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SL, Open Source and Franchising

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Interesting news that Linden Labs have open sourced the Second Life client source code under GPLv2.

Why open source the client? Well, with 2.4mil residents, 800,000 who have logged in during the past 60 days, the value of Second Life is in the community, not necessarily the code. Today’s move helps drive community growth.

I found 2 very interesting points when reading the Linden blog post about the client open sourcing.

“A lot of the Second Life development work currently in progress is focused on building the Second Life Grid – a vision of a globally interconnected grid with clients and servers published and managed by different groups.”

This seems like a great play by Linden. Let other groups publish and manage Second Life servers in different geographic regions, (as long as you’re approved to do so by Linden I would imagine). Borrowing from a recent discussion with Roberto Galoppini, Linden appears like they’re becoming a open source franchisor.

After reading this CNet article on Linden’s architecture, I think it makes a lot of sense for Linden to enable other (approved?) groups to publish and mange Second Life servers. According to the article, Second Life servers handle a maximum of 3 users per server at peak load. This is compared to 116 users per server over at EverQuest 2. Linden’s server architecture uses cheap servers that can be thrown into the server pool, just like Google’s approach. But with a growing user base and Google+warns/2100-1010_3-5988090.html” class=”bluelink”>increasing electricity and real estate (to host the servers) costs, could Linden have realized that franchising the publishing and managing of Second Life servers may be a more profitable venture? Linden is already spending $$ on developing the software and has a large community, the latter of which is a strong control point. So why keep spending on the low-value aspect of managing servers (i.e. weak control point)?

The second interesting point in the post:

“At Linden, we have always been strong advocates of the use of open standards and the advantages of using open source products. Though Second Life makes abundant use of non-standard technologies, our basic UDP protocol message system for example, we rely on open standards and open source implementations when appropriate and available.”

Takes us back to the question of whether the use of open-standards is a necessary requirement to be classified an “open source” product.

PS: As with everyone, I’m hearing more about Second Life every day. And as with those of us that hear about it, but haven’t tried it, I have a difficult time doing everything I need to do in my First Life. Which is why I don’t know when I’ll get around to trying Second Life.

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I am taking a semi-break from IBM life as I return to finish a PhD in Industrial Engineering. I’ve held roles in market intelligence, strategy and product management. I’m ex-product manager of IBM WAS Community Edition, and blog about enterprise open source topics.

SL, Open Source and Franchising
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