080408 Gridnauts Metanomics Transcript


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080408 Gridnauts Metanomics Transcript

  1. 1. GRIDNAUTS - AUGUST 4, 2009 ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Good afternoon, and welcome to an episode of Metanomics we’re calling Gridnauts in honor of those brave, patient and very hardworking explorers who are participating in Linden Lab’s recently announced Open Grid Beta program. Helping us try to understand what the Open Grid Beta program means for the future of the Metaverse are David Levine, from IBM, and Mark Lentczner, from Linden Lab. Metanomics is brought to you by Simuality, our primary sponsor, maker of SlippCat. We also have four supporting sponsors: Johnson Graduate School of Management at Cornell University, Kelly Services, Language Lab and InterSection Unlimited. As usual, our live venue in Second Life is the Muse Isle Arena, and we welcome everyone who’s at our event partners across the grid: Colonia Nova Amphitheater, Meta Partners Conference Area, Rockliffe University, and the Outreach Amphitheater of the New Media Consortium Educational Community Sim. Last week I encouraged you to join the Metanomics Group if you wanted some interesting chat in between shows. Indeed, this was quite a week of chat, and you can see for yourself on our website, metanomics.net. One day Ellen Kolsto from GSD&M Idea City, a marketing consulting firm in Austin, Texas, fired up a long discussion about the difficulties of charging for content in Second Life, which is something that the firm Rezzible has a right to do. Linden Lab’s CFO, John Zdanowski, Zee Linden, joined in to ask more generally what our opinions were on what Linden Lab could do to stimulate Second Life’s economy. And Zee ended up inviting us for a voice chat on the subject. So you can read all about it on metanomics.net. Join the group and get involved.
  2. 2. We encourage you also to keep up a lively chat during today’s show. In my own personal view, one of the signature advantages of conducting live events in Virtual Worlds is the ability to what would have to be called a cacophony of discussions in text chat simultaneous with a more focused conversation in voice. We use InterSection Unlimited’s ChatBridge system to transmit local chat to our website, website chat into our event partners and so on. So backchat brings you in touch with people all around Second Life and on the web, wherever you are. You’ll also notice that Bjorlyn Loon and other Metanomics staff members will be pasting in relevant links information and other important [AUDIO GLITCH]. Ultimately the backchat becomes part of our archives, along with the video, audio and text transcript of the show itself. So not only does your chat allow you to guide the conversation, it also gives you a chance for immortality. Okay. Let’s jump directly to our main event, talking about the Open Grid Beta program. This program marks a crucial step toward a true Metaverse where avatars can teleport from one Virtual World to another. We’re joined today by two of the most important figures in this [endeavor?]. First we have IBM’s David Levine, Zha Ewry in Second Life, who works at IBM’s T.J. Watson Research Center. Zha will be familiar to many viewers, setting what I guess is a Metanomics record for his third appearance on the show. David, welcome back to Metanomics. DAVID LEVINE: Thank you. Just to get it out of the way, I’ll give my quick disclaimer. I work for IBM in this area. When I speak about various parts of this [AUDIO GLITCH] from a
  3. 3. technical perspective, not a policy-setting perspective, and when I talk about various policy choices, I’m talking about the technical issue. I certainly don’t speak to Linden Lab’s when I discuss them. But you have somebody here today who can. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Yes, yes, we do, and that is Linden Lab’s director of engineering, API and architecture, Mark Lentczner known widely by his Second Life name Zero Linden. Zero heads up the architecture working group that has been a key part of the Open Grid project. Zero, welcome to Metanomics. MARK LENTCZNER: Why, thank you. I’m glad to be here. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: And I guess I would like to ask you: Will you be representing Linden Lab’s perspectives and policies, or will this be your personal take? MARK LENTCZNER: Well, I think sitting here with the name Zero Linden it would be hard not to. No, I think, in this capacity, I’m here, as I said, director of engineering, or one of the directors of engineering at Linden Lab so I will be talking about these issues from Linden’s perspective. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: And I really appreciate your coming on to join us. Now I would like to start this off by giving my own highly oversimplified explanation of what ultimately the Open Grid project is trying to achieve, and then Zha and Zero can tell me the many ways in which I’m wrong and all the many features and complexities that I’m not capturing. We have a simple graphic here that we came up with, and, as long we’re talking caveats, these are
  4. 4. my ideas, but I am not technically proficient. I am an accounting professor after all, so this is after spending quite a bit of time with my staff and with Bjorlyn Loon, trying to figure out exactly what the Open Grid project is about. Now many people are aware that Linden Lab has published source code for the viewer, which would allow people to create new viewers that connect to Second Life’s servers. And so we have a graphic coming up that depicts this. So we depict Second Life’s server with a square, and we depict the viewer with a sort of circular object. And they have these connectors that you see fit together, and then there are lines that show the information that is going back and forth between the server and the client, also called the viewer. So information about your friend’s lists, your inventory, the avatars and other objects that are around you. And you’ll notice that the little male and female pieces connect to the server and client, and that is really the crucial part that allows the information to be communicated in ways that both the server and the client can understand. Now because Linden Lab has published the source code that allows people to create new viewers that can connect to Second Life’s servers, using the right connections so that everything is consistent with what the serve and the client are expecting. So let’s assume I take a week off, and I create my own client, my own viewer, which is shown in red, and I can go ahead and do that because I know the protocols, the interfacing, how they need to be similar. Now Open Grid is a much more complex animal. If you look on the right side of the graphic, what you see is that there are multiple servers, and so I can potentially take the green
  5. 5. Linden Lab client, and I can connect that, of course, to Linden Lab’s server. But if I take two weeks off and create a Metanomics server--you see our logo in there--then the Open Grid project ultimately would allow people to take that same client, that same viewer and link it up to our server. I have to mention already I see people saying, “Where is the agent domain?” And I’ll just have to say be patient; that’s why we have professionals on the show. We’ll get there. I’m just not able to explain that myself. I would like to point out one other thing though that is what makes the Open Grid project so complicated. If I’m going to be able to take my viewer, connect it to Second Life, get information off the server and then point my viewer to the Metanomics server and take that information that I just got from Second Life’s server and put it on Metanomics’ server, that’s an information transfer that is full of a lot of concerns about security, intellectual property. And so between that and keeping track of the agents themselves, we have something that probably would take me more than just two weeks to build. So that’s my, as I say, highly oversimplified take, and I’m delighted to have Zha and Zero on the show so they can explain what I’ve left off. Now to start this discussion, what I’d like to do is talk about Zha Ewry’s first teleport from Second Life to a server not controlled directly by Linden Lab. There was a blog post that described this and also introduced the OpenSim project and emphasized that Zha teleported, without bringing any inventory textures or attachments. And so, Zero, I’m hoping
