What next for Linden Lab?
Massively has a few posts up about Cory Ondrejkas (Cory Linden) leaving Linden Lab. Cory is quoted as saying, “Philip and my visions for the future of Linden Lab are divergent enough that he decided to lead in his own way”.
In the comments, Prokofy Neva says, “I think the public should know what these "engineering differences" are, especially because we're still *on* this wild ride.” Nimrod jokes, “Prok something is wrong with me... I am agreeing with you!” Well, I’m in agreement with both of them, but I’d like to move the discussion even further.
I suspect that there are at least 11 million different views about the direction of Second Life. 1.5 million of those views have been thought about in the last sixty days and at any given point there is likely to be between 30 and 50 thousand such views.
From my perspective, a lot this has to do with the relationship between Linden Lab and the open source community. Version 0.5 of OpenSim should be coming out soon. I run an OpenSim grid on my home network. I’ve heard that there are plenty of OpenSim grids inside of IBM. Perhaps most importantly is the emergence of CentralGrid. CentralGrid is an alternative grid, based on OpenSim. They are busy coding enhancements to OpenSim to make it a viable alternative grid, that even the business community can get involved with, and they have attracted interest from many of the business groups in Second Life that I follow.
Of course, there are plenty of engineering differences within the OpenSim community as well. I believe that an extremely important part of the virtual world experience includes a well functioning currency. CentralGrid is working on that, but others in the OpenSim community seem to view currency as a distraction.
It clearly opens up lots of interesting issues. How well can you trust the currency of CentralGrid versus the currency of Linden Lab? How would currency work in a grid where anyone can add their own regions? What sort of interworld currency markets will exist?
There are plenty of additional issues that come as we start looking at a world of intergrids. How does communications take place? The OpenSim community has talked about using standard instant messaging protocols, so in theory you should be able to IM between grids, and outside to systems like Google Talk.
What about assets? That is a big issue. To the extent that an asset is portable between grids, it opens it up to much greater copying issues. I could copy an asset to a region where copy protection is disabled, make as many copies as I want and then flood the original grid with cheap knockoffs.
Another very interesting issue is how searches will work, as well as how SLURLs will work. Ideally, I would like to search for places, people and events across all the different grids. Who will handle these sorts of searches as well as the advertising for such searches.
It isn’t surprising to see Cory and Philip have engineering differences, either because of the changes going on with Second Life and other virtual worlds, or simply because of the dynamics of company growth. However, it does seem worthwhile to make these discussions, at least on the engineering side of things, as public as possible.