Disclaimer: I work in Google's Policy Team, developing multistakeholder cooperations for internet governance & policy themes, hence I want to point out that all the opinions and ruminations on this blog are mine, not Google's.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Optimism for Open Metaverse

There is much discussion about the fact that most virtual worlds - including the flag-ship second life - run on proprietary non-standardized code. The netizen community is of course horrified by the fact that single companies have despotic power over their metaverses, but are we really doomed to remain in proprietary virtual worlds?

I don’t think so. There are open source efforts to create virtual worlds - e.g. croquet and the very Linden Labs (after already having open-sourced the client) are now openly supporting a roadmap for open source development of their server code base. I quote:

8<----snippet from a dialoge on SL Edu list>

Actually, if you want to work with Linden Lab, the best place to go is here: https://wiki.secondlife.com/wiki/Open_Source_Portal

OpenMetaverse uses Linden Lab technology, but is not affiliated with
Linden Lab. .. but LL control the roadmap and want to determine the protocols,

We control the roadmap in a way not unlike Linus Torvalds controls the Linux kernel, Mozilla Foundation controls Firefox, and MySQL AB controls MySQL. We're still relatively new at this, so it's going to take time for us to get good at it, but we'll get there.
8<--------snippet from a dialoge on SL Edu list>

Unfortunately i don’t have the reference at hand, but i remember reading about an interview with Linden Chief Mr. Rosedale (the man who we will probably have to remember as causing the huge media hype and capitalist hoax about SL which gave SL the critical user mass to flourish), where he stated that Lindens mid/long-term plan is to turn their business into top-notch consultancy regarding the creation and maintenance of virtual worlds run by other enterprises. I believe all they do is build up their brand value (reputation) and intend to position themselves as the Linus Torvals of the VR code (see post referenced above).

In conclusion, (and I sincerely hope i am not being proven wrong but) i perceive Linden as a smart crew, open sourcing their creation, while still intending to steer it to a certain degree; thereby they might be able to develop a solid business model for large-scale open source projects (with leadership).(1)

(1) Linux to a certain degree represents the only proven business model () and the fact that it still hasn’t made it to more than 5% market share even though they have really substantial cost advantage, tells me that there is still something not-convincing about that model.

Other open source community based projects like moodle are of course really ethical efforts and their output is amazing, but one has to see that they only work because they are in-directly (and in fact un-consciously) subsidized by the state through professors (and students their students) who invest their work time in them. Nevertheless this model is IMHO completely feasible for many applications. (But for better or worse outside the capitalist market and therefore constrained by other variables.)

1 comment:

Ludo (Marc Alier) said...

It's a key issue for that Linden labs go Open source for two things:
a) their own sake
b) they migth lead the way to web 3.0
I do share your optimism.