  6. 6. that you can respond to one of the first comments that showed up in response to this on a Second Life blog. It’s from Ceera Murakami, and Ceera says this, “No inventory, textures or attachments? So what does it accomplish again? Merely that you can use one client application, account name and password to log on to multiple grids. If nothing but your name transfers, that sounds pretty worthless to me. I can already go to any of the other grids and create an account that uses the same name and same password to log on, and I get the same result, a ruthed avatar that has absolutely nothing in common with my Second Life avatar, other than the name.” So, Zero, we talked about this a little bit last week, and you had a couple of slides that you used to explain why this teleport was so much more than it sounds. MARK LENTCZNER: That’s right. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Could you walk us through that? MARK LENTCZNER: Certainly. Certainly. Let’s explain why this journey of a thousand miles really does start with a single step, and that step is such a big one. So I have the first slide I drew there; I don’t know if you can get it up there. What most people think of when they think of what happened is they tend to think of what happens when they visit websites because this is a common experience, and all of us have experienced it. When you browse the web and you go from one web property to another, say you’re looking at your Facebook account and then you jump over to Flickr because someone has a link to some Flickr page, and you arrive at the Flickr website, which somehow knows that you’re logged in there as
  7. 7. well. And then you jump maybe from there to, say, looking at your Google account or something, what is happening there really is, you have an account at each individual website, and, as you move between the pages, of course, your browser is very cleverly and, thankfully, behind your back managing cookies so that it basically is keeping you logged in to your three different accounts on, say, three different servers. And, in fact, as we well know there’s absolutely no relationship between your Facebook account and Flickr account and Google account. And, if you’re lucky, you may have managed the same account name on all three servers, but I don’t know about you, I certainly have probably about 50 active accounts on different web servers and probably about 25 different account names between those, so it’s often hard to get the same account name. And, of course, there’s no way for anyone to know that it’s really you whether they’re the same. So that what happens in the web browsing. What we did and what happened in that very first historic teleport and now is happening in the Open Grid Beta constantly is quite a bit different. We can go to the second slide. In the second slide, what’s happening here is there’s really only one account so it’s not really logging in to a bunch of different grids. You’re really only logging in once to your one and only one account. And then we hold that account in a thing that, unfortunately, still has gotten a useful nice name. It’s currently called by its technical name: the Agent Domain. You log into the Agent Domain which maintains all your personal information about your avatar. That includes your name and other aspects, like your Linden dollar balance and your inventory and what you’re wearing, the state of the groups you’re in. That’s all held there in a single account. And what we managed to do is, we managed to take that account and ask that Agent Domain, that’s sort of the proxy for your account, and ask it to place your avatar
  8. 8. in a given region, and that region, when we teleported between regions, was actually on two different grids or really under two different controls in two different sets of servers. And so that we can move the agent and visit regions that are elsewhere. What’s different here is that when you arrive at a region running somewhere else, you’re not really logging in there. That region doesn’t have to have an account for you, isn’t actually in control of your account at all. And why this is so important, even though today you can take absolutely nothing but your name, is that what we’re showing, the path we have just taken off on, is that you can go places without giving up control, in any way, shape or form, of your account, of your identify, of your agent, and take your identity under your control to other places. This is a very big change and different way of doing things than the rest of the web or systems on the internet today use. That’s because Virtual Worlds require this different method of doing things. We require that we all have an identity that we control, and it’s very important that I take not just an account that has a similar name or a close to similar name or maybe I’m lucky and got the same name; it’s important that I take my account. Does that kind of help clear things up there? ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Yeah, that does. Now you used a term when we were talking about this last week, and it was “user centric control of your own identify.” What is that? MARK LENTCZNER: Right now when you have different websites that have accounts on them, we really think of those accounts. I mean I have an account at Flickr, and I think of it as Flickr owning that account. It’s Flickr’s account that has my name on it. I have a password, and I get to change the settings. But I think, mentally, we all think of the account
  9. 9. as sort of being over there. I certainly don’t think of my Flickr account as me. In Virtual Worlds, we all think of our avatars as us. I mean anyone who has been in Virtual Worlds for more than an hour has gotten that uncanny experience of thinking, “My god! I’m really identifying with this funny little 3D thing here.” And, because of that, it’s really important that the account really feel like that it’s yours because that’s how you imbue identity and thus bring yourself into these collaborations that we’re all in. So when I say “user centric control,” I mean it’s very important that you feel like you are in control of your account and of your identity and that when you go visit another region, you don’t have any sense or worry that, in any sense, you are giving up or visiting an account owned and run by somebody else. You have to make sure that you are a hundred percent in control of your account, your identity. This structure does that, and it’s a, I think, rather novel one. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: And a follow-up question here. So Zha and a handful of others have already made this teleport, becoming our intrepid Gridnauts flying from grid to grid. What is new about this Beta project that has been announced, the Open Grid Beta? MARK LENTCZNER: So we have been saying, certainly for a year, that this whole thing is to be an open process. And when we showed last month that we actually could technically do it, we showed it in an extremely controlled--it’s like showing that it can be done in the laboratory. The amazing thing is that we have gone from the laboratory to an open experiment in, what, under a month or just about a month and actually showing that we can do this in the wild with lots of other people participating and proving that this is more than just a one-time hand-held experiment.
