate those “keywords” and “rooms”. Offering a proprietary web browser with their own walled gardens didn’t help either, because all it seemed to do was highlight the realization that their subscribers were paying through the nose for content that was essentially free or simply available everywhere else. Local ISPs sprung up and began offering a compelling alternative to paying AOL, Compuserve and Prodigy – because honestly, what was the point of paying for AOL, Prodigy and Compuserve if all of the content they offered was already available on the Web?


This was also during the time when using AOL, Prodigy and Compuserve all were billed by the minute. Purchasing a subscription only bought you X amount of minutes per month and after that you were hit with a surcharge. Not only that, but you were also likely dialing in via a long distance number – so you can imagine how much that added up. Hell, this was still during the days when local calling cost you money by the minute. Clearly it was cheaper to pay a flat rate to a local ISP and dial a local number to access the world wide web.




Fast Forward


The year is 2012, though we could go back as far as the mid to late 1990s (ActiveWorlds, Worlds Player, etc). The mentality remains, and this is what has me scratching my head the most. Despite history saying we should act otherwise, and that the walled garden mentality is a fate worse than Internet obscurity, we still see this happening today.


Linden Lab we can say is the modern America Online. There is this nascent Open Simulator thing which hasn’t quite found traction on the wide scale yet, and Second Life as a flagship product of Linden Lab sees no reason to facilitate it early on. It currently commands a majority (for what it’s worth) of subscriptions and feels quite confident that remaining a walled garden is the right path. Just like AOL, Linden Lab portrays the position that subscriptions are the real money maker and not monetizing the content itself or facilitating an open expansion into the Metaverse with itself as the first major hub of entry.


What we have today is, as Fleep points out eloquently, decidedly not the Metaverse nor even the underlying foundation of the Metaverse as of yet. We couldn’t say that Second Life could or will be the Metaverse (even in our best case scenario) any more than anyone would state America Online was going to be the World Wide Web. At least not with a straight face.


It is no more in the best interest of Linden Lab to facilitate the Metaverse any more than it was seen as in the best interest of AOL to jump onto the World Wide Web bandwagon early and dominate it. The concept simply doesn’t jive for some reason.


So what we have are walled gardens, just like in the early days. Second Life, however large, is still a walled garden and has absolutely no intention of facilitating the Metaverse any more than AOL was going to facilitate the Web. Open Simulator, and flavors thereof are the nascent beginnings of what can be the Metaverse – but not as it stands today.



Nobody is getting free pizza, not if

Uncle Enzo has anything to say about it.










“…white middle-class Type A Burbclave occupants who against all logic had decided that this was the place to take their personal Custerian stand against all that was stale and deadening in their lives: they were going to lie, or delude themselves, about the time of their phone call and get themselves a free pizza; no, they deserved a free pizza along with their life, liberty, and pursuit of whatever, it was fucking inalienable.”

— Neal Stephenson, Snow Crash




When Linden Lab closed off those doors to the Open Source side of things, a lot of people were angry about it. I suppose you have a right to be angry, because your free ride is essentially over. You can no longer depend on Second Life to sustain you, and you are now in a position where you need to start evolving as your own entity. This is something I’ve said a couple of times, and quite recently on the podcast where a number of bleeps can be heard.


So I’ll write it out here for those who missed it:


Cut the apron strings already. Second Life isn’t your bread and butter. The entire purpose of Open Simulator was to cut those strings and do something better without constantly having to ask permission from Linden Lab. Now you have the chance, and after a few years of sitting on the fence about it, you are no longer given a choice. You can either rally together and build a true Metaverse, or you can let the open source end of things stall and rot in obscurity.


Of course you can maintain two viewers. One for Second Life and one for Open Simulator. You can play nice with Linden Lab because they’re popular at the moment. You are well within your right to be an unrepentant suck up for all it matters.


Or you can build a decentralized powerhouse, that is as easy to operate and set up into the whole as setting up a website. You can build a collective marketplace and currency exchange (with an interface and operation like SL Marketplace – because they’re using Open Source for their Marketplace). You can make a viewer that blows the SL viewer out of the water, and is as intuitive to use as a modern web browser. You, as a community, can evolve the Hypergrid system to include a virtual DNS lookup so existing web addresses are as good as HyperGrid teleports. You can make connecting to regions as simple as an IP Address connected to that Virtual DNS Lookup.


