How the Updated Policy on Third Party Viewers Will Effect Second Life

Community, News Announcements, Policy, Second Life, TPV, Virtual Worlds on February 26th, 2012 30 Comments


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Linden Lab has officially updated their Policy on Third Party Viewers connecting to Second Life by adding four new clauses.  This led to an explosive and dramatic public outcry from users that Linden Lab was trying to kill off third party viewers (TPVs) or kill off all sources of innovation so that people would be forced to use their viewer.

These changes were discussed with TPV developers at a viewer development meeting* with Oz Linden.  With so much misinformation being posted, I sat down to talk with a TPV developer in order to learn more about these changes, understand Linden Lab’s motives, and find how they will impact the Second Life community.

*Side note: recently an audio transcript of this meeting has started publically circulating, but it was explained to me that this transcript was meant to be a record for TPV developers only and was not intended for public consumption so I will respect the developer’s wishes by not posting it here.

Here’s what you need to know about the new changes:

Privacy Changes

The first three clauses added were in relation to privacy issues.

2.a.iii : You must not provide any feature that circumvents any privacy protection option made available through a Linden Lab viewer or any Second Life service.

The intention of this clause is clear.  As of this time, this clause only seems to directly impact features that display “true online status” (displays whether a user is online despite them having set the option to hide this in their preferences).  In the near future, Linden Lab will be breaking the (llRequestAgentData) function which will cause scripted features/objects to only show “true online status” if the script is owned by or created by the subject of the request. Otherwise, the request will return a false value.  The Lab is aware of other ways this function is being used and are taking those uses into consideration when resolving privacy concerns.   Online indicators will still work as long as the script is owned by or created by the subject whose status is being displayed.  This clause will not effect client side radar features or tools.

2.i : You must not display any information regarding the computer system, software, or network connection of any other Second Life user.

2.j : You must not include any information regarding the computer system, software, or network connection of the user in any messages sent to other viewers, except when explicitly elected by the user of your viewer.

The intention of these clauses are also clear.  At this time, these clauses mainly seem to effect client/viewer tags (that publically display what viewer you are using).  Linden Lab became concerned about these tags after observing the common and widespread harassment of users (especially new uses) in relation to the viewer they were using.  Therefore, this feature will be broken grid-wide this coming Tuesday/Wednesday.

Shared Experience

The last clause added had to with the overall shared user experience.

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.

This is the clause drawing the biggest complaints.  Due to the broad scope of this clause it’s been widely misinterpreted as Linden Lab ending the TPV program once and for all.  However, in actuality, the intention of clause is nothing of the sort.  When talking to the TPV developers Oz Linden repeatedly went to great lengths to reassure them.  He explained that no one at Linden Lab wants to ban TPVs and that this clause is only in reaction to observed user confusion resulting from fragmented user experiences.  The Lab’s goal is for all users to equally be able to see and experience the same world.  Oz also doesn’t anticipate any dramatic actions as a result of the clause.  He stressed that it was not aimed at any specific current feature, nor does he have plans to take any enforcement actions based on any current feature of a TPV.  The clause will not effect features that change the way the world is “presented” (such as Exodus’ visual settings) or “controlled” (such as the way in which you move objects), but only changes to the world itself in such a way that the experience of users running other viewers (particularly the latest Linden Lab viewer) is fragmented in some way.  Oz also pointed out that this could have been enforced under the current policy, but that the Lab wanted to clarify it.

Intention set aside, many users still feel that this will kill innovative new features because the Lab now has executive control over all new features.  Oz Linden again repeatedly professed that the Lab is under new management who are very sincerely trying to do things differently.  They want to work with developers.  Oz recognized that the Lab historically has been bad about this and as a result has a bad reputation that needs to be fixed.  He pleaded with developers to try to work within the process and test this new system first, before judging.


Like many people, I too am skeptical based on the Lab’s own admitted past history.  However, I do believe things can change.  The Lab has no motivation to kill innovation, and would receive no true advantage by doing so.  On the flip side, as Oz pointed out to the TPV developers, the adoption rate of users running viewers capable of displaying mesh demonstrates that users will in fact upgrade when the features are sufficiently compiling.  In fact, I’m told that 1.23 based viewers now only account for 2.7% of user hours.  This dramatic change (that the Lab wanted for years now) as a result of mesh only provides them with further motivation to listen to the community, cooperate with developers, and foster innovation.  The big question is, will they?  Only time will tell, but so far, some developers seem to think that all signs point to yes.



