Virtual world interoperability

(Originally published at SLNN).

As Virtual Worlds Proliferate, Linden Lab explores interoperability, but is it the sort of interoperability that users want?

San Francisco – Today, Linden Lab announced their Open Grid public beta. As part of the beta, residents will be able to teleport to regions running Open Sim software. This is an important step towards interoperability between different virtual worlds, and it comes none too soon. Numerous other virtual worlds have been springing up recently.

Most notably, Google recently announced Lively. It runs inside of a browser and has gotten a lot of attention because it was announced by Google. Kaneva has been getting some buzz and RocketOn has an interesting approach by running its virtual world on top of existing webpages.

Many of these virtual worlds are, at best, a long way from interoperating with Second Life. The first hurdle to participation is supporting the Second Life Grid Open Grid Protocol. This is an emerging protocol that many virtual worlds don’t yet support.

However, there are larger issues. The Linden Lab announcement notes that “no inventory, textures, or attachments will transfer upon intergrid teleport. You will appear on the target grid’s simulator as that grid’s default avatar (Ruth).” The issue of making sure that assets are not improperly copied has long plagued Linden Lab, and intergrid teleportation only compounds this problem.

One method of dealing with intergrid assets is to copy assets using a program like Second Inventory. Second Inventory allows you to create a backup of any assets on Second Life that you have copy permissions on. With that, you can then restore these assets onto various Open Sim based grids.

In terms of moving between grids, there is another interesting solution. OpenSimulator URLs use an OpenSim Launcher to provide URLs, similar to SLURLs, but for Open Sim based grids. Using OSURLs you can teleport between regions, assuming you have avatars set up for each grid.

Yet this points out yet another issue with the Open Grid Public Beta. With this beta, Linden Lab remains in control of the grid. Regions that agree to be part of this beta may need to agree to the Linden Lab terms and conditions or even eventually pay some sort of grid connection fee. However, many people have set up their own Open Sim based Grids because they want complete control of the grid and not to have to comply with any of terms and conditions from Linden Lab.

According to Central Grid CEO, BigTonny Goodfellow, they have no plans or even interest in interconnectivity with Linden Lab. Mr. Goodfellow did express interest in possible interconnectivity with other Open Sim based grids, but he noted that there are a lot of other much more pressing issues and that Central Grid has not spoken with other grid operators about possible interconnectivity.

As the number and variety of virtual worlds increases, so will the demand for interoperability. This will include not only teleporting between worlds, but also interworld communications, interworld asset portability, interworld currency exchange and many other issues. The technological aspects are an important part of this, and the public beta is an important step in the right direction. However, there are many social and business aspects that will also need to be addressed, and these may be even more difficult than the technological ones.

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