Wednesday, March 31, 2010

welcome madness, say hello

I'm going to hate tomorrow, I can already tell. Several of us are thinking the same thing. Because really, honestly--what possible Aprille Fool's joke could the Lindens pull that wouldn't be less terrible than 2010 so far?!?

Name one. I'll wait.


Any time.


Didn't think so.

YouTube's already started, by advertising the wave of the future--text videos!

Gah. Just count me out. I'll be the one in the corner, hiding.

In the meantime, Miss Alexiel Magnolia has a slightly less usual problem than most of the grid--medieval furries aren't thick on the ground. But she's doing her best to identify the medieval/fantasy stores that have prim pieces that are modifiable, or can be adjusted (relatively) easily by customers. She starts with Kouse's Sanctum, which is an excellent place to start.

(I would say that some of Kouse's skirts do have separate belts, but that I've also remapped my main tails to be stomach-centered, instead of spine? So most skirts default to the pelvis; then the tail to the stomach; leaving the belt for the spine. Works out wonderfully.)

(Of course, most wings attach on the spine, and are not so easily remapped.)

In other news, Massively's Tateru Nino reviews the third-party viewer policy, and I decided I should do more than skim it in passing, because I want to know why Emerald didn't make the cut.

What I found was...well, insane.

Policy on Third-Party Viewers

We at Linden Lab offer the official Second Life viewer and the Snowglobe viewer or connecting to Second Life.

If you're looking for a more customized or experimental experience, we do permit you to use third-party software to connect to Second Life from any device (“Third-Party Viewers”). To promote a positive and predictable experience for all Residents of Second Life, we require users of Third-Party Viewers and those who develop or distribute them (“Developers”) to comply with this Policy and the Second Life Terms of Service.

Okay so far. "We want you to use Viewer 2.0. If you're going to be difficult about that, you can use Snowglobe. Or, if you're determined to go outside without your coat and play in the street, then you can use a third-party viewer. But we don't recommend that."

This Policy governs access to Second Life and our technical platform that supports Second Life by any Third-Party Viewer, by which we mean any third-party software client, regardless of its source code, that logs into our servers. This includes software for viewing Second Life, any chat clients, utilities, bots, and proxies as well as applications that may not be listed in our Viewer Directory.

Right, because the viewer directory covers a pitifully limited set of viewers. But let's talk third-party software clients, then: they mean Emerald and the Kirsten viewer and CoolSL and the long forgotten but beloved Nicholaz, and all the rest...but do they also mean text-based SL clients? And things like Dame Ordinal Malaprop's TwitterBox? And they mentioned bots, and to be fair, Copybot is not the only bot program out there...but any other applications and scripts, do they also mean? Like the YouTube televisions that are so prevalent, and any movie players in world? What, exactly, is the defining criteria for any third-party software client [...] that logs into our servers?

The scripting language in general could come under fire for that one. Because a lot of scripts reach outside SL, require logging in to SL, or to a website and SL simultaneously...and that would seem to fit the vague definitions they're sort of offering up, here. Am I wrong?

This Policy does not place any restriction on modification or use of our viewer source code that we make available under the GPL. Rather, the Policy sets out requirements for connecting to our Second Life service using a Third-Party Viewer, regardless of the viewer source code used, and for participating in our Viewer Directory.

Um...okay. Translating that out of legalese, what I think they're trying to say is "Build anything you want, really, we don't care. Lock yourself in your room all day and hammer away at the code, it won't bother US any. But if you think you're going to come down and use that code to hook into our kitchen without washing your hands and combing your hair, you've got another think coming, young coder!"

All users and Developers of Third-Party Viewers must agree to the following sections linked to below, in addition to the Second Life Terms of Service. If you do not agree, you are not allowed to use Second Life through a Third-Party Viewer.

This also is pretty clear, but pretty blatant. What does "not allowed" mean? Does it mean the Labs will block non-compliant viewers from accessing? What if one of the non-compliant viewers is the only thing that a user can connect with, because they can't use the official viewer in either version? Let's be honest here--every time the Labs do a major upgrade, people drop off, because their tech simply isn't good enough to use the grid. What happens then?