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30 Responses to “How the Updated Policy on Third Party Viewers Will Effect Second Life”

  1. While I agree with the essential points of this article, I think there’s one huge problem in the idea of developers working with the Lab.

    Looking at it negatively, one would say simply that the odds are against it. Leaving aside the long history (and the fact that Oz cited windlight parcel development and avatar physics as two examples of innovations that would not have been permitted under the new system), we have the recent rejection of Qarl’s popularly desired prim alignment tool.

    One key danger is that any institution will have a “not invented here” culture – which is understandable. The people responsible for the day to day function of a complex system want to know what the hell is under the bonnet so that they can step in when necessary.

    But I’m coming to believe that a key problem for the Lab (and for the Second Life users) is simply that the organism is so vast that the people maintaining it don’t understand what is done with it. Like a doctor treating someone for bunions, they don’t realise (without being told) that the patient will be going out on stage that night and performing pirouettes, so some courses of treatment just won’t work. Even worse, this is a doctor who has never seen the ballet and so fails to understand what a pirouette is …

    • I completely understand that concern. However, a doctor doesn’t need to have performed in (or even seen) the ballet in order to really listen to their patient and understand their needs. While I don’t want to give them an excuse not to be more involved, I am willing to suspend judgement (despite the long history of the opposite) and give them another chance to prove that they can and will listen to users’ concerns and needs whether or not they are familiar with them. I hope they will use it as an opportunity to learn. The ball is in their court, now it’s up to them.

    • Re “not invented here” syndrome: Linden Lab has had that, to an extent, from the day that Cory Linden cobbled together LSL instead of using one of many existing scripting languages that already existed with lots of people putting vastly more work into libraries, optimization, IDEs, and documentation than LL could possibly muster.

  2. [...] Some of the other posts that have come out on this issue: Linden Lab’s Official Announcement Inara Prey’s Living in a Modem World Dwell On It The Tigress’ Second Den Phoenix Viewer Second Life News Nalates’ Things & Stuff Andromeda Media Group Daniel Voyager’s Blog Sand Castle Studios [...]

  3. A solid overview of the potential impact of LL’s new 3rd-party viewer policy. Unfortunately, as usual, the new policy lacks a clear, public, strategic product road map and coordinated Developer / VAR and Marketing strategy. This latest bit of news / drama from the Lab serves only to further confuse their stakeholders (developers & users), while providing little or no constructive information about how things will be better as a result. More later in a separate blog piece….

  4. Gianna, thanks for presenting this view of the recent happenings regarding the TPV policy, as I too have been wondering what must be going through the TPV dev’s heads. You did not mention what dev you spoke with and I will not ask since I suspect you promised to respect their privacy, but I would LOVE to know….haha. I AM a little confused that the dev seemed to be saying that LL has said that they will not make any major changes to the way things are currently progressing and if one is to believe the overall “feeling” of this article, you are lead to believe that it is really no big deal and we are making much ado about nothing. I hope that is the case…and as you said, the Lab has much to prove to its’ residents before we can trust them just “to do the right thing.” What I would like to know, if it is not too much to ask…and protecting the dev’s identity, how did they TRULY feel about what was said. Do THEY believe that it is no big deal? Are they hopefully optimistic or are they concerned as many of the residents are that this will stifle innovation? I just cannot understand how all these devs will be willing to just humbly bow to the Linden’s as they present their latest “baby” to them, only to have the Lab take it, use it as their own FIRST and change it or do whatever they want with it. I KNOW that you support bloggers providing their writing skills and their exclusive editorial rights to the lab “for free”…and that we as bloggers are just supposed to be happy with the increased traffic to our sites….fine. But you have to admit, in light of this recent development, one cannot help but see a trend. This time they are asking TPV devs to develop some new and innovative feature, give it to them for FREE, let them do whatever they want to it, change it anyway they please, then incoroporate it into their viewer to ultimately benefit them. Once again, they have got someone to do something that they seem incapable or unwilling to do or even to PAY someone to do and have used it as their own. I dunno….it leaves a sour taste in my mouth. How do the devs REALLY feel?

