Technological Foundations Of Second Life

This report has been a coursework assignment for my classes in “Networked Services” at Royal Holloway University of London.

Recently Second Life (SL) has been intensively discussed. SL is a virtual world where (geographically dispersed) users usually represented by an avatar interact with other users, objects or agents by means of a client called viewer on their PC that communicates with a central server grid. SL seems to be the first commercial virtual world that is used by a big community. As of March 2007 according to the company behind SL Linden Labs 9.5m users have registered for SL. Averagely 50k of them are concurrently active in 8k to 10k regions. These 50k users and 10k regions have to be served by a server grid. However, there is a forecast of 16 million regions, 2bn users and a concurrency of 50m users for virtual worlds in the future. To serve that amount of users and data sophisticated server concepts have to be employed.

This report will try to present and critically analyse the current technological background behind SL. However, for this topic only little information is available in papers and books because the SL server software is still a proprietary system. Alternatively the information provided in this report is mainly based on information given by Linden Labs themselves in their Knowledge Base, their blogs and their Wikis. As the viewer software’s source code is published under an Open Source licence plenty of documentation about it is available online. Despite efforts of Linden Labs to open their server protocols to the Open Source community as well documentation for the server software is currently hardly publicly available. Nevertheless, this report tries to interpolate the available online
information to give an overview of the current state of the art of SL’s technological foundations. This overview cannot be more than a snapshot of SL as it is developing quickly. In depth information is only presented if information was provided by LL. This report will present the most recent technological developments in SL even if they are still in a beta or Release Candidate phase at the time of this writing.

Download complete report: TechnolgySL (pdf, 435 KB)

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