  10. 10. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: This has probably been the hardest show, out of the 40-odd that I’ve had to prepare for. Part of what is confusing is the technical end. And another part that is confusing is figuring out sort of who is involved and who’s doing what to make it happen. Now, Zha, you wrote a blog piece recently where you stated, “The architecture working group isn’t designing software; it’s designing a suite of protocols.” Can you explain that? DAVID LEVINE: Yeah, I can certainly take a crack at that, and it’s actually very important. There’s a big distinction between just writing software and writing protocols. It has to do with what you assume about the implementers of it. The intent here--and I’m sure Mark will jump in, or Zero will jump in and correct me if I run astray--the intent here is to have this implemented broadly, not just by one group or by OpenSim or by Linden, but by many of the participants in the, hopefully, emerging ecosystem around Virtual Worlds as possible. As soon as you do that, the emphasis stops being on how did we build this specific piece of software which interoperates and starts being on how anybody can build a piece of software which follows this protocol and interoperates. And that pushes us into about three important dimensions of this, most important of which is the only thing you can actually depend is the protocol. You can’t actually depend on the software augmentation. Whether the codice admitted to OpenSim works right or wrong isn’t of the essence here. What’s of the essence here is that we got the protocol right, and I was able to implement it. The other things have to do with questions of creating an ecosystem where lots of people can innovate, and, again, that separates out writing code and writing an implementation from the design of the way they interoperate.
  11. 11. The other piece of it which is important is it immediately puts us on the hook to understand the trust issues between the software writers because one of the base root facts of the internet and distributed software is, you can’t believe that the other guy is doing what you asked him to. You can say, “Oh, yeah, that guy says he’s an OpenSim. He says he’s going to do exactly what he said he would,” and he can, in fact, lie to you. So we have to account for that relatively early on. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: So that’s the trust issue? DAVID LEVINE: That leads to part of the trust issue. It’s important to think of this as a series of layerings here. At the very bottom, there’s the protocol which says this is how Sim A talks to Sim B and Sim B talks to the client, and the teleport happens. And it’s a series of steps. In this message, you get back this message, take the results of that, parse it apart, and you send this next message on, and the teleport happens. Anybody who reads the spec can go and build that. There’s no need to go use our code. You can read the spec and build it yourself. And, in particular, over time, we would hope that we’ll see lots of people do that on entirely separate technology basis. There’s a group doing a test harness, which is done entirely in Python. All of the OpenSim work is done primarily in C-Sharp, and the client is done in C-Plus-Plus, and all these pieces implement the protocol. They’re each separate. And this is really important as we try to establish not merely a single or a small collection of pieces of software, but a broad set of pieces. The analogy to this is the web isn’t built on pieces of software. The web is built on a protocol
  12. 12. called HTTP and a markup which is called HTML. And you can implement that as many ways as you want. In fact, we have Safari. We have Mozilla, who’s implemented Firefox, the Internet Explorer and so on. We have a broad range of implementations which are completely independent and don’t necessarily carry any source code at all. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I guess the other question I have is just looking at the organization. As I understand it, we have Linden Lab, and Zero is being paid by Linden Lab. Zha, you are being paid by IBM. And I know you guys are devoting a lot of time to this. We also have people who I think are also devoting huge amounts of time to it. I think they call themselves the AW Groupies, the Architectural Working Group members, who are often just doing this on their own for whatever their own personal reasons are. Either of you, can you give me an indication of who’s doing what, who’s taking responsibility for which element? MARK LENTCZNER: Well, again, it is an open group effort and so things are not like a well-run organization with clear defined boundaries by upper management or something. So we’ve got a number of pieces here. We’ve got Linden Lab and IBM devoting significant resources, engineering and technical resources to the design and forwarding of this process and to the development. We are both working on--since a goal, of course, is to make this work in this environment of Second Life and to extend it. Of course, at Linden Lab we have engineers here working on our sides of our software, to make our software work with this, which we are paying them to do that. The AWG, of course, as a collection of people, is primarily people who are interested in helping further the discussion and the motion along to get us to a protocol, and that is
  13. 13. primarily, well, not primarily--I mean it’s a volunteer organization like many protocol--I don’t want to call it a standards body, but it’s a group working towards an eventual standards protocol. We come to it from our different vantage points and motivated and funded by our different directives. There are, of course, people working on OpenSim, which is an Open Source project, and it would be hard to characterize them singularly. They come from all different directions, people who are purely interested in it, people who are eventually planning on making sure there’s an open technology for which they can then base other products and businesses out of--of course, is a standard operation procedure of Open Source projects. So there’s a variety of people. And then we actually do have a number of other industry or well-known corporate members who come to these meetings to discuss and to sort of keep an eye and connected to, even if they are associated to a lesser degree. I would say it’s hard to actually pin down specific responsibilities, except that I think, at any given moment, there are specific tasks that groups have taken on. And certainly my role in this is to keep it moving forward since I helped start it way back in last September. DAVID LEVINE: Right. I think you pretty much covered it. One of the things that’s happening here, and it’s, I think, somewhat unique is that this is essentially a group of people with a clear overlapping interest. Everyone brings their piece of interest to it and pushes it forward. I made the case to my management that this was important and something that we should be participating in. And IBM is investing a certain amount of resource directly in the actual interoperability work and OpenSim in general, as are other corporations and other players. The end goal I think everyone sees is pretty clearly to grow