    Thanks for your views….:))

    • Vanessa says:

      Just FYI, TPVs have always provided features for free – there has been no question of payment. Are you suggesting that payment should be involved? Why would Lindenlab need to consider offering payment for what is often dodgy code, unworkable add-ons, and crashtastic viewers. At least in the future there will be some sort of vetting of the blunders that have been inflicted upon us in the past.

    • I hope they (or some other dev) might decide to comment here, but yes I purposely left out their information. To me, the dev did not seem overly shocked or upset by the changes, and while maybe not ideal, took them in stride, already thinking up new ideas. I’m sure not all devs feel this way, but this dev told me the reason their team makes a viewer is because they want to improve the SL experience. *IF* (and I admit it is a big if) Linden Lab holds up their end of the deal, this dev seemed excited to have their work included in the official viewer.

      To me, the difference between the guest blogging opportunity and this is that with the guest blogging many bloggers harshly criticized Linden Lab just for offering the opportunity which they could take or leave. I would completely understand if devs were extremely upset by this (I expected them to be), but again, I’m just not seeing that. That is not to say that this is “much ado about nothing,” but many (including me) seem to be willing to wait and see if Linden Lab has changed. I was initially skeptical as well, but after talking to the dev and listening to the recording myself, I am willing to give them a chance. So now we wait…

  5. [...] Cela on the TPV policy changes Gianna on the TPV policy changes Carrie finds some pretty vandalism The usual out-of-context drama and bullshit of the [...]

  6. Chestnut Rau says:

    So you can teach an old dog new tricks? Who knew.

    Sure people are using mesh viewers but are they using the LL viewer? I looked around last night at a very crowded event. There were approximately 50 people in the sim and in the neighborhood of 95% of them had red name tags. You know what that means? That means they are using Firestorm. In a few days no one will be able to know that and the bullying will stop. I for one am *so* relieved. (insert eye roll here)

    LL can do what they like and I honestly have no opinion one way or the other about these new rules except to say that putting a damper on innovation seems to run counter to the culture that makes Second Life wonderful. I hope Oz and the rest of the Lindens are true to their word with respect to the new TPV rules. Given the history I am sure you understand my cynicism.

    At least there is an audio recording being widely distributed so the public record of what Oz promised is established. Everyone will be able to judge what happens next.

  7. Vanessa says:

    I really think that this is a situation brought about by TPVs themselves.

    We only need to look at the ramshackle ‘developments’ of various TPVs, to understand that for the integrity of Secondlife, it could not have been permitted for much longer. For the new user, the idea that your viewer experience could be dependent upon which viewer you choose/are bullied into using is quite confrontational. The surprising part in all this is that Lindenlab permitted this haphazard adding of supposed features for so long.

    The existence of third party viewers is not a right, it should always have been considered as a privilege, and the addition of new features has needed to be done in a more ordered fashion for quite some time now.

    I for one, have faith that there are some great changes in the pipeline, and the flustered egos of the few will be overwhelmed by the gratitude of the many.

  8. Nathan Adored says:

    Well, another thing that bothers me is that matter of not allowing the viewers to identify which viewer you’re using anymore. I strongly suspect that is going to cause more harm than good. But if the stated goal was to prevent ppl from being harassed based on what viewer they’re using, it would have been better served updating the regular SL TOS such that harassing another user, regardless of reason, was an Abuse Reportable offense, and that that would particularly and especially included harassing people about their choice of viewer, or come to that, their choice of avatar. If harassing is a problem, make harassing a violation of the TOS. Problem solved.

  9. [...] I commented on the Sand Castle Studio blog about Third Party Viewers and I said this: But I’m coming to believe that a key problem for the Lab (and for the Second [...]

  10. Skylar Smythe says:

    Agree with Valiant. Doesn’t seem to be the harbinger of doom type news that the fundamentalists and “end of pixel world’ers” would have you believe. The Lab would do well to announce the REASON for said changes. Making broad sweeping changes is a great opportunity to communicate how they are working to make things better. That is typical marketing and business acumen. Give us the down low why and at least we will understand, even if we don’t agree with the impetus.

