I saw today that Linden Lab has announced revisions to their Third Party Viewer policy. The Firestorm/Phoenix tema has already posted a reaction. They are also planning to discuss the changes at their next Phoenix Hour, planned for Feb. 28 at 2 PM SLT/PST.
I think Jessica phrases their take on the meaning of the changes in a pessimistic take. However, she may well be right. It is hard to know. You can read her take on the changes on the Firestorm/Phoenix blog. See: New additions to the Third Party Viewer Policy.
You can see the policy change announcement here: Third Party Viewer Policy Changes.
These changes, if intended as Jessica takes them, will be explosive. I see the changes impacting Firestorm and other viewer negatively. Exodus and Nirans viewers may become ineligible to connect to the grid. If so, I’m sure this will create a massive amount of blow back.
2.a.iii : You must not provide any feature that circumvents any privacy protection option made available through a Linden Lab viewer or any Second Life service.
This sounds good but could have some unintended consequences. The Phoenix Team believes this means they will have to remove their feature that allows one to check another’s online status. I’m not so sure of that, but they have more access to the Lindens on this topic than I do.
If I say I don’t want someone to know I’m online, I don’t want them to know. Having viewers that can circumvent my setting is just annoying. So, from what I understand now, this does not seem to be a problem for me.
2.i : You must not display any information regarding the computer system, software, or network connection of any other Second Life user.
2.j : You must not include any information regarding the computer system, software, or network connection of the user in any messages sent to other viewers, except when explicitly elected by the user of your viewer.
Jessica takes these changes to mean that information about the viewer another user is using cannot be related to you. So, in Firestorm and other viewers those nifty tags that show which viewer a person is using would have to go. I’m not sure that is what the Lab means. But, it could be and again Jessica may have more information than I do.
If Jessica is right that is a bummer. We have very little information from the Lab as to which viewers are popular. These tags are one of the few ways we have to know what is happening.
Jessica says the Lab will break the viewer name tags with this coming Tuesday or Wednesday server upgrades. I find this a bit hard to believe. I can see the next roll breaking the feature in the next release channel roll. But, the feature is not currently broken on any of the release channels now. However, it is possible. I just think it unlikely. But, we’ll soon know.
2.k : You must not provide any feature that alters the shared experience of the virtual world in any way not provided by or accessible to users of the latest released Linden Lab viewer.
This item is a bomb. That says if a third party viewer shows you anything not in a Linden Lab viewer, it is a violation of the policy. What it does not say is whether such a viewer would be blocked by the Lab.
So, if you wondered why the Exodus Viewer Team chose not to join the Viewer Certification thing and be in the Third Party Viewer Directory, now you may see an excellent reason.
This would mean viewers like Kirstens, Nirans, and Exodus that provide different features and enhancements to the rendering of the Second Life Worlds that improve or change the appearance of Second Life would violate the policy. Violating the policy would mean they have to be removed from the Directory/List.
This single item seems to totally void the advantage and reason for the existence of third party viewers.
We won’t know for certain what these changes mean or how the Lab will interpret and enforce the changes.
We encourage Third Party Developers to continue innovating with unique user interfaces, niche features, and ways of interacting with the virtual world, and we look forward to working in partnership with developers on ideas they have for new or improved shared experiences for all of Second Life. We want to incorporate more innovative new features into Second Life to improve the experience for all users, and we encourage TPV developers to submit proposals through our standard process.
I see this as a VERY negative development.
UPDATE: The viewer tags will break next week. Confirmed by Simon Linden and 3rd Party Devs at the Server Scripting group meeting (4PM).
UPDATE 2: I am told by a Linden these changes to NOT affect RLV.
UPDATE 3: Talking with Simon Linden in the user group, it seems things won’t be as bad as it sounds. The shared experience is better explained. What one sees in their viewer can change. It just cannot change what others see. That will save the visual enhancement being made by Exodus and Nirans.