Thursday, September 2, 2010

The End of Emerald

What Happened?
The Emerald development team has broken up, which appears to be the end of any future development of the Emerald viewer.  Existing downloads of the viewer still work and Linden Labs have made no attempt nor announced any attempt to block them.

News of the breakup appeared on the Emerald blog when Arabella Steadham announced she was leaving the team and disclosed an argument among the developers.

Since the scandal began, Linden Labs provided a list of demands to the emerald team by which they may continue working and releasing product.  One of the demands, apparently, was the removal of three developers with questionable backgrounds.  The team split over whether to remove those three and continue on or to keep them on the team.  I'm not sure what would have been accomplished by keeping them on the team, since that would almost surely lead to Linden Labs blocking emerald, but there was a tie vote.

Apparantly, at some point, Jessica Lyon, apparently tried to take over the project with other developers willing to comply with Linden Lab's requests, but was unable to.

Lonely Bluebird – a.k.a. _Phox, one of the developers Linden Labs demanded the removal of, responded by releasing part of a conversation with Soft Linden indicating Soft knew of the ability embedded in the EMKDU feature allowing Emerald developers to identify malicious clients, and approved of it.  An interview with Phox as well as the released segment of the conversation with Soft Linden is available at the Alphaville Herald.

What Now?
Despite what you may have heard, Linden Labs have made no announcement to block the use of Emerald.  There have been a number of attempts by the griefer group Woodbury University to make it seem so, but, as of today, Linden Labs has made no such move.  Your current version of Emerald will continue to work and you will still be able to access the grid.  You will not, however receive any updates.

I will attempt to contact Jessica and see if she intends to take a group of the team's developers and start a new project under a new name.

Although I understand Arabella's loyalty to her friends, I don't understand why she wasn't able to see the obvious.  If Linden Labs wanted these guys off the team, that's pretty much final as they hold all the cards.

Users who like emerald but are afraid to use it over security issues can download the emergence-viewer.  Emergence is LordGreGreg's latest build of emerald, cleaned by himself and made available for use.  It is considered by most to be very secure.

Who's To Blame?
Honestly, I blame Woodbury.  Obviously Fractured and Phox had questionable histories on SecondLife, but just as obviously they were trying to go straight and produce something useful to the entire grid.  Their efforts to foil copybot schemes and identify malicious viewers would have dealt a terrible blow to Woodbury and so they kept up a campaign of constant harassment of the Emerald developers.  This harassment lead Fractured to do stupid things like resist necessary security changes to the EMKDU, and most stupidly, the DDOS attack on Hazim's website.

A rag-tag bunch to begin with, Emerald simply wasn't prepared to become the most popular viewer on SecondLife and the scrutiny that came with it. Although people try to say it was the breast physics that made Emerald so popular, they miss the obvious point that Emerald did what Linden Labs did not, they listened to the users and gave them what they wanted, and they gave it to them fairly quickly.

I think everyone has learned from this experience, especially Linden Labs.  Their experience with Emerald and the failure of Viewer 2.0 obviously lead to their current snow storm model of viewer development, which should actually work and produce good things.

Some will say Linden Labs targeted Emerald for destruction because they were "too popular", but I think they acted in the only way they could, under the circumstances.  I'm not surprised they demanded the removal of team members who had previously been banned from the grid.  They'd already given these people a second chance by allowing them back on the grid to work on the project, demanding their removal from the team could be called prudent in many ways.

What Now?
Emerald still works and it's still safe to use so I will continue to use it until something better comes along.  I suspect two groups will come out of the old Emerald team, one with Jessica and one with Arabella.  Of the two, Jessica's team will probably be the one to watch.  Arabella's team is and will probably continue to be bogged down by the Woodbury war and don't show any desire to leave that drama-fest behind.

Other projects like Snowstorm and Imprudence show a great deal of promise, so lets see what they come up with.

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