You, as a community, are perfectly within your ability and right to get out there and build the Metaverse. To truly and unanimously come together and bring your dreams alive.


Don’t wait for SpotOn3D, InWorldz, etc to do it for you. If you’re waiting to see if Linden Lab changes their mind, you’ll pass out from asphyxiation holding your breath long before they decide to do a 180.




Innovation and Pizza are

the answer to Coffee and Power


The true lesson here is not reminiscing about the good ol’ days of Second Life when Philip Rosedale wasn’t building a game, but instead building a country. It’s not about whether he’s ever coming back, or whether or not Rodvik knows what the hell he’s doing (which he does, but not in a context you’ll like).


This is about continuing the dream that was started in Second Life (even years before that), and evolving it into what it was supposed to be. It’s not what Philip or Corey was going to do, but in the end it was about what you were going to do once they gave you the ball to run with.


That’s more likely the reason that Second Life is past tense with Philip. He was building a country, and the board of directors decided they wanted a game instead. That’s why Rodvik is in charge and Philip refers to Second Life as past tense, but if you notice – his current project (Coffee and Power) is one of those platforms which facilitates community projects and getting work done. Take it as a hint… he still believes the community can come together and run with the ball. You don’t answer to a board of directors, and you as a community don’t answer to the management of Facebook.


You answer to yourselves, and you’re the greatest f*king sword fighters in the world.




Hiro - Sword Fighter




I don’t know if you really grasp just how powerful of a notion that really is. You’ve already fulfilled the motto “Your world, Your imagination” in building an entire virtual world and populating it with an endless sea of content. From that sea of content and creativity you’ve propped up and stabilized a virtual world economy. Second Life exists on the whole only because you were there to see it existed. Except to say it’s not your world, only your imagination such far. Right now it’s Linden Lab’s world and your imagination fuels it. Which is a shame.


Maybe it’s time to start making it your world and your imagination together? To be the greatest virtual sword fighters in the world? You are The Deliverator.


Code Ninjas and Pixel Dreamers together in a shared hallucination.


I’m not advocating an exodus from Second Life, no more than Fleep was. What I’m getting at is that Second Life is a walled garden, and as a service it’s excellent. However, if your goal had anything to do with the wider concept of the Metaverse, devote some time to making that happen. Linden Lab was in a position to be the equivalent of The Street, and be the reserve currency of the entire Metaverse – we’re talking a multi-billion dollar empire. Instead they chose to be Mr. Lee’s Greater Hong Kong.


It’s their loss – but only if you are smart enough and motivated enough to make it your gain.


Chill out at The Black Sun in Second Life and enjoy it, and in your spare time build the real Metaverse with your peers. Because as hard as this seems to grasp – walled gardens come and go, and Second Life is no exception. It’s the standards and interoperable digital constructs that stand the test of time.


That’s why the Web killed AOL. Remember that.




Aug 16, 2012

One Step Beyond

There’s always more to my projects in #SecondLife


I’ve been taking a bit of a break from writing lately due to some external projects and implications thereof, but if you’ve been following my twitter feed @DarianKnight then you know I’ve been talking a lot about the creation of the mesh arcade machines in Second Life with Robbie Heath. For some, I know the seeming barrage of pictures comes across as a one-note tweet and beating a dead horse – “Look how real they look!”, but there is far more going on with the purpose of this project than I actually let on.


There is, of course, the aspect of how detailed one can get with in-world mesh and more appropriately how accurate a virtual representation of a real world object can be. That’s a given, though there is still more to this which I’ll explain.








For starters, I’m exploring the differentiation of texture quality versus subtle realism that such textures would imply. Just because you can have an ultra-high resolution independent vector graphic as your basis doesn’t mean that the crispness and detail translates into a warm and believable texture in-world. Sometimes the HD quality works against you and offers too much crispness and detail, or as I often say –


Imperfection is actually a cue for implied perfection, where overt perfection is a cue for fakeness.


