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Standards For Interconnecting Virtual Worlds 142

Tao Takashi writes "Linden Lab, developers of the popular 3D platform "Second Life" started to think about an open standard for interconnecting virtual worlds. The motivation behind this is to make Second Life more scalable but also to allow connection of other grids not hosted by Linden Lab. The process of defining components and protocols is supposed to be handled completely in the open with community participation. When finished the protocol documentation is supposed to be submitted to standard committees such as IETC, W3C etc. The discussion has already started on the Second Life wiki and you can also find a first architecture proposal by Linden Lab."
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Standards For Interconnecting Virtual Worlds

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  • Whoo hooo! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by suso ( 153703 ) * on Wednesday September 19, 2007 @09:00AM (#20666265) Homepage Journal
    Cool, I'm glad there are some smart people there at Linden Labs. I've been thinking about this for a while now, that there needs to be some group for developing such a protocol. Basically, this standard would encourage people to run their own servers and that's where it would really take off. Give people ownership, and they will run with it. Now all we need are 80 core processors and gigabit wan connections to the house.

    I only hope that if they are altruistic enough to see the value in doing this, that they are good enough to make it as open as it should be.

    Or else it could end up like this [suso.org]
  • Open Standards, hmm? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by downix ( 84795 ) on Wednesday September 19, 2007 @09:11AM (#20666357) Homepage
    I see huge potential. Imagine the day when the internet itself is just referred to as Second Life, replacing the ubiquous web browser with an SL client, or that SL-only machines are sold...

    Or even a way to directly interface with the human mind....

    Gibson, you were right.
  • Re:Whoo hooo! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Rob T Firefly ( 844560 ) on Wednesday September 19, 2007 @09:13AM (#20666373) Homepage Journal
    I agree. I like SL a lot and see so much potential for it as a platform, and while it's far from perfect 99% of the problems I have with it are policy and business decisions on the part of Linden Labs. Ever since I started SL I've been looking forward to a day when I could fire up my own server and run that sort of thing myself. It has the potential to be an open platform for any sort of MMO you like, a modern resurrection of the BBS era with added polygons, or any of the other things they were hyping "Virtual Reality" to be 15 years ago.
  • by jobbleberry ( 608883 ) on Wednesday September 19, 2007 @09:17AM (#20666425)
    I wonder if each grid will have it's own currency and economy. Linden would compete to be the most vibrant economy but there would be nothing stopping others from competeing. There could even be free grids like the sandboxes that exist now. Just a thought.
  • cross-mmo accounts? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by aapold ( 753705 ) on Wednesday September 19, 2007 @09:27AM (#20666541) Homepage Journal
    So it goes like this... you pay some premium fee and in effect it signs you up for every MMO out there and pays those fees (from your massive fee), creates a character with that name and as close to appearance as possible on each one of those worlds (reserving names would be problematic), and from the outside framework have portals to each that you enter and play each in windowed mode. And if really ambitious, have some way of coding objects to resemble gear from each one for when you step out of them. Something like that, yes? and then, to top it off, create an exchange rate between wow gold, uo gold, eq gold, linden lucre, tabula rasa credits, dereth pyreal etc etc etc...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday September 19, 2007 @09:32AM (#20666593)
    I'm glad to see Linden Labs is moving in this direction. Unfortunately, unless they are bringing on help, they don't have the resources to handle all the issues in their main grid (which is what generates their revenue) so I do not see them being able to remotely support this initiative the way most people would expect.

    Enter Croquet: http://www.opencroquet.org/index.php/Main_Page [opencroquet.org]

    Croquet allows for the creation of multiple, connected worlds through a system of portals and is already finding use in educational scenarios. Oh, and the fact that it is open source doesn't hurt either.


  • Web 3.0 (or 3D) ? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Tom ( 822 ) on Wednesday September 19, 2007 @09:45AM (#20666739) Homepage Journal
    Here's what I want to see:

    I want to be able to rent property in Second Life (or some other virtual world) and have it "link" to my own server, so that when your avatar enters my house, you (transparently) continue playing on my server, using my bandwidth, CPU and my rules.