  14. 14. out the ecosystem around this technology. There isn’t, nor does there need to be, complete agreement in that. We’re not saying, “This is an end goal. There are 18 things we will do, and we will be done.” We are not going to end up doing a large range of activities, some of which will no doubt prove to be dead end. At the end of it, I think we’re all confident that we’ll have advanced things to the point where we can get a large number of interesting extensions and interoperability to occur. It’s also deeply, I think, important to think about this as entirely open. Every one of Zero’s office hours, where a lot of this is discussed, gets posted to the Second Life Wiki. All of the AWG group, these meetings, I think with exception of like two or three where people actually failed due to disorganization, have their transcript posted to the Wiki. The discussion is open. When we do something, we generally blog it. We generally talk about it. We’re out here talking about it. This is very much a process of a group coming together to figure out how the best way to tackle these problems is technically. And there’s a lot of attention to what the sort of social and political and technical issues are. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. We have a question from Hooligan Dollinger that, I guess, David, would be for you: Can you comment on the IBM private server was behind the IBM firewall for Second Life that you announced? That you were working on with Linden Lab earlier this year. I think that was in the spring, the Virtual Worlds Conference. DAVID LEVINE: Right. I can mention it briefly. It’s one of several joint projects we’re investigating with Linden Lab on ways to deliver value collaboratively with Linden as a partner and potentially on their own in various spaces. In this space, it’s overlapping in some
  15. 15. of its interests, obviously. A large number of corporate customers have expressed interest in being able to run the Second Life service as part of the grid but with the servers behind their firewalls and in control of their own chat and content so they don’t have to worry about some of the security issues. And we’re happy to have engaged in that discussion. We have a lot of collaborative efforts we’re doing with Linden Lab and Second Life and with other Virtual Worlds vendors, all of which are basically exploring this space. It’s not as if, at this point, somebody has sat down and said, “This is the one true path forward.” We’re as involved in trying to discover the path forward as anybody, and so that’s just a related project. We’re doing an early example of that internally, to explore some of the implications of it. We’re working very closely with Linden on that project, but it’s just another piece of work we’re doing. It’s not directly either of these. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. Let’s move on to some issues of why this is worth doing and what effect it’s going to have on Linden Lab, on IBM and other enterprises and for residents of Virtual Worlds. So, Zero, I’d like to start with you and simply ask: Where does the Open Grid project fit into Linden Lab’s business strategy long term? MARK LENTCZNER: Well, you have to recognize that Virtual Worlds, as a whole, become a pretty darn big and wide open thing. So it’s important for Linden Lab to, while at the same time devoting some amount of resources and direct business energy to what is currently happening inside Second Life, everything from stability to supporting the various new features that people need to be able to get on with their business and life inside Second Life, it’s also important for Linden Lab, as a whole, to take an active role in what’s going to happen in the future. And so the Open Grid protocol and the open products work that’s being done here is part of Linden Lab’s work towards looking towards the future, in trying to
  16. 16. ensure that we are part of that future and to make that happen. So the business case here is, this is crucial to be able to see and to be part of and to lead where Virtual Worlds, as a whole, is going. I think we’ve understood inside Linden Lab it’s very successful. Virtual Worlds are very powerful, and it’s clear they’re going to be far bigger and encompass far more things, ideas, actions and roles than we can cover individually. And so we see a world in which Virtual Worlds must eventually open on an internet scale. And, if that’s the case, then we have to be working to be part of that, to ensure that what’s happening today feeds into what happens tomorrow. DAVID LEVINE: Let me answer a little bit of that from perhaps another perspective, which I think is closely related. There is a huge opportunity here. We’re at the very beginning of this evolution. If you look at the internet, we're in the early ’90s when we just figured out that, “Hey, this markup stuff and these web pages are really important tools,” only we’re doing that for Virtual Worlds. And, at some very real level, we--and I use this in the broadest sense--we, the community, the various corporate players, Linden I hope and lots of other people--want to ignite an ecosystem in which lots of innovation occurs. Not small amounts but lots of innovation in parallel and without knowing necessarily which piece of innovation is going to win. And one of the ways we do that is by opening up the protocol and opening up the source in various places, having a series of parallel projects in which people push on lots of different things. So a group gets interested in high resolution meshes for representation which Real Extend, for instance, has done. Or a group is interested in how you want to deal with very closed, very secure environments with a very real-life tie with entities, and they go ahead and
  17. 17. extend the environment in that way. We’ll see lots of innovation in the space, and no one group, no community, [a piece of?] community is going to do it all at once. And this way we get the benefit of interoperating and sharing. So when somebody comes up with a really good idea, the entire community benefits. I think that’s relatively fundamental. It’s a statement of the broader space is so important. We need to have it happen in parallel rather than imagine it being done as one or two small centralized efforts, which has never a success in the internet anyway. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Okay. We have a question from Olando7 Decosta, Roland Legrand, and it is for Zero: Would Linden Lab become a vendor of Virtual Worlds’ solutions and eventually spin off Second Life? MARK LENTCZNER: Spin off? No, I don’t think so. I think we believe deeply that the grander community--it’s amazing we still call it a community when it has, what, 15 million registrants or whatever the number is today--the community is a deep part of who we are and what we’re about and who we’re here for. I think there’s no doubt that Linden Lab’s business will expand. We will be taking on other areas and doing other things. I can’t speculate at the moment what being a vendor in Virtual World space will be because we’re only charting what that space is right now. But I’m sure Linden Lab will be taking on other business aspects of Virtual Worlds as time goes on; however, our heart and soul is the community environment of Second Life. So I believe we will always be running Second Life. I don’t think we will ever spin it off. You just have to recognize that Linden Lab is going to grow and is going to be able to do more.