Therein is the first part of this puzzle – implications of attaining an organic feel to your builds versus something too perfect, which in itself destroys your attempt at believability in a virtual sense. The subtle imperfections add the organic feel, and thus raises the believability factor far more than the high definition textures with crispness would – and to wit the ultra high detailed and crisp textures often times sabotages your efforts toward atmosphere believability.


The rest of this project is information that I hadn’t really talked about much, but it’s just as important overall. The reason I chose arcade machines as the subject of this project was multi-fold:


  1. Recognizable brands
  2. Defining the state of prosumer interaction with companies
  3. Learning a bit of history as well as the climate of existing communities
  4. Define a working solution that addresses the context of prosumer overall




Recognizable Brands



It’s nearly a universal understanding that the arcade machines are immediately recognizable. You probably have fond memories of your childhood in an arcade, the many hours pumping quarters into that digital hypnotist which compelled you to continue. While all of this is very important, it is not just the machines themselves that are important but also (and maybe more importantly) the memories and atmosphere they invoke.


There’s a certain feel you get from the arcade, and the arcade machines themselves definitely contributed to that. There’s far more, however – the actual building, the darkened rooms filled with lines of lit marquees, the smell and conglomerating sounds that came together in ambience, which despite the “noise” you somehow managed to focus just on the game you were playing like a laser.



Then there is the external factors that are attached to this project – so let’s get into the second bullet point:




Defining the state of prosumer

interaction with companies


Definitely of interest to me is the relationship that the social media prosumer (producer + consumer of content) has with companies today. After all, social media is quite the driving force in our online world but companies with recognizable brands are still thinking in 20th Century logic. There’s the controlling factor of push media involved, wherein the companies create and control the message, method and form that their brands take in the public. This could manifest as television, print, and radio advertising but also these methodologies are used in the social media aspect with mixed results at best.


So I’m looking at this aspect in terms of 21st Century Prosumer culture, and whether or not companies are actually within their right corporate minds to actually engage intelligently with this paradigm.


For this point, I came across some really interesting situations that had arisen within existing communities concerning the companies who own the brands. Allow me to explain -


In the case of Ms. Pacman, which is a world recognizable icon owned by NAMCO, there are the original arcade machines and a large community of collectors which meticulously restore and refurbish original cabinets with artwork and hardware in order to get the machines back to not only working order but near pristine condition as if they came off the factory floor in 1981.


These arcade cabinets are worth quite a lot of money fully restored, with estimates ranging from $1,500 all the way up to $6,000 in some cases. Restoration of these original arcade machines is a serious endeavor, and not taken lightly by serious collectors.


In order to restore a Ms. Pacman arcade cabinet to factory glory, you need the replacement hardware (if the existing hardware is faulty) and you also need the vinyl decals and artwork. For this you go to an authorized reproduction printer that specializes in arcade graphics for cabinets – in which you are looking for your basic sets:


CPO – Control Panel Overlay

Side Art – Cabinet Side Artwork

Marquee – The plexiglass title on the top front with the light behind it

Bezel – The artwork around the screen as an insert

Kick plate – Usually under or surrounding the coin doors


Now, it’s not as simple as just going to a printer and saying “I would like the Ms. Pacman CPO” because within that domain itself there are reproduction artworks which are not the same as the originals but sometimes are preferable to the collector in a personal sense, and then there is the idea of NOS reproduction which are “New Old Stock” or reproductions of the original artworks for actual collectors trying to restore the cabinets accurately to retain the value or increase the value on resale.


And this is where it gets interesting in terms of Ms. Pacman (and likely many others). When a company is authorized and licensed to be the official reproduction artwork outlet for these machines, that company is then charged with the retracing and reproduction of the original artwork in high quality.


In the case of Ms. Pacman the company who has the license and rights to reproduce the NOS artwork is a company named TwoBits. The problem is that the actual collector community realized that TwoBits, the only company authorized to officially make NOS reproductions of the original artwork, clearly and unrepentantly did a horrible job. Such a bastardization of the original graphics ensued (not to mention the bad quality of the stickers instead of using vinyl) that actually using the official NOS artwork will devalue a restored cabinet.






