This article from CNN.com has more infos :
It will leave Linden Lab in control of the proprietary software code for all Second Life’s backend services. (…) However, executives say that the company’s eventual intention is to release an open source version of that software as well, once it has improved security and other core functions. They say they have been preparing for the open source move for about three years. (…)
“We think that if we open source Second Life its product quality will move forward at a pace nobody’s ever seen,” says Rosedale. (…)
Second Life is a business that shows what are called “network effects.” In such a market, every incremental user makes the service of greater value to existing users. The more people there are in Second Life the more interesting it becomes.
Under the GNU General Public License that Linden is using, if competitors were to use its open source code to build their own virtual worlds, any improvement they make to the software would have to be shared publicly. That means it would give the most benefit to Second Life, so long as it remained the largest such world.(…)
Rosedale and other executives say they fully expect there eventually to be multiple virtual worlds that use Linden’s code, or that at least are interoperable with Second Life, so avatars can pass from one world to another.
In total, the software for Second Life comprises five gigabytes of source code. (…) The members of its community helping it improve the client software, Linden can devote more of its own efforts to essential work at the server level to enable Second Life to grow faster.
Linden Lab will review open source contributions to decide which outside features it will incorporate into its own official versions of the client software. Unofficial software will not be given customer support by the company. But it will shortly open a test version of its server “grid,” so developers can try out their software before unleashing it in the real Second Life.
Interoperable virtual worlds … =) The competition for the infrastructure of the metaverse is raging. Multiverse is also free (not OpenSource).
Happy New Year 2007!