Linden Lab releases the code for their Second Life game client.

Linden Lab, the developer behind the popular virtual world Second Life, has released the code for the game’s client viewer under the GPLv2 open-source license. Chief Technology Officer Cory Ondrejka hopes that allowing users to edit and personalize their clients will improve the product on multiple platforms. Ondrejka elaborated: “It’s pretty clear when building something as open as Second Life, you want the product itself to be open. It would be a little silly to not allow that talent and energy to be applied to the client (viewer software) itself.” Developers will have to sign an agreement before submitting code to be added to the official game client maintained by Linden Lab.

The CTO believes that at some point the company’s server software could be unlocked for the masses as well, allowing for an increase in popularity, scale, and revenue. “We do think that in the long run, Second Life makes much sense as an open-source project. There are plenty of opportunities for revenue even if the entire kit and caboodle is open-sourced. But we want to be careful about that.”

Along with the move to an open-source platform, Second Life will be slowly transitioning to proprietary technology to open standards, such as XML, that will allow programmers to access and edit game information from outside the world. One example of this change is the use of Novell’s Mono software, which runs scripts faster than Linden’s in-house scripting language. “Say you want to make an AI (artificial intelligence object) that responds to somebody coming into your store…or make a tour guide that’s really good and interactive to a wide variety of stimuli. Linden Scripting Language doesn’t have sufficient performance to make that very intelligent.”

Philip Rosedale, CEO and founder of Linden Lab, commented on the company’s new approach to future development.

“We feel we have a responsibility to improve and to grow Second Life as rapidly as possible. We were the first virtual world to enable content creators to own the rights to the Intellectual Property they create. That sparked exponential growth in the richness of the Second Life environment. Now we’re placing the Viewer’s development into the hands of Residents and developers as well. This extends the control Residents can have over the Second Life experience and allows a worldwide community to examine, validate and improve the software’s sophistication and capabilities.”

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