Apparently NAMCO enjoys forcing a pile of crap down people’s throats



At this point, I’m still talking about arcade machines and detail, and I know some of you are tapping your fingers impatiently wondering when I’m going to stop beating the dead horse. Well, for those of you tapping your fingers and getting impatient, I suggest you instead sit on your hands and keep your mouth shut while I continue. The blatantly obvious seems to have escaped you for why I’d even bother with this project to begin with.


Herein is the important part of this story, and the real relevance to our second bullet point:


The community, upon realizing the horrible botch job that TwoBits was doing with their beloved NAMCO icon, refused to purchase the only official NOS artwork available for their own cabinets because (obviously) they didn’t want to devalue their hefty investment, or effectively destroy something they’ve put so much work into restoring.


But that didn’t stop them from continuing to restore their cabinets to factory appeal, which means they must have had another option than TwoBits.


This is where the relevance to the prosumer community comes into play, and why I chose arcade machines as the subject of this project. What happened next succinctly defines the prosumer relationship with companies in the 21st century versus the 20th century push mentality that companies exhibit. In short – one of the answers I was after in doing this project.


And here you thought it was all about how cool they looked in-world…


The community of prosumers – producers and consumers of media, are no longer in a position where they are forced into a single channel of consuming whatever media is prepared for them without any other options. That’s the old way of thinking, and companies today still (strangely) believe they have this control in the digital age. Since this is the new paradigm, and our prosumer community is no longer bound to accept media as defined solely by the companies within the channels the companies define nor the circumstances, they did what anyone in a social media industry would expect them to have done.


Somebody with the artistic know-how and printing background went out and purchased a high quality original Ms. Pacman machine with as few defects as possible in the original artwork. In short, as near to pristine condition as they could get. This alone set them back quite a lot of money, but it was seen as a beneficial investment for the entire community and world. Therein is one aspect of the prosumer mentality that companies don’t seem to readily grasp – altruism.


They then scanned the entire machine into a computer at high resolution photography, and then meticulously retraced the entire machine – including printing layer separation, into vector format. The results were a near perfect NOS reproduction set.


So what did the community do with this holy grail of arcade artwork that they now possessed?


They attempted to give it away for free to TwoBits, so that TwoBits could sell it back to the community who would then be willing to purchase it. This saving TwoBits and NAMCO further shame in authorizing and producing a bastardization of artwork.


Let’s recap for a moment:


An active and detail obsessed community bent on authenticity was given only the option of decidedly non-authentic media for which to consume and use. Being a prosumer community, they rejected the sub-par offering and set their expertise on recreating accurate artwork instead for both the benefit of the community and the company authorized to reproduce that artwork, as well as do right by a brand name they supported (NAMCO), and they offered that work at absolutely no charge or stipulation.


If anything, TwoBits was now in a very lucrative position.


Any company with a shred of common sense would see this. The community which they were targeting with their products has essentially boycotted their product because of the horrendous job they have done, but is now offering them a highly accurate NOS artwork set that they (a detail obsessed group) have meticulously produced. They are offering it to that company for free and without stipulation, because they want to do right by them, NAMCO and their own community in staying on the right side of the law and supporting both that company and NAMCO.


They stand to make a lot of money and regain their reputation in the process, as well as the universal good will of the very customers which they have wronged. This, for all intents and purposes, is a situation that is entirely in their favor on all accounts.


What did TwoBits say?


They flatly refused, opting to keep their own product offering instead.


So this community of prosumers, still wanting to do right by NAMCO, did the only thing they could at that point. They went to NAMCO and attempted to apply for licensing of the NOS Artwork so that they could legally reproduce it for the community and still do right by NAMCO in the process. Again, there were no stipulations involved in this, other than that they explicitly stated that they weren’t interested in a profit margin and wished only to charge the cost of reproduction, printing and shipping. If there was a licensing fee involved from NAMCO, they would gladly add that to the costs to pay their dues but did not want to make any profit themselves.


After many unsuccessful attempts to get the time of day out of NAMCO, and what I believe was close to a year of waiting, NAMCO finally responded not with a well thought out reply or addressing the devotion and altruism to their iconic IP from die-hard fans, but by stating flatly that only TwoBits had the license and rights to reproduce their artwork.


Open and shut case.


