It’s been nearly a year since I left Apple to come work for Linden Lab, and I haven’t said much about what I’ve been up to.
This quarter, I’ve stepped away from programming to manage the Open Grid Public Beta program: the first step towards breaking out of the walled garden of virtual worlds.
In this stage, identity is what’s portable. Participants sign in to what we’re calling an Agent Domain on Second Life’s preview grid (aditi.) Then they can log into regions supporting the Open Grid Protocol. Some of those regions are hosted by Linden Lab, the bulk of them are externally hosted, running a special version of the OpenSim virtual world toolkit.
You’ll show up as a default avatar, without a prim or pixel of clothing to your name, because managing inventory, permissions, and the copyright issues surrounding them are out of scope for this part of the program. But you can jump between virtual worlds.
My coworker Periapse Linden coined a wonderful term for the participants, they are gridnauts, a word evoking the romance of the space program.
If you’re interested in the project, read the Second Life wiki page to learn more. If you want to know more about what’s behind all this, Tish Shute has a background piece on the program at Ugotrade (thanks, Tish, by the way, for letting me have the last word, so to speak.)
In an email to the Lab, I paraphrased Alasdair Gray, and called this the early days of a better metaverse. There’s a lot of work to do. It will be fun and not so easy, and I believe that virtual worlds are the place to be right now if you’re looking for interesting technology and governance challenges.