    That way, the main Second Life grid can handle much more people, while I can decide how much I want to handle. If I'm IBM, I will put up a server farm to handle my advertisement/community events. If I'm a private person, I'll plan for 10 concurrent visitors with enough spare capacity to handle spikes of 20-30.

    One way or the other, my virtual home is no longer dependent on Linden Lab's server farm. If Second Life gets overloaded, the visitors in my virtual corner of the virtual world won't suffer. They might even come to me because my place always runs smoothly. Suddenly, there is an interest in upgrading the infrastructure beyond "it must work, mostly".

    My place can be small (one house) or large (an entire island). Just like property in SL is already. Sure, the transition will be a bit tricky (at what point exactly are people transfered to a different server, and how do they "see" the content inside/outside?), but that's a technical challenge that is, in principle, not that hard.
    In fact, I'd be perfectly happy to have it work the Oblivion way (e.g. you click on the door, you are teleported inside. Windows both ways are faked with textures if at all.)

    What is cool about this is that it removes the scarcity of land. I can rent a small house in SL and have an entire world inside. Hey, why not? It's not as if physical laws matter. Sure, Linden will have to adapt their business model, but since the server load isn't theirs anymore, they should not have to worry too much.

  • Re:Web 3.0 (or 3D) ? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Aladrin ( 926209 ) on Wednesday September 19, 2007 @09:54AM (#20666837)
    Second Life currently works by storing all the avatar's data (and graphics) server-side and streaming them to the client on request.

    When the client goes to the new server, does that server then have to request and store all the graphics associated with that avatar? Or do other users have to request the data from the originating server? At what point do you say 'this character belongs to this server'? If someone creates a character on my private server, then goes elsewhere -forever-, am I forced to host their files on my server forever? What if the originating server goes offline... Is my avatar defunct?

    I think this is a neat project, but I think that the fundamental way Second Life works (everything is server-side) won't support it. Everything will have to be client-side, which means SL could no longer charge people to upload graphics, sounds, and animations.

    On the other hand, maybe they don't mean for this to be for the common man. Maybe they are only interested in creating a 'standard' that can only be used by companies willing to give them money and provide dedicated hosting for their own characters.
  • by jamiefaye ( 44093 ) <jamie@fentonia . c om> on Wednesday September 19, 2007 @12:45PM (#20669273) Homepage
    Chip Morningstar, Randy Farmer, and Doug Crockford put together a company to build a "Cyberspace protocol suite" for this purpose in the mid 1990s. (These gentlemen were the behind the original Lucasfilm Habitat project, inventing the term "Avatar", among many other things). At their heyday, E/C employed just about everyone with experience in this area, and wound-up burning through several million in VC money, building a virtual world platform on top of a customized Java virtual machine. The diagram on the Linden Labs Wiki looks surprisingly familiar (although the names of things are different, reflecting "memetic drift").

    It was a cat herding party of monumental proportions. The first year was the design phase - it was amazing. We found out a need to fix Java so it had distributed garbage collection, closures, and the like. We made our own VM with these add-ons, and invented a world specification language called Pluribus for knitting together object aspects which represented the multi-party nature of distributed awareness.

    Like many first attempts at "ontological revolution", the performance was less than spectacular. It didn't take long to build stuff that was beyond our understanding, either. Later, when aspect-oriented programming was invented, and the rest of the world starting thinking about distributed cyberspace, it has become possible to do what we were trying to do then. Even Java has caught up, co-opting most of the add-on features we had to come up with.

    My advice to those approaching the problem today:

    • Don't reach too far beyond what the average C++/Java programmer can understand.
    • Don't invent anything that you can't make-do with that is already out there.
    • Plan on getting stuff wrong at the beginning. (E/C released their first product without a version number in the protocol!).
    • The start of the art of standards specification is not good enough to deal with this problem. Your only hope lies in producing a "Literate Reference Implementation". Doing that probably requires doing a rough-pass first, then recoding it.
    • If you attempt to assemble a "dream team" to put something like this together - be careful about the human-relations stuff. (In our first year, one of our engineers found out he was getting less money then two others and went out on a "passive-aggressive vendetta". This dampened morale during a critical time.)
    There is a lot more to say about E/C and its fate. Lets hope it isn't repeated...

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