More on meshes – hooray!

As if my wish had been answered, today Linden Lab announced that meshes will indeed be coming to Second Life, contrary to earlier fears. We don’t yet have a timescale but, despite the massive layoff of staff whose efforts must have contributed to this work (e.g. Qarl Linden/Fizz – Karl Stiefvater), somehow LL have managed to keep the idea going as a practical concern. Prokofy Neva has typically trolled the comments page at length, posing ridiculously as ever as the harbinger of doom that small content makers will be driven out. Too many such predictions about the end of SL as we know it have been made before, and all have been proved unfounded. I simply do not believe it. As ever, content creators will rise to the challenge, and they will excel.

This can only be a good thing. With ModRex waiting in the wings, you can bet that OpenSim will be on the case: in fact, they were ahead of the game on this one. LL realised this, as I said they would, and do not want to be seen to be lagging behind their competitor and spin-off imitator, which already has other significant functionality that SL lacks. To be behind in something so fundamental and obvious could kill SL and send people running for OpenSim. But SL has the advantage of being first at the party, and LL naturally wants to keep it that way rather than surrender to the many new grid providers running the OpenSim software on their servers across the Web.

By the way, OpenSim 0.7 now fully supports the Linden Viewer 2.0 codebase. If, as expected, meshes are only available in the 2.x branch and not the 1.x branch, the third party viewer developers will have to play catch up. But this is something that they have done before with Snowglobe in double quick time, and I would put very little past their ingenuity and determination where it concerns keeping up and surpassing the Linden viewer code. There is also the alternative of adapting the existing GPL code used in the RealXtend viewer that can already display meshes, although this was written for the 1.x codebase.

As I said in the previous post, it is meshes that will allow both SL and OpenSim to continue to compete and outperform the other virtual worlds, to remain modern in terms of attractive, industry standard graphics capability, to provide ever improving content creation, and to attract new users.

Open Currency for OpenSim

Since February there has been a currency system for OpenSim grids, provided by VirWox:

2010-02-26: Expanding to the OpenSim Hypergrid

Today we start trading the Open Metaverse Currency (OMC) for EUR, USD, and SLL. The OMC is a virtual currency intended to be used across the OpenSim Hypergrid. At the start, two OpenSim grids have adoped the OMC: GermanGrid and Grid4Us. [ed.: others have joined since then – and they are not all German ones! 🙂 See the VirWox site for details.]

[Later note: although SLL is conventionally the abbreviation for the Sierra Leonian Leone currency, it is here meant to mean the Second Life Linden Dollar ™! Phew…! 😉 There are terminals similar to XStreet terminals in SL and presumably in the other participating grids. British Pounds and Swiss Francs are also now supported, as noted here.]

What is impressive about this is that, if you have a private grid or don’t have an avatar in one of the participating grids, you can still buy goods and services. It is effectively PayPal for virtual worlds, since PayPal suffers from the problem that even its micro-payment accounts charge far too much to make them commercially worthwhile. Virtual worlds effectively require nano-payments! There has been some work done on PayPal implementation, however, and some usage nevertheless.

So, the question is, will the first entrant into the market, as effectively the metaverse’s first banker and the virtual world’s first banker after Linden Labs, be the dominant or only player? Will people trust them? The answer to the latter question should be, I feel, a provisional yes. Obviously, this will depend on the usual factors, in determining whether sufficient people trust them, mostly how they operate and deal with customers. But so many people trust Linden Lab without questioning much whether or not they should. Unlike LL, VirWox are only a currency. So they have considerably less conflict of interest. Unlike LL, who shut down in-world businesses like banks and gambling – whatever one’s personal view of those operations may be – when they are no longer in its commercial interests to support and/or tolerate.

After hypergrid, this may be the main factor in OpenSim overtaking Second Life ™ in 2010-11. Being an open metaverse, there is obviously much opportunity for unscrupulous grid operators and content theft. But I ask you, how well is this really avoided in Second Life? Are Linden Lab really very effective at dealing with it? The answer is, no. This is the Web, and it happens. That does not mean you have to run and hide, or that you can’t do business. In the real world, you are responsible for managing your own copyright and not infringing others. The virtual world is just another part of the real world, and the same law applies to all.

As a footnote to this, expect good things from Simian Grid from the Open Metaverse Foundation, which from OpenSim 0.7 will be fully compatible and supported as an alternative PHP back end with lots of useful features and web site integration. It needs hypergrid support and some other features, but these are on the way. Simian Grid suffers from poor documentation, as it’s still at pre-release alpha stage, and – to be frank – rather a poor name! But you may not even see the difference from in-world, except perhaps good performance (it’s alleged) and better web site integration, on-line inventory management (WebDAV) and more.