Also, note that fun little definition slide in the beginning there--"all users and Developers". Dwell on that just a bit. This is not just about the code pirates, this is every user on the grid, that has to know about this.
  1. Required Functionality and Disclosures
  2. Prohibited Features and Functionality
  3. Intellectual Property Rights
  4. Data Access and Privacy
  5. Third-Party Viewer Branding and Second Life Trademarks
  6. The Viewer Directory and Self-Certification
  7. Your Responsibility for Third-Party Viewers
  8. Policy Changes, Enforcement, and Termination
  9. Definitions
1. Required Functionality and Disclosures.
If you are a Developer of Third-Party Viewers
, we require the following of all Third-Party Viewers:
  • The Third-Party Viewer must use a protocol that is compatible with the protocol of Linden Lab’s viewers as it is documented in our source code. If your Third-Party Viewer departs from our protocol, you must clearly document your departures either in the source code that you publish for the Third-Party Viewer or in another publicly available location. You must not use our protocol in a way that unduly burdens our servers or interferes with our providing the normal functionality of Second Life.
  • Each different version of the Third-Party Viewer must have a unique viewer identifier. You must not use the same viewer identifier as a Linden Lab viewer or another Third-Party Viewer.
  • If you are a Developer who distributes Third-Party Viewers to others, you must also provide the following disclosures and functionality:
Okay, hold up here a moment. I had to go to the source code wiki for this one, and more or less understood things, and what they seemed to be asking for. So there's nothing I can find lurking in the substructure. Still, there's a very telling phrase, that Miss Nino caught, too: You must not use our protocol in a way that unduly burdens our servers or interferes with our providing the normal functionality of Second Life.

The first part of that makes sense. "Don't code like an idiot. If you want to live here, you'll have to code responsibly." The second part, though...someone define for me what "normal functionality" is for Second Life? Because if the Labs mean the average user day in Second Life...well, let's see. This would mean third-party viewers would have to:

* code in the same difficulties and problem areas in the code that the Labs have failed to address since 2006--or before;

* break any patch fixes back to the original code if they're not implemented in the Labs' officially released code;

* remove any fun bells and whistles added simply because the functionality was in the code, and some people (*coughs* Emerald) thought they'd be fun to toss in;

* make sure that the code contains random bugs, scattered breakdown points, and occasionally flips out entirely, requiring a complete restart of the end user's system.

Is that what they want? Or do they actually mean a normal day in SL, which, to my knowledge, never exists, where:

* teleports never fail
* group chat never fails
* asset servers don't break down
* lag never happens
* everything rezzes in beautifully
* sculpts don't take years to rez
* Mono scripting doesn't cause sims to die
* and Lindens listen to their residents?

Because, really. I'll be old, grey and quite likely dead five centuries before that's going to happen.
  • On or linked to from your software download page, or in another location that a user must visit before installing the Third-Party Viewer, you must make the disclosures listed below. For Linux distributions where there is no opportunity to provide the disclosures before installation of the software, you can comply with this requirement by having your software client present the required disclosures or a link to them in a dialogue box that the user must close before entering login credentials for the first time through your software.

    You must disclose the following:
Okay, again, this seems cumbersome, but not *directly* invasive, per se--"Comply with our restrictions, damn it. We know what's best and we can tell you what to do." They've done this for years, this is not new.
  • The name of the Third-Party Viewer and a disclaimer that “This software is not provided or supported by Linden Lab, the makers of Second Life.” (For more on naming a Third-Party Viewer, see the section below on Third-Party Viewer Branding and Second Life Trademarks.)
  • Customer support information for the software. If you do not provide customer support, you must say so.
  • Any surprising or unexpected functionality, including any limitations on features and functionality generally available to Second Life users through Linden Lab’s viewers.
  • Any content or functionality provided by the Third-Party Viewer that is not General or not appropriate for all audiences. If you’re uncertain whether specific content or functionality is General, please err on the side of disclosure.
  • A link to your privacy policy explaining your practices regarding any collection, storage, or use of user data. (For more on a privacy policy, see the Data Access and Privacy section below.)
Okay. So. Let's break this down point by point. First point is easy--"I'm writing your name in your underwear so you'll know which is yours. But mark me well, young coder--if you buy any new underwear you write your name in those or I'll just throw them out when you bring laundry home!"

The second point's easy, too--provide customer support. Or don't. And if you don't, say so. Hells, that's more than the Labs make themselves do.

