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Linden Lab’s new Third-Party Viewer policy update pushes the existing policy that extra few inches, taking Linden Lab’s power of veto over third-party viewer features just a half step further. A half step that many people may find distinctly unpalatable.

Formerly, of course, the Lab was able to bar any viewer from the Second Life grid if it contained a feature or features that they did not approve of.

The new wording goes like this:

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.

What does that mean? It means that the UI and HUD are still more or less free to play around with. You can add, subtract, or otherwise mangle that as you please. That’s not a part of “the shared experience of the virtual world.”

But other features such as, oh, different light/shadow models, or parametric deformers, or anything that alters the way that Second Life is rendered and the way content is displayed – well, you can’t have that in a third-party viewer that connects to the Second Life grid, unless Linden Lab have already incorporated it into the official viewer and released it in production.

That’s the power of veto multiplied by the amount of time Linden Lab takes to incorporate, test and release – assuming it is accepted at all.

If Linden Lab doesn’t like your feature, then people aren’t permitted to use your viewer to connect to Second Life. That’s not new.

If Linden Lab likes your feature, but hasn’t yet gotten around to releasing it in a non-beta viewer, well, people still aren’t allowed to use your viewer to connect to Second Life until Linden Lab gets through the process. Now, that’s new.

Corollary: If Linden Lab changes your feature during implementation and testing, you’ve got to change yours the same way for your viewer to be allowed to access Second Life.

It’s a small change to the policy, but it makes Linden Lab’s development priorities and development timelines your own – however you still don’t know what they are.

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