    Conspiracy theorists really need to get they commentary under control. I was introducing someone from work (healthcare regulator) to the idea of evaluations in-world. Her perusal of the Second Life Blogsphere was enough to conclude an opinion of “unibomber type fundamentalist nutjobs”. Ouch.

    Passionately caring is awesome. Abusive speculative prognostication for “the old days” and doomsday blogists have the option of getting themselves a nice sim on a stick… and doing it perfectly for themselves. :) Doors that way folks…

    Some of these posts and rants do little to inspire confidence to recommend Second Life for business or commercial activities. How about a deep inhale and realization that you are engaged in a product that you have no control over. Spend. Don’t spend. Free choice. Go. Stay. Free choice. But for the love of God… stop the ranting. It’s getting old and frankly embarrassing.

    Great article. Balanced. Optimistic. Well written and a pleasure to read. Thank you!


  11. Chestnut Rau says:

    Telling people to leave SL if they don’t like the polices of Linden Lab is a debate tactic that is intellectually dishonest. By all means refute some one’s logic or their facts and then we can have a good honest discourse. Instead Skylar compares people who voice strong anti-LL opinions to a terrorist and a murderer. Really?

    We are *all* invested in the success of Second Life or we would not even be having this discussion, right? For goodness sake let’s raise the bar and discuss the policy without resorting to name calling, scapegoating and stereotyping.

  12. Skylar Smythe says:

    [points up at previous comment] … newp. No reactive fundamentalist commentary there. Murderers? Terrorists? I shared what a clinical person’s impression was. Sorry it smarts. It’s the truth.

    I was amply embarrassed too Chestnut. Perhaps you should re-read my comment when you are calmer.


    • Chestnut Rau says:

      I am perfectly, absolutely calm. Can you *please* stop with the ad hominem attacks?

      I am not embarrassed by what some nameless person I don’t know said about unnamed blogs. Nor am I embarrassed about anything I have said here or on my blog.

      Perhaps you should read this article about intellectually honest debate tactics. You might learn a few things about how to be respectful and have a discussion without calling people names and questioning the motives of people with whom you have a difference of opinion.

  13. As a terrorist and a murderer, I take offense to being compared to Second Life bloggers!

  14. Crap Mariner says:

    I think Darrius Gothly’s putting the puzzle pieces together on this one.

    Not sure if they’re in the right order, but time will tell.


  15. I haven’t moderated any comments yet, but let’s stick to talking about the policy changes and try to avoid poking at each other.

  16. Vanessa says:

    *pokes Gianna with a sharp needle*


  17. Skylar Smythe says:

    Case in point …

    I was not alluding to any one specific blog but an overall sentiment. Yet the jump to assume happens anyway. Large jump. Missed the mark. Wasn’t aimed at anyone or I would have mentioned by names. I have no issue doing that when I feel my critique is valid and important. Chestnut … this means you… (just in case there was some ambiguity I am talking to you with this comment).

    Defensive is never part of debating. And I wasn’t debating. I’m observing.

    But I thank you for the link. They teach us that stuff in Toast Masters too ;)

    ~ Skylar

  18. Marx Dudek says:

    Aaaaaaanyway … um, I didn’t hear anything in the recording itself (apart from Oz’s exasperated tone) that gave me any undue concerns. The “snoop-on-hidden” feature in Phoenix has always been something that has never, ever sat well with me. When the Firestorm poll asked, essentially, should this feature be left in or taken out, a majority of votes said, “definitely leave it in”. It’s nobody’s business if I’m “on” when I’m “off”, and I’d actually go a step further and ask Linden Lab to ‘spoof an offline’ to anyone who attempts to IM me while I’m not visible to them.

    I completely understand the need to insure a similar shared experience. And I think distinctions were drawn between things that you see on your screen that others may not see, and the things that you see on the inworld part of your screen, those elements and avatars common to everyone in the area. (Which is why I suspect 1.23 will be deprecated before far too long.)

  19. [...] will TPV polices regarding shared experiences and Havok effect SL & other [...]

  20. MetaReality says:

    [...] – How will TPV polices regarding shared experiences and Havok effect SL & other grids & open [...]

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