Monday, August 23, 2010

Reorganization of Emerald

As  you probably have heard, the founder and head coder of the Emerald Project, Fractured Crystal, has left the team.  He left the team because of two actions many users couldn't approve of and which caused Linden Labs to remove Emerald from the list of approved third party viewers.

So What Did He Do?

The First act involved the issue LordGregGreg left the emerald team over.  You can read  his fairly accurate take on the issue here, on his blog.  In his resignation letter, Fractured Crystal admits he backed the wrong horse on that issue, and takes the lumps for it.

I've looked at the issue pretty closely and the only way it can really pose a problem for most users is if they installed Emerald on a windows machine and installed it on their desktop instead of the default position on the c: drive.  If they installed Emerald in that unusual way, and if they used their real name when setting up their computer, then it's possible someone could use their emerald data to determine their real name and that's all they could get.

At most, I think you're talking about less than 3% of Emerald users would ever display their real name, and then only to those who know how to get it.  Still, any leak is serious and the implications was a serious loss of confidence in the Emerald viewer.

The second issue is likely to cause more alarm, although it's actually considerably less serious.  Fractured Crystal installed a bit of code in the Emerald start up screen that called up data (a 1 pixel by 1 pixel image)  from a rival's website: the idea being that it would demonstrate to his rival just how popular Emerald was.

You'll hear this called a distributed denial of service attack (DDOS).  That's a pretty big stretch.  If all of SecondLife used Emerald it wouldn't have crashed the rival site.  This was an act intended to annoy Fractured Crystal's rival, not cause him any harm.  Even if the guy was paying a metered rate for bandwidth, at market prices, this act wouldn't have cost him more than five bucks if the code was in Emerald for a year (which it wasn't).

The issue really is that he was using our computers to annoy his rival without our permission, and that's something most people find offensive (although it happens more than you know).

What Happens Now?
With Fractured Crystal gone, Arabella Steadham is now in charge of Emerald.  Crystal owned the modular systems name so emerald will be moved to its own site.  Arabella will be working with the rest of the team and Linden Labs to get Emerald back on the approved third party viewer list.

LordGreg Greg has not agreed to return to the Emerald team (as of this writing), instead he is working with people making SecondLife viewers for disabled people. 

Former Linden Labs employees Qarl Linden and now, Data Linden have joined the Emerald team.

I stand by my earlier assessment that Emerald is safe to use.  In the coming weeks it will be even more safe to use.  Although not on the Linden Labs approved third party viewer list, users of the Emerald viewer are still welcome in SecondLife, using the Emerald viewer.

A lot of people will ask the obvious question: "if these things were hidden in the Emerald code, how do we know more isn't hidden in it?"

Over the past week, the Emerald code has been incredibly scrutinized by both fans and enemies of Emerald. The things hidden before were hidden mainly because nobody was looking for them.  Now that everyone is looking, I don't think much will escape their attention.

I don't know what will become of Fractured Crystal.  He's been a griefer and then a white hat, and now I really suspect he's probably done with SecondLife.  He's a very young guy and made the mistakes of a young man and now I suppose he'll be rebuilding his life.  Prokofy Neva has called him everything from a criminal to an athiest.  While her assessment is (typically) way over-blown, that is probably how many will remember him.

In the end, he is a very good coder, and a memorable personality, but not a very prudent leader, and the users of the most popular viewer in second life need and want a prudent person developing the software they use.


  1. I just finished reading the post at the Alphaville Herald about this and I wanted to remind everyone about how slanted they are to the Woodbury side of the argument in their reporting and especially the responders to their posts.

    A much more reasonable blog would be something like New World Notes.

  2. The new emerald website is:


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