Just yesterday I was watching the YouTube video in which Ethan Zuckerman argues with Charles Nesson about Second Life. Charles Nesson is William F. Weld Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and the founder of the Berkman Center for Internet & Society and he started an Harvard course inside Second Life. Ethan contested the fact that Charles in this way is creating “Intellectual value” that is locked in a proprietary platform where he is not able to get it back, and that with his reputation is giving a lot of visibility to Second Life in exchange for nothing and urged Charles to embrace open source alternatives, such as OpenCroquet.
At the end of the video Charles committed sepukku and this is a pity because this was not needed … it is in fact news of today that Second Life released its source code under a GPL licence, hence making it Free Software. The title of the post on Second Life’s blog announcing the huge news is particularly appropriated as well “Embracing the Inevitable“.
So now we have this great Second Life world that is Free (as in Freedom), we will soon have Ryzom Free, we now just wait for World of WarCraft to not wait until they are desperate to embrace the inevitable, and Free their source code: the inevitable is that PlaneShift or some other MMORPG already released under GPL will make World of WarCraft desperate.
“May you live in interesting times”, well, are we not? Is there anyone out there able to forecast what will happen in 1 or 5 years of Second Life now that its code is liberated? I doubt it. We live in really interesting times.
UPDATE: thanks to a comment by Francesco, I now know that Ryzom.org offer to buy the source code of Ryzom and make it free was not accepted since there were bigger monetary offers. I guess they will have to embrace the inevitable as well, sooner or later. Sooner would have been better for everyone.
UPDATE #2: I blogged too quickly and too enthusiastically the news. The points made by Ethan in his post are totally correct: LindenLab just released the code of the client (in some sense hoping to outsource the development to the Free Software community, while they maintain the code of the server absolutely proprietary and hence I cannot run my SL universe (as Francesco notes as well in the comments). Anyway I still think it is a positive news. For example now that the client code is available it would be easier to start from scratch a compatible server on SourceForge (or am I wrong again?), anyway go read the points made by Ethan because they are much deeper and more interesting than mine!