  18. 18. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Zero, just to follow up on that, one of the short-term effects, it would seem, is that right now selling land is a major, if not the major, revenue source for Linden Lab. And so I’m just wondering if you can--we’ll talk in a minute about exploring some more of these long-term benefits that are going to be great for the Metaverse and all that. But, in the short term, I guess I’m wondering is the short term vast enough that you’re going to see a lot of people putting up their own servers online and not buying land? MARK LENTCZNER: No, I don’t. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: You don’t see that happening? MARK LENTCZNER: I don’t see that happening short term. First off, nothing will happen here without a tremendous amount of planning and without involvement and without clear communication. I think while it might be easier for other companies to go ahead and say their practice would just be to do these things on the quiet, you can see that Linden Lab, as a transparent entity, has been happily talking about the fact that this stuff is going on, even in such an early stage. So, please, recognize the value of the fact that we’re willing to talk about this stuff, at this stage, so that we can have the dialogue going on starting now about how the Virtual Worlds will evolve. Even when, right now, as you can see, it’s not exactly an immediate drop replacement for what you’re doing in Second Life at the moment. All you can do is take your avatar as a ruth somewhere else. So I don’t see that. And the other thing I think people have to recognize and think about is, it is still the case that the land that Linden Lab offers, that is in Second Life, has a huge number of features and
  19. 19. value and its part of this community. There are other points in the world of virtual land space that this land may not cover. So when other people open up land or build land elsewhere, I don’t think that necessarily is a direct competitor for what’s going on here. In the future, there might be. I’m sure there will be competition in the future. But, any time short- or mid-term, recognize that there are other kinds and uses of Virtual Worlds which we may not be filling, and therefore, people fulfilling that doesn’t mean we’re losing business. It’s that the market as a whole is growing. DAVID LEVINE: Right. And one of the things I think that is important to keep in mind is that there are often, as the web evolves, opportunities where you look and then go, “Does a player or collection of players want to hold tightly their share of the current closed World? Do they want to be a potentially small share of a much larger World?” And I certainly think that’s one of the perspectives to keep in mind, both from the point of view of the participants on a company level, but also from the view of the participants of residences. If, in fact, we’re at all successful at this, part of the explicit result ought to be a much larger World, much more variety and many more participants. And when that happens, the overall pie gets quite a bit larger. In particular, if that’s all connected, if it’s all leveraged--the phrase you’ll often here is “network effect.” Some people talk about this with a business strategy point of view--then you get huge benefits. So if, for example, it suddenly becomes possible for people to do corporate solution training behind their firewalls, but it’s part of very deeply the same large community so that the same avatars move up and back, then the benefits become that there’s more use of the entire World. One of the things that you don’t particularly want to get to, in my perspective, is lots of little
  20. 20. private walled gardens which never interoperate because then none of them share the benefits. They don’t get the opportunity to say, “Oh, now that you’ve learned how to do this training, you can also come and do public space meetings with your colleagues and competitors in Second Life, and you can come and do social events. You can come and engage in a large range of activities.” There’s a lot of intersections of interest where what we want to achieve is not, “Oh, here are ten different ways you can do this, each of which is independent.” But, “Here are ten different ways to do this, which have variations, all of which are synergistic and combine to give you a greater world.” ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: We have a question from Segun Ohtobide: Do you see the Open Grid becoming the next internet? Is that a reasonable way of putting this? MARK LENTCZNER: If you mean if it becomes the next thing people mean when they just say the more generic term “the internet”? Yes. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: That would be my [CROSSTALK] MARK LENTCZNER: I do. That makes it a little bit, I don’t know, pompous or pompous sounding, but I think it’s absolutely true. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: We need to give the bloggers a headline so that’s it, “Zero Linden says yes.” A follow-up question from Cytec Blanco: Is Google playing along with it? MARK LENTCZNER: You mean is Google in involved in the AWG or in the Open Grid?
  21. 21. They’re not. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Or any aspect of this project. MARK LENTCZNER: Not to our knowledge. No one has identified themselves as an employee of Google. So no, I don’t think so. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: That’s an interesting way of putting it. I mean I suppose it’s possible that one of those many hardworking folks in the AWG or working on Open Source could be doing it, getting paid for their time by Google. You don’t have to comment on that. MARK LENTCZNER: I just don’t know. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: I’ll just leave that hanging out there. DAVID LEVINE: One of the mild entertainments of this is the periodic, “Do you actually know who all the people you’re working with are?” And the answer is, “Not always.” Some of us identify ourselves, “Here’s my Real Life connection. Here is who I’m working for.” Some people who’ve provided lots of strong ideas and direct input have not. And, if the ideas are high quality and the contributions are worthwhile, they get included. And I would find it unlikely that major corporate players would play that game. On the other hand, I would be very comfortable and not surprised if, when you’re looking at it, you just kept your mouth shut and watched for a while. And it’s all open. There’s no reason why somebody from any major corporation who’s interested in this can’t go read the Wiki, see what we’re doing and
  22. 22. learn a lot. And, in fact, explicitly, that’s one of the goals. Everything we’ve done is public. So if they are interested, come read it if you want to contribute. Come talk to us. We’d be glad to hear from you. It’s very much an open process. And just to briefly touch on the comment of, “Is this the next internet?” In some sense, absolutely no, in the sense that the internet’s the network. Is it our intent and hope that this becomes a big part of how people do things across the web and, as I said, a layer on top of that? Absolutely. Do we think that potentially significant chunks of what people currently do using other technologies get subsumed by this? That’s certainly one of the aspirations. Where it’s appropriate. Where collaboration and where doing it as a shared space, with a visual presence becomes compelling, absolutely. That’s clearly one of the things we see as desirable. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Let me try to get a little more specific on one of the other advantages of having the Open Grid. As I understand it, it’s not just the fact that you can take advantage of the network effect, but it’s also that someone could create a World that fits the protocols so that it will communicate with the others, but could have very different capabilities inside. And so I’m just trying to get some confirmation that I’m thinking about this correctly. So for example, as I understand it, someone could create a World that has incredible building tools so that you can do much more effective 3D modeling or something like that so you could take your object from Second Life, put it in that World, work on it, make it better, more beautiful, more complex and so on; bring it back. Is that the direction you see this going, Worlds with very different capabilities, but following common protocols?
