Virtual world vendor Linden Labs is opening up its Second Life doors to the world of open source, but just a bit.
Second Life, which enables users to participate in a virtual world through the use of avatars, is now providing a version of its viewer application under the GPL (define) version 2 license.
The viewer client application enables users to live their second life within the viewer's window. Linden Labs also provided the viewer application for free. Now, developers will be able to actually see a version of the code and potentially improve it. But that's a tall order right now. Linden Labs omitted a key component of open source development, namely access to a version control system where developers could check out and check in code changes.
Second Life's developer wiki noted that Second Life isn't "yet providing live access to a version control repository." The wiki does indicate that Linden Labs is currently considering providing version control access, which may come in the form of a Subversion (SVN) repository.
Even without a version control repository though, Linden Labs is hoping that open source developers will be able to identify and submit bugs as well as file and refine feature requests.
Changes by open source developers may end up in the official version of Linden Lab's Second Life Viewer, but that's not a guarantee. The company also indicated that it will not provide support for versions of Second Life View produced by third party open source developers
Linden Labs' move to an open source version of its viewer is consistent with its mission of enabling user-generated content.
"Open sourcing the client extends the user-generation opportunity to the source code itself, without having a negative revenue impact to the company's subscription fees and virtual land sales," The 451 Group analyst Raven Zachary wrote in a blog posting. "This move will help to proliferate the client to additional platforms and allow users to custom tailor the client-side experience, such as toolbars, macros, and display options."
Zachary surmised that Linden Lab is unlikely to open source the server side of its Second Life code because open source developers could use it to create competitors to Second Life.
Second Life hype has picked up steam lately with enterprises rushing to take advantage of the new virtual medium for corporate use.