24 February 2012

Linden Labs to Third Party Viewers: "Get Lost"

This just in from Linden Labs: they've changed their Third Party Viewer policy. They claim that some of the changes have to do with privacy (I'm not convinced they're legitimate privacy issues, but OK). But one change has nothing to do with privacy -- it's strictly intended to squash innovation:
2.k: You must not provide any feature that alters the shared experience of the virtual world in any way not provided by or accessible to users of the latest released Linden Lab viewer.
LL will break many of TPV features in the next few days. So goodbye region windlights until LL's own viewer gets that feature ... if it ever does. Region windlights were an extraordinary boon to the arts community. [EDIT: see discussion in comments.]

The announcement adds,
We encourage Third Party Developers to continue innovating with unique user interfaces, niche features, and ways of interacting with the virtual world, and we look forward to working in partnership with developers on ideas they have for new or improved shared experiences for all of Second Life. We want to incorporate more innovative new features into Second Life to improve the experience for all users, and we encourage TPV developers to submit proposals through our standard process.
Yeah, right. It's horseshit. Basically all TPVs are allowed to do is tinker with the user interface and a couple of other things.  And as I read it, if the TPV developers come up with ideas, basically they have to work for Linden Labs for free.

See the Phoenix announcement for more.


  1. Bah :-( So many interesting options were/are introduced by those TPV.

  2. lol if you can't beat em, ban em...

  3. It has long been the case that the greatest obstacle to the growth and prosperity of SL is their overly complicated techie designed viewer...now they are removing any possibility of making serious improvements in the user interface...once again "screw the users"

  4. Hello. If you listen to the audio file of the meeting with Oz, it's stated clearly that parcel windlight settings will be unaffected by this policy change.

  5. Hi Ziki, thanks for pointing that out. Oz's statements are somewhat reassuring. But only somewhat. He explicitly states that parcel windlight *does* violate the new policy -- but Linden Labs has merely decided not to do anything about it, until they have their own version. Attendees raised the obvious objection that it takes LL forever to adopt requested features, and often they don't. In fact it's not unusual for them to reject proposals from TPV creators outright. Examples of slow adoption included avatar physics and multiple attachments. Oz pointed out that nevertheless LL did implement those features and also region (sim-wide) windlight. He mentioned that he himself pushed for region windlight, and now he's pushing to have parcel windlight and other TPV innovations added. He added that LL's approach was very different in the past, before he and the current management (i.e., Rod Humble) were part of LL.

    But that in itself is a worry: LL has a bad history of tossing their best people, and both Rod and Oz could get a job elsewhere on their own. LL could change priorities and policies at any time, and those changes could include killing parcel windlight immediately. The "assurance" is purely personal. Besides, LL could have gone with parcel windlight instead of region windlight in the first place, back when they enabled the latter. They've managed to create other new parcel-level features, like the one that prevents people from looking inside a parcel.

    So I'm wary of LL's promise to consider recommendations seriously, long term. For example, there are scads of LSL functions that have been requested for years, to no avail: most notably, llName2Key, which is an obvious need currently met through a hack (HTTP calls to an externally operated server -- slow, clunky, and dependent on the accuracy and very existence of those servers), and also things like llParcelSay (there's only llRegionSay). It was only recently that they made it possible to detect a parcel's music stream (as opposed to the media stream), which was another no-brainer that should have been provided years ago.

    Also, despite the change in management and staff, LL's communication skills and attitudes seem to be little better than they were. The announcement could have included examples of features that will be immediately broken; others that will be allowed to continue for now even though strictly speaking they violate the policy; and others that won't be affected at all. Giving TPVs less than a week between the policy's announcement and its implementation (the date when some features will be broken) was arrogant and disdainful. Let me also point out their rather arbitrary decision to help out the Spaceflight Museum but not Immersiva and only indirectly Pirats. I'd like to have more confidence in LL, but they don't make it easy.

    On the other hand, if they make parcel windlight scriptable ... all will be forgiven!