  23. 23. MARK LENTCZNER: Yes, although I think the capabilities are what you’ve described is more like a version of the viewer rather than a version of a World. I would think-- ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Oh, okay. MARK LENTCZNER: --a better example of a World would be more like a World which was, say as an example, maybe a World in which the simulator simulating those regions was deeply connected to, say--I don’t know, the truck-monitoring of trucks through some shipping company’s network so that the simulator actually was somehow a deep 3D immersion experience of their data, of what was going on in their business. Or an example of a region in which the experience had certain properties or maybe even the scripting environment was different or specific to that region, to enable a different kind of entertainment experience or a different kind of perhaps even, say, educational experience or even science. I could imagine different kinds of regions with properties connected to science labs or science experiments for scientific visualization. DAVID LEVINE: Right. There was a group in Tokyo that took an OpenSim and hooked up a real physics simulator to it so that you could do some Real World astronomy experiments. You can look at the visualization results of that. That sort of thing where somebody says, “Well, look. Here’s a new property that I can put into the simulation that’s specialized.” We don’t need to have in every simulator in the grid, but adds value to the whole collection of simulators, I think, would be a huge example of that, and I think we’re going to see this.
  24. 24. Somebody asked in backchat, and I just want to touch on this briefly, “Why behind the firewall?” And it’s a related answer because there are cases where you want to keep specialized content that you care about. So for example, if you want to train people in a Real Life scenario to discuss a number of customers, human resources issues where you’re going to do sensitivity training, where you want to do scenarios of hostile customers, you might well not want to do that in public, but you want your employees to experience it. And an immersive environment’s a great way to do it. You can hire up a half dozen people to role-play hostile customers and force your client reps to actually interact with them in this lovely low-cost and not actually harming real people. You’re not flying them around the world to do this. But they get a very realistic experience of it. And so there are lots of variations on what we do in the World today that you might imagine wanting to do over time. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Can you give us a sense of the timeline for this? Where are we going to be in 18 months? DAVID LEVINE: [PAUSE] Look. We’re both quiet. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Silence! No, it’s hard to get these two to just be quiet. DAVID LEVINE: No, it’s not. No. We want to give a coherent answer. MARK LENTCZNER: Yeah. I don’t want to promise anything here, by any stretch, because we are proceeding slowly. We are proceeding openly. And we think there will be no grand
  25. 25. surprises 18 months out. Everyone is going to know where things are coming as they proceed. DAVID LEVINE: Let’s give a couple of hallmarks of sort of where we’re looking. One of the deep questions that we have to untangle and we’ve been discussing is how to handle content and, in particular, how to handle the right to content creators. There’s a series of technical work which involves managing trust so that you have a legal and technical relationship with other grids that supports the content creation. We didn’t skip inventory just because it’s hard. We also skipped inventory, not just because it’s part of the technical base. We skipped inventory because it’s hard to do fairly and correctly, and you want to do it correctly. There’s a bunch of work having to do with details like what does it even mean to share a map, how do you manage the map. Right now lots of parts of the current World assume there is one map; there’s one search function; there’s one currency; there’s one place to find events. And all of those things have to gradually be untangled and made more separable. At the same time, we will have tackle trust. We will have to tackle things which are important to residents and important to content creators and important to land owners. We don’t want and can’t, in fact, succeed by doing these in ways which hurt the existing community and hurt the existing applications. We want to do this as a positive step. So what are you going to look for? I think you’re going to look for a series of technical activities where we say, “Here’s a new facet that’s been discussed in prototype and discussed in meetings, and now here’s a Beta of it that gets added into the current Beta so
  26. 26. that trust this region, and now you can start asking questions like what policies can you [INAUDIBLE/AUDIO PROBLEM], and, over time, do you get towards where it’s much harder to be teleported to an OpenSim run on a separate grid and an OpenSim run on a traditional region run by Second Life. I think that’s where we’re headed. As for a specific timeline, I don’t think anyone’s going to commit to that at the moment. MARK LENTCZNER: I will prognosticate a little bit more than that and say that I think, within 18 months or in the 18-month timeframe, it will be possible for most of the people in this audience to actually do this. I don’t know to what degree. It will still probably be limitations or restrictions on what actually is possible in that interaction. But today, this is, you know, download a magic viewer. Look up a bunch of magic URLs and you can do it and you end up ruthed. But I think 18 months from now this will be actually something that most people will actually be able to do and like, “I actually went and did it.” Yeah, yeah. X, Y and Z didn’t work or wasn’t available yet. But you’ll actually be able to do it. So I think this will become more of a commonplace idea 18 months from now, that will be generally available. DAVID LEVINE: I think we can also say with a fair bit of confidence that, between now and 18 months from now, a number of the current thorny issues will become a lot clearer. So for example, we will have a coherent story about how we’re going to manage proving that this region is one we can trust or this region is one we shouldn’t give your content to. One of the things that I’ve said repeatedly and I think is essential is, we have to do this in a way that makes it successful for all the participants. It’s not a success if, in doing this, we ruin, as it were, some of the important properties of what we’ve built.