Well, not quite. There is one option left, and this is the option that so many prosumers just skip to from the beginning. Faced with a brick wall from NAMCO and TwoBits, the community still had the holy grail of reproduction artwork on their hands. They sure as hell weren’t going to buy TwoBits reproduction artwork because it would devalue their hefty investments in restoration.


What was left, is what sadly is a normal occurrence in the prosumer culture – they as a community simply gave each other the accurate artworks freely to be sent off to a third party printer. No costs, no production fees. They just gave the vector templates away freely to each other. This in and of itself is IP violation, but that’s the situation that so often rears its head in the 21st century paradigm. These IP violations happen (quite often) not because prosumers haven’t tried to do things the correct way, and follow the appropriate channels – but because companies that own these IP and brands act without common sense, even when the situation is handed to them on not just a silver platter but a platinum platter.


Now that we’ve covered bullet points 2 and 3, we’ve defined the deeper purpose for producing arcade machines in Second Life. That being said, detail is actually a large part – so we’re coming full circle for a very important reason.



Biff to the Future

Make like a tree, and get outta’ here


A few years back, I originally followed a similar path with the Series I arcade cabinets in Second Life. It was an exercise to demonstrate the reluctance and outright ignorance of companies when dealing with prosumer culture. Like the community and the Ms. Pacman scenario, I jumped through countless hoops to get the time of day out of NAMCO and other companies, only to be met with silence or the equivalent answer of:


We’re not in a position to either authorize nor ignore this request. We reserve the right to request removal of your offering at our convenience, but in the meantime we’re not outright telling you no.


Essentially it was the greatest non-answer they could construct. This in itself was intriguing to me because it implies that these companies have no protocol to handle or engage with prosumer communities for their own benefit. You’re either a producer or a consumer to them. Producers create stuff for money and make a profit, they pay you licensing fees and are professionals. You can measure the units of sales, the demographics, etc easily and construct appropriate licensing fees. Consumers are just the people those producers are supposed to be selling to, and companies usually have a strict “No Solicitation” policy in place barring consumers from playing the part of the producer.



Kangaroo Court


You have permission only if we can revoke that permission and claim we never gave you permission.

Also, we reserve the right to hold you responsible for what other people are doing unrelated to you.



The problem is, this situation worked well in the 20th century when consumers were largely not enabled to produce high-quality media on their own so quickly and cheaply. But in the 21st century, it’s a whole other ballgame – and the consumers are now the high-quality producers of content as well, with the ultimate realization that in many cases your customers can actually do a better job than you as a company.


The really interesting thing is that those same customers aren’t looking to compete with you, but are so devoted to your brand and company that they only look for a symbiotic relationship whereby they can offer their devotion freely and for the benefit of all. It’s that altruism and devotion that companies seem to have a problem comprehending.


So the prosumers largely end up on their own little black-market mentality. They’d love to openly show their devotion and support for their favorite brands, but the brands and companies are forbidding it. Regardless, that isn’t stopping the prosumers from going ahead anyway and producing content and showing their support for their favorite brands. For a different context, one need only search for popular music on Youtube.



Devil in the Details


And now we’ve come full circle to why the detail of the mesh arcade machines in Second Life is important.


After learning the current prosumer situation, the attitude of the companies involved, and (yes) even putting in those requests personally myself though I know it’s just a good faith gesture, I’ve come to an expected impasse.









This time around, the arcade machines aren’t for sale. You won’t find them on Marketplace. That much I’ve clearly decided. They do, however, stand to represent a highly-detailed representation of the prosumer concept in action, which is why I talk about how detailed and accurate they are. If there is really any chance of convincing a company like NAMCO (or any company for that matter) that such a thing is in their benefit, it helps to start with an accurate and detailed reproduction in order to show that the quality assurance aspect is not a problem.


That’s one less thing for them to worry about, assuming they bother giving it the time of day at all. The solution for this prosumer atmosphere is still the very thing I’ve been saying since 1998, in that it needs to be addressed on a case by case basis and taken into context of the situation at hand in order that these companies can reap massive benefits in the process in the form of self-propelled social marketing initiatives.


It’s a whole new ballgame for them, and I know change is fought hard.