The third is just...weird. Most third-party viewers (the ones I'm familiar with, anyway) are more than happy to tell you exactly how their code departs from "official" LL code. In fact, most of the time installing? They still go by that screen that lists the patch deviations, the patch fixes added, and what version of the code they're working from. This is a no-brainer; the Labs are insisting on compliance where there's already compliance. How redundant of them.

The fourth one hurts my brain. So, are they saying that all viewer content must now be General-rated? Are we going to get fuzzy little Care Bears now dotting the landscape? Or do they mean no RLV viewers? In fact, what do they mean, here? If I'm reading that right, all viewers are already General-rated, because no viewer demands you pinch a button shaped like a pixel nipple to turn volume down! (Just to grab a handy example.)

Or do they mean, rather, Emerald's notable bouncing breasts feature? Is that deemed not "General" enough?

Which brings us to the fifth point, and the fifth point is a thing of beauty. They are now requiring all third-party viewers to comply with the Labs' ongoing privacy policies, as well as post their own. Will anyone who's not already on the list get on it, now? For most people, that's a hard poured steel line in the cement.
  • Installation of your software must be at the user’s direction, and your software must not interfere with the user’s ability to use Second Life with another application. You must have affirmative user consent for any automatic updating or launch of your software.
  • Un-installation must be easy and completely remove your software from the user’s computer without damaging it or the user’s ability to use Second Life with another application.
  • The Third-Party Viewer must present to users and require user acceptance of the Second Life Terms of Service and any updates to it.
  • On the application login screen and in the “About This Viewer” window, you must display the name of the release version and the version number for the Third-Party Viewer.
And these last four have oddities, too. Point by point:

For the first, what do the Labs mean here? Because currently, even if I am using the official Second Life viewer, I can barely keep a net browser open, be it Firefox or Chrome--and Second Life and Chrome do not play nicely, at least for me. Keeping Second Life open and streaming media content? Occasionally impossible. Keeping Second Life and Gimp open, so I can work on textures on the fly while building in SL? It would be easier to bite off my own finger, seriously.

So they expect functionality out of a third-party client that they can't manage for themselves? Pickydamnpicky, Lindens. Also, stupidly unclear.

Second point sort of clears things up--I think what they're trying to say, as filtered through Lawyer, is "another application" means "SL's official viewer". So for the first point, they want to ensure that people can still go back and use the official client, I guess?

And for the second, they want the third-party client to uninstall completely--when requested to do so--and again, not interfere with use of the official SL client? Maybe?

The third point simply says, they have to make people sign the official Terms of Service, or they can't log in. But does this mean always? I mean, don't get me wrong, I like playing Runes of Magic, but every damned time I sign in, I face the ToS. If they've changed the initial paragraph, I read over it again, but I'm in the maybe 8% of Runes' user population who bothers. This, if it's an every-login insistence, is going to get pretty damned old for people.

And the fourth hasn't been an issue for any viewer I've ever used, official or custom.

I think this is getting too long, so expect later entries on the policy changes today or tomorrow.

Oh, and Miss Nino says the Labs got back to her, and confirmed they planned no further changes. Bet me this isn't over.


Rhianon Jameson said...

I dunno. I'm no expert on software licenses and such, but you might be reading too much into the policy. For example: "disclose your privacy policy." Does that really sound unreasonable? My guess is that LL has its privacy policy and doesn't want to get sued when it allows someone to connect to its system and sell data it collects, as the user believes he or she is covered under LL's policy.

Similarly, "don't have a client that sucks up resources like a Dyson." I don't know what that means in practice, but it doesn't sound objectionable.

In any event, the real question will be what LL approves or disapproves (and why). We'll have to wait and see on that.

Starling said...

Last time I checked, my FIRST LIFE has the bouncing breast setting activated ALL THE TIME.

I hope I don't get banned.

Emilly Orr said...

Miss Jameson,

While both those examples are true, the prohibition against downloading anything, with the phrasing, does make it sound like they want that functionality stripped from all third-party viewers, with the definite implication that they'll be moving down the same path.

Which is a twisted, dark, convoluted and stupid path for them to take, but that's only one of the provisions so far.

Emilly Orr said...

Miss Starling,

Me too! Wait, no, only when I run. But even so!

And if the game is supposed to be intended for anyone over the age of 18, then why does everything have to be 13-and-under safe in the first place?!?