  27. 27. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: So you guys have mentioned policy. This isn’t just a technical issue. There are also policies that need to be set. For those of the non-technical of us in the Metaverse, there’s a place where the architecture working group gathers and a house overlooking it that has a sign that says something like, “Open Source equals Closed Society,” which is maybe less of a walled garden issue than a gated community one. But how is it that the people who are not technical, but are going to be affected by what you do, have a voice in what is happening on that interface policy technical issue? MARK LENTCZNER: From Linden’s end, we intend, in the same way in which I have been holding open office hours for the last year, on the technical side of it, to begin to hold a series of forum and a series of conduits for information from people. I’ve been working with some other people inside the community group, inside Linden Lab, to begin to set those up. I know it might have felt like this was a technocracy where we started, but do recognize there was a tremendous amount of technical framework that had to get laid down before we could even get to the point of actually having a rational discussion about what the options were, and we are now approximately at that point. I expect this fall for those forums to begin to open up and to become available, at least ones that Linden will hold, in the same way that Linden started the technical forum, the AWG in my office hours. We highly encourage, just like the AWG existed, that other groups also form forums in which these things can be discussed and looked at. The one thing I will put forth is, remember for us to think about this as a discussion. This is
  28. 28. something that needs to be looked at. It isn’t a debate. There aren’t two sides. We need to look at and discuss and explore how to go about doing this as Virtual Worlds grow, and that’s what we want to have. On the one hand, is involving discussion, and I think that’s what we’re going to have to help facilitate. DAVID LEVINE: Right. I think a related piece of this, and I’ve expressed this on my blog a number of times, and I try to express this in person where I can: One of my goals as a creator of technology in this space is take the very clear position that we are not smart enough to know where this is going to end up. In fact, if we did, we’d be relatively arrogant. We have some pretty good guesses about parts of it. The goal of the technology of the protocols and so forth is to give us a framework in which we can explore this and figure it out. And people are going to put together, over the next several years, a huge range of grid. Some of which will interoperate fully. Some of which will be very private. Some of which will have very different rules of engagement. And we will find out, by that process, what works and what doesn’t work. We’re not saying if you build this, you get this one cookie-cutter World. In fact, we’re saying just the opposite. We’re saying technology is going to enable a very broad range of ways of people assembling pieces of the Virtual World. And we will find out. And we will listen. And we will have a very rich discussion. And, as Zero said, I think it’s exactly the right point: There isn’t a side to this, isn’t a right or wrong answer; it’s a process. And I say this routinely, there are lots of ways to get involved which don’t involve writing code. Every resident at some level or another has a use case they’re interested in. They may not even know it’s important to them, but they do in fact have them. They use Second Life. They use this technology to get something done. And all
  29. 29. of those use cases are of value. They range from people who are interested in huge, large, live music events. People are very interested in corporate training. People who are interested in creating content. People who are interested for their own personal beliefs having shared content which they don’t believe in charging for content. All of those models, and there are a lot of them, and there are many more than I’ve just described, are important, and they’re all going to get explored. We’re not going to pick one. There isn’t winners or losers; the range of opportunities for enabling. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: So we have time for one last question, and, Zero, this is for you. I see the backchat in the web. I think a lot of this is the web and event partners. People are asking lots of questions about the future of the Linden dollar. And I know that Zee and, I believe, M and Philip have all mentioned at some point recently, the thought that the Linden dollar could have use and value outside just the World of Second Life. So there are just questions about: How would other grids use these? How would Linden Lab control the supply so that there isn’t hyperinflation and so on? Any thoughts on that, Zero? MARK LENTCZNER: Sure. Obviously, I think not just Linden Lab, but a lot of people in Second Life think the Linden dollar is a tremendously valuable asset and is a great system and one that we want to grow in the ways in which people can use it. As far as what happens when grids open up and why won’t that spell doom for the Linden dollar, recognize that we believe the Linden dollar’s a valuable asset, which means that we’re not going to engage willy-nilly in any form of exchange or work which would somehow cause that to be put at risk. The Linden dollar does have to remain a stable entity, a valuable thing. And we’re not just going to go ahead and engage in a protocol or in some exclusion which just
  30. 30. lets it be devalued or disappear. A caution I would give is, when you think about how the grid opens up, it’s very easy to be very quick to assume in what manner or in what style or what lack of controls there may be when that opens up. And I would challenge you to keep a very broad and open mind and challenge your own assumptions. Just because one creates an open protocol doesn’t mean, for example, that people will be able to willy-nilly take Lindens in and out of your account. Of course we’re not going to design a protocol that enables that to happen. And, of course, we’re going to look to how can we build protocols and build systems that enable, again, Linden Lab to take the Linden dollar where we would like to take it, as well as John said, other people to do what they think is important to do. I don’t think there’s any cause for deep alarm there. DAVID LEVINE: One other thing that-- ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Thank you. Actually, I’ll tell you, we’re actually basically out of time because we have one more segment to go. But, Zero, great answer. You do Alan Greenspan proud with that. And so I want to thank you both, Zha and Zero, for coming on the show and talking about the Open Grid project. I, for one, also just want to give a quick shout out to all the many folks--and I’ve been reading the backchat--all the people who’ve been involved with this. I gather you’re handing a whole bunch of work over to Whump Linden, who I see is right here with us on Muse Isle. So, Whump, have fun, and no doubt we’ll be trying to get you on the show, to see how much hair you have left in several months. So, Zero, Zha, thank you so much for coming on.
