On Monday October 6th, Designing Worlds, hosted by Saffia Widdershins and Elrik Merlin, broadcast a special celebratory edition, marking the show’s 250th edition, and the show featured a very special guest: Linden Lab’s CEO, Ebbe Altberg.
The interview covered a number of topics, and ou can watch the show via the links at the end of this article, or read the transcript. One of the items discussed was, inevitably, the Lab’s next generation virtual world platform.
The following is intended to provide a more direct look at some of what was said about the new platform, and to offer some speculation / thoughts on my part. Audio clips are provided, but please note they do not necessarily include everything said about the new platform; my aim in including them is to present what I feel is the core comments made about it, and offer some thoughts of my own. Should you wish to hear the comments in the context of the interview, time stamps are included with each audio extract for the point at which they occur in the original video.
What’s in a Name?
One of the points of interest / speculation in the new platform has been on the subject of its name. The Lab have simply referred to it as their “next generation platform”, and users have variously referred to it as “SL 2.0″, “The New Thing” (or TNT) or “SL: The Next Generation”, and so on. Ebbe explained why there isn’t a more formal name for the new platform at present.
The second point bears thinking about. Consider the term “SL 2.0″; while innocuous-sounding, its use could encourage us to consider the new platform purely in terms of how we see SL. For example, using the “SL 2.0″ label might cause us to think of land in the new platform as being the same as in SL – defined region types providing specific capabilities – when there is no indication that this will in fact be the case. Thus preconceptions are established which can have unwanted repercussions down the road. So while it might be handy to have a label, keeping things to a very generic “next generation platform” or “new platform” offers the easiest way of avoiding this from the Lab’s perspective.
On the Question of Open-source
Much has been made of the initial decision to make the new platform closed-source, with some commenting on the decision going so far as to describe it as a “mistake”. However, Ebbe points-out during the programmed that “closed-source” doesn’t necessarily mean that there can be no involvement on the part of TPV developers, nor is the closed-source nature of the new platform set in stone.
[0:54:08 and 0:56:50]
Given that the new platform is intended to operate across different hardware environments and operating systems, there would appear to be a certain logic to the approach the Lab is taking in trying to make the client end extensible, rather than open-source right off the bat which might offer a way of achieving greater uniformity in how additional features are presented across these multiple devices.
Of course, a lot of the success of such an approach depends on the gateway the Lab put in place by which additional plug-ins (or whatever) are vetted and “allowed” where the client is concerned, their improved track-record with TPV and open-source developer contributions for SL notwithstanding.
Whether it might also mean that users get that Holy Grail long desired in SL – a client which is fully customisable by the user in terms of which features they “download” and use, or plug-in to their experience, remains to be seen. However, to lay eyes, it would appear that this approach might make it easier to achieve.
Compatibility and Portability
[0:57:39-0:59:03, 1:00:05-1:00:41, and 1:01:01-1:01:30]
When it comes to people’s inventory there are a couple of potential, but valid points that need to be made, both of which I hinted at in response to comments about the new platform on this blog back in June 2014.
The first is that while we may well have tens of thousands of items sitting in inventory representing a lot of expenditure, there’s a good chance that a fair percentage of those items are “dead weight”, having been long since superseded, replaced, gone out of fashion, etc. As such, any value in these items has already been written-off given we’ll likely never use them again. So perhaps we shouldn’t be so focused on “losing” the investment they seem to represent as might be the case.
The second point is the not-so-small questions on whether we actually have the right to transfer items in our inventory elsewhere, be it another grid or the Lab’s new platform. The IP for the items in our inventories resides with the creators of those items – and if they do not wish their creations to be ported to the new platform, we should be prepared to respect that wish. Hopefully, this is also something the Lab will be considering as well.