Digital Culture

Second Life goes GPL

Linden Labs, the proprietors of the MMORPG Second Life have done what many thought impossible: they’ve released the code for Second Life via GPL.

This is beyond huge. I have difficulty explaining exactly what sort of watershed moment on the ‘net this is, frankly. Second Life was the first online environment where there were clear property rights….what you create, in game, is yours, and is treated more or less like physical property. This allowed the residents of Second Life to create a vibrant economy that paralleled the real world, instead of being solely virtual like so many other MMORPG’s (WoW, etc).

This release now allows anyone to set up a Second Life server, giving avatars options as to where to set up camp. It sets up a situation of unlimited emigration/immigration in-world, and the ability to hop from “state” to “state”. I can see a natural evolution now of different Second Life states that appeal to different user groups (instead of the current “areas” in the single state) which will allow for much more customization and play from the residents.

I wish I had more time to play around in SL. I’ve got an avatar that lives there, but just don’t have the time to devote that I’d like to fully explore the SL world. It’s an amazing place, though, and this move could very well make it the defacto next stage towards the metaverse.

By griffey

Jason Griffey is the Director of Strategic Initiatives at NISO, where he works to identify new areas of the information ecosystem where standards expertise is useful and needed. Prior to joining NISO in 2019, Jason ran his own technology consulting company for libraries, has been both an Affiliate at metaLAB and a Fellow and Affiliate at the Berkman Klein Center for Internet & Society at Harvard University, and was an academic librarian in roles ranging from reference and instruction to Head of IT at the University of TN at Chattanooga.

Jason has written extensively on technology and libraries, including multiple books and a series of full-periodical issues on technology topics, most recently AI & Machine Learning in Libraries and Library Spaces and Smart Buildings: Technology, Metrics, and Iterative Design from 2018. His newest book, co-authored with Jeffery Pomerantz, will be published by MIT Press in 2024.

He has spoken internationally on topics such as artificial intelligence & machine learning, the future of technology and libraries, decentralization and the Blockchain, privacy, copyright, and intellectual property. A full list of his publications and presentations can be found on his CV.
He is one of eight winners of the Knight Foundation News Challenge for Libraries for the Measure the Future project (, an open hardware project designed to provide actionable use metrics for library spaces. He is also the creator and director of The LibraryBox Project (, an open source portable digital file distribution system.

Jason can be stalked obsessively online, and spends his free time with his daughter Eliza, reading, obsessing over gadgets, and preparing for the inevitable zombie uprising.

3 replies on “Second Life goes GPL”

ALA’s Second Life…

I missed that last month the Kansas State Library held a staff meeting in Second Life. What a great way to introduce folks to SL. KSL staff were also smart enough to create a t-shirt with their name on……

I’m sorry to be short, but this open-sourcing is about the client code, not about the servers code. You definitively can not set up a Second Life server right now.

That said, I think the “natural evolution” scenario you describe is likely to happen, and this move by Linden Labs is great, good news.

Some useful articles:

(sorry for baaad engliisch 😉

> This release now allows anyone to set up a Second Life server, giving avatars options as to where to set up camp.

Not immediately, it doesn’t… the code that’s been released is the client code only, *not* the server code. Of course, having the client code makes it much easier to reverse-engineer the server, and I fully expect that at some point we’ll see versions of the client which connect to other, user-hosted grids. That’s still some way off, however… and when it happens (not if, but when), users will need to bee *extremely* careful where they download from – since people can now very easily make versions of the client that could send your username/password to an attacker when you log in.

But you’re right, it’s a huge, huge step. I, for one, applaud LL for this decision. 😀

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