That being said, the original hypothesis stands – ignoring prosumers doesn’t make the content go away. Better to have the high quality content be official from them than to allow countless low-quality knockoffs that make you look bad. Celebrate the dedicated community making you look good instead of ignoring them and punishing them.


The problem is… those low quality knock-offs are turning out to be the officially licensed products themselves while the unauthorized stuff is putting it to shame.


So here’s the solution (our 4th Bullet Point):




Virtual Intellectual Property and Electronic Revenue [VIPER] Licensing


To an extent, this already exists in a primordial fashion. You see it on Youtube when you search for music and the Artist shows up with an iTunes or Amazon purchase link, but I’m talking about the virtual world context here and further integration in social prosumer context. The thing about the situation is, until recently I hadn’t bothered trying to sort out exactly how to address this gap in a way that would be beneficial for all, and even though I’ve hinted at ideas for this (X-Factor, etc) it has only been recently that I’ve been tasked with sorting that out in detail for an entirely different project outside of Second Life.


What transpires below is just a basic overview of what I’ve been working out in detail. It should give a better idea of what I’ve been up to and how all of this relates. The description here isn’t complete, so implementing it “AS-IS” would probably be volatile at best without those missing pieces which I am keeping to myself.


Essentially it works like thus -


  1. Consumers are also producers of content. In a social media age, this is a no-brainer to admit.
  2. Prosumers are passionate about your products or brands. Again, no-brainer.
  3. They are often quite brilliant and creative. Still not a far stretch and quite obvious
  4. You no longer control the message or direction of the message
  5. Prosumers will still create content whether you like it or not
  6. You do control the brand and image
  7. It’s better that you enable an outlet for that creativity and call it marketing
  8. Automate the channel for prosumers to register projects/products
  9. Set an automatic licensing percentage on digital content sales
  10. Ask only that the company retains the sole right to do quality assurance before and during availability, which the company may invoke at any point before or during the digital offering


We’ll call this the ten commandments of VIPER Licensing. The point is to establish a prosumer friendly situation which takes into account both the prosumers and the community which is capable and already producing content with your brand (overtly or covertly), and giving the option to simply register that creative project/product as a prosumer and agree to a preset licensing fee tier based on the price of the digital asset, context, and volume of sales.


VIPER Licensing does not ask the prosumer to predict demographics, or any of the statistics up front like you would normally ask with a Producer. They aren’t treated like consumers (ignored) and they aren’t treated like production companies (massive licensing fees, etc). Instead, VIPER licensing does what the name implies:


It is a method by which a surgical precision can be applied to a prosumer context, whereby evaluation on a per project basis is enabled but not required. VIPER Licensing is also preemptive in that it automatically assumes clearance and applies a percentage fee for licensing to be paid to the brand owner/ IP owner. Upon review, that licensing may be adjusted or revoked at the discretion of the brand/IP owner.


The purpose of VIPER Licensing is to enable a marketing aspect from prosumers, while also fast-tracking and enabling virtual worlds prosumers to import real world brands. In context, a company/brand that enables VIPER Licensing for their brand in a virtual environment… say like Second Life, would simply set the brand name, the license fee tier, and any additional QA requirements on a Corporate Control Panel of Marketplace.


The company would be alerted whenever a project/product in a virtual world is registered for VIPER Licensing for their brand/company (email) and they may review them at their leisure – either revoking the VIPER License for projects or requesting some changes to keep in line with the QA requirements in order to remain authorized.


Only the projects/products from prosumers that the brand/IP owner feels meets the QA guidelines would remain after the filtering process. Overall, the brand/IP owner can use this wisely or to further defeat the purpose of this system by using it to abuse the good faith of their prosumer community through systematically denying any and all projects/products willingly registered in VIPER Licensing for such brand. In which case, a company is then no better off than they began because they’ve fostered a situation whereby they’ve destroyed the faith of the prosumers who will merely continue creating but no longer trusting your brand in the VIPER Licensing system.


Because the virtual world system (I’m still using Second Life as the example) would be making a percentage of the transaction on Marketplace, and the VIPER License would be setting aside a percentage for the brand owner, while the content creator is still making something for their efforts – everyone wins. VIPER Licensed digital products in a virtual world would likely sell far more since they would be officially sanctioned (and legal), which means that there is a huge benefit for prosumers to have their virtual products registered under VIPER.