  31. 31. MARK LENTCZNER: Thank you, Beyers. DAVID LEVINE: Thank you. And just a final comment to anyone listening, and this is my universal comment to people: You got questions, concerns or issues, I’m very visible on Second Life. I listen to IMs. Drop me a hello, and come talk to me about it. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Great! We appreciate that. Now we are delighted to have Ben Duranske, Metanomics’ legal correspondent, close out the show with Connecting The Dots, to talk about some of the difficult legal questions that are raised by the Open Grid project. Ben, take it away. BEN DURANSKE: The biggest legal impact of the grid, local law, you want to run a casino, you drop a server in an [AUDIO GLITCH]. But that’s the easy part. As Zha and Zero noted, content export is hard technically. It’s also hard legally. Make no mistake, content export is coming, even though it’s not in the Beta. The marketplace will demand it. So what happens to my suit, hair and skin, all of which were designed by talented residents, when I take my avatar to the Antigua World to play some blackjack? And what if the guy that runs the casino there programs his server to let me make unauthorized copies? Those aren’t new questions. I dug up an old audio recording of Second Life’s first birthday, where then CEO Philip Rosedale discusses interoperability and export of content from Second Life to other locations through the internet. Philip says, “I don’t think that we fundamentally object to people being able to take their content with them. I believe that the content people create, even if there are many digital Worlds out there for you to be in, the content you create
  32. 32. should be your own property. In the end, the more open systems will win.” Philip was actually responding to a resident concern that Linden Lab might not allow content exporting to other Worlds for business reasons. Today residents are far more concerned that Linden Lab will allow exporting, perhaps to grids without the same technological solutions in place to protect the content. And that brings us to the heart of the question: What is the legal status of Linden Lab’s permission system? What obligations does Linden Lab have to prevent transfer of Second Life virtual property to other grids without similar permissions? While I’m in Second Life, unless I’m using an exploit to cheat the permission system, the suit I’m wearing cannot be copied, so I only get one. It can’t be modified, so I can’t make the tie a different color. And it can’t be transferred to another user because the designer set it up that way. But that’s just a technological limit. And, like it or not, copyright law, with one big exception I’ll talk about in a minute, isn’t all that interested in technological limits. Look at something distinctly analog for an example. The script to a hot movie that’s in production. Scripts are often printed in colored ink on colored paper so they won’t photocopy. But that’s not what really protects the intellectual property. That just makes it harder to infringe. What actually protects the intellectual property is the legal framework of copyright law and a lengthy nondisclosure agreement under which the script is given to the actors and the crew. Similarly what protects your intellectual property in Second Life isn’t really the copy/mod transfer system. That’s just the ink and paper that won’t photocopy. What protects your intellectual property in Second Life, and on any grid, is the legal framework of the copyright system and any agreement you reach with your customers. That
  33. 33. probably sounds a little scary because copyright suits can be pretty expensive, and some infringement won’t be worth pursuing. But realistically, that’s true on the 2D internet too. The posts I write at Virtually Blind sometimes get copied and posted on amalgamator sites, some of which are hosted overseas. It’s annoying, but it’s not worth my time to pursue it. On the 3D internet, you’ll have to pick your battle too. There are legal arguments that Linden Lab has an obligation to prohibit unauthorized transfer though. First is estoppel. For a half decade, Linden Lab has encouraged users to create this amazing content-rich [AUDIO GLITCH] around us all the time. It’s this rich content that makes Second Life profitable, and not a fraction of it would have been created without copy/mod transfer. One could reasonably argue that Linden Lab should be estopped--that’s the one legal term today--from allowing content created under this system to leave Second Life. The other argument is one I alluded to earlier. Under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, circumvention of technological measures to prevent copying is prohibited. Arguably, Linden Lab cannot circumvent the copy/mod transfer system creators rely on by hooking up that content to grids without such a system. After all, remember, your rights under the DMCA are yours in Second Life, not Linden Lab’s. I don’t think it will come to that though. Linden Lab says, and I’m quoting, that it will not design a system that lets people openly violate the permissions of Second Life goods and take them to other Worlds. Take a step back and parse that carefully. Linden Lab promises that its system will not let people quote “openly violate the permissions,” end quote, of Second Life goods. As Robert said, we’re connecting the dots in this segment so I’m going to complete the picture. Linden Lab has left room in that statement for the creation of a new permission; let’s call it transport, which could be set
  34. 34. by designers to allow transfer of property to non-Linden Lab hosted grids. Realistically, designers are going to want to allow transport for the most part. The marketplace will demand transportability of inventory items. After all, I know I’d rather not show up in Antigua naked--and I’d even pay extra for the option. And designers will, I suspect, want to offer products that work across grid lines. The bottom line: There’s a good ethical argument that Linden Lab shouldn’t let stuff that was built in Second Life get transported to other grids without the designer’s permission. There’s an even better legal argument there as well, but both are probably unnecessary. Just like every other form of intellectual property, there will undoubtedly be some infringement. There already is in Second Life itself. And just like other forms of infringement, the legal system will deal with the worst of it. The marketplace will sort out the rest. Thanks, Robert. ROBERT BLOOMFIELD: Thank you, Ben, so much for that fascinating discussion, and I appreciate that you used only one legal term that was something that is good for me as well. Just a couple quick announcements to close the show, telling you about some upcoming events. First of all, some of you may have been here today hoping to learn about the results of Dusan Writer’s amazing contest to design proposed changes to the interface of the Second Life viewer. I apologize that didn’t appear at the beginning of the show, but we are going to be announcing a different version--I’m sorry. We will pull that together, hopefully, tomorrow. So go to metanomics.net, and you’ll be able to see information about when you can see Dusan Writer give out 800,000 Lindens to the winners of that contest and also see some fascinating new ideas on what could be done to improve the Second Life viewer.
  35. 35. I also want to give you some information on next week’s show. We’ll have David Kaskel, the managing director of Language Lab. Language Lab teaches foreign languages in Second Life, and their novel curriculum uses a staff of instructors and actors to immerse people in a foreign land where they use the native tongue in homes, in restaurants, in [AUDIO GLITCH], job interviews, even airports. So hear these stories straight from David Kaskel and find out next week why Bettina Tizzy of Not Possible in Real Life has said, and I quote, “Human resource departments all over the world will soon be ponying up and sending their corporate executives in droves, to Second Life, to make use of this brand.” So, see you tomorrow, hopefully, for the Dusan Writer winner announcement, and next Monday for David Kaskel of Language Lab. Thank you very much for joining us at Metanomics. Bye bye. Document: cor1027.doc Transcribed by: http://www.hiredhand.com Second Life Avatar: Transcriptionist Writer