It’s a flexible, agile, and elegant solution to the prosumer context with real world brands. It offers real world companies a zero-cost marketing solution that actually returns revenue. It’s a system that is automatic and as painless as choosing from a list of VIPER Enabled brands which are participating. It raises volume of sales being officially sanctioned, which means that the marketplace that enables this makes a larger volume of money through transactions while offering a method by which real world brands can re-enter the virtual world without the overhead.


And now you know the point of the arcade machines.






Other things of interest


Yes, I’ve been quiet and really haven’t sounded off on anything going on. We can blame that on my crippling Minecraft and Google+ addictions for which I may need to seek a rehab. In any event, this post is much longer than usual as I attempt to catch up.


Let’s get this out of the way in the short version:


New Materials coming to Second Life


Specular and Normal Maps, thanks to Exodus team. Great start, but still needs Parallax Occlusion Mapping added to that materials list before I get giddy. Still, some kudos are in order for this. I’ll add it on the list with Mesh Deformer, Built-In Weather, Zones, and a laundry list of other things I expected 5 years ago when I first came to Second Life.


Still, better late than never I suppose.



It doesn’t require Crysis level graphics to do.



Everyone/Nobody is Going to Leave Second Life!


I’ve heard this one too many times.


It’s a statement that only holds true because Second Life is a virtual monopoly with no serious contenders. They can get away with bloody murder for all it matters at this point because there is nowhere viable to go. However, it’s unwise to make an assertion based on an assumption.


It is a situation that is contextual and almost always likely to change going forward. See also every other virtual environment that has come and gone prior whereby they thought they were immune to an exodus and so started pissing all over their customers. Before Second Life there was ActiveWorlds – and they said and did the same things under the impression that there was nowhere to go and so they could use and abuse their community at will.


Funny how that worked out. Linden Lab is not immune to this fact, so don’t jump the gun quite yet. If ever there is an equal or better alternative, you may as well pull the plug on the bathtub, because that’s the sound you’re going to hear in Second Life if they continue pissing on their community. Just because right now there isn’t a compelling alternative doesn’t mean that there never will be one.


At this point, all it’s going to take in order to meet that single requirement is to piss off enough open source programmers who specialize in virtual worlds that they organize and push advanceme – oh wait, yeah that might actually be happening.


Relax and just watch the situation. It could go both ways, really. I wouldn’t say “never” but in the same breath it’s premature to state that right now the situation is enough to trigger that exodus. What I will say to this end is simply that Linden Lab seems to be doing a great job setting themselves up for a future fall, because actions in an ecosystem tend to have a long-tail effect which aren’t apparent until the tsunami comes to shore.


Try switching to herbal non-caffeinated tea. No reason to be bent out of shape for either talking point. We can all come to a happy medium and just be patient to see what transpires without polarized fear mongering and sensationalist rants.


One thing is for certain – with the recent cutting off of open source grids, the Metaverse just got a hell of a lot smaller today. Maybe that’s actually for the best… I’ve always contended that in order to grow into something bigger and better, the open source end had to cut their apron strings and hold their own.


I see this as a fantastic opportunity for the future of the Metaverse. The real question is whether or not the community will seize that opportunity.



Minecraft is the Metaverse?


In a word: No.


I’ve been paying attention quite a bit lately to the latest updates (1.3.1) wherein Mojang changed the server code aspect to where each local client is also acting as a server. I find this interesting because it’s similar to the Hybrid Decentralized approach that I advocated years ago with Solipsis. It’s also one of the future looking requirements for server architecture proposed in the research paper I wrote with LMU for Association for Computing Machinery journal.


There is still quite a bit of lag involved with the new architecture of 1.3.1 Minecraft and the “everyone is a server” mentality. To me this means that the Area of Interest networking nodes aren’t quite optimized yet and the balance between decentralized and centralized communication haven’t been fine tuned. I’m pretty certain though that those aspects will iron out.


If not the Metaverse, I would say at least that Minecraft is serving as a wonderful template for the Metaverse for some crucial aspects. So there’s that – and I’m quite happy to see at least that coming of it.