Monthly Archives: November 2007

OpenSearch and the Linden’s World

Fixed-size search window

As Felix explained yesterday, thanks to DrenBoy, we found a way of hooking up any search engine into the newest release candidate, so we quickly were able to implement our vision of OpenSearch. (We have a JIRA request on that) That was working great… big window, lots of space to see the search results… up until 2 hours ago, when Linden Lab released a new release candidate. This newest one doesn’t allow the search window to resize. Why oh why, I wonder…

We can still run OpenSearch in it, but the window is smaller. It’s bigger than the Web-on-the-profile, but it can’t be made even bigger.

I’m starting to suspect that someone at Linden Lab is doing an intentional ban on having web-browsing capabilities within the viewer. For example, the Web-on-the-profile is a teaser; like “we can do it but we really don’t want to.” Same thing with the search window. Even though what we see from Linden’s search is HTML, they go to great lengths to make it look like it isn’t, giving it a look&feel of all the other non-html windows.

OK, it’s their world, they can do whatever they want. In particular they can prevent a whole pandora’s box of competing emergent behavior related to the use of Web browsing inside SL. I can only say “tss tss tss” while shaking my head in disapproval. This is definitely not the openness that they talk about in their PR.

It’s pretty clear to me that any 3D world that wants to be open, like the Web, but immersive and social, like real life, must incorporate the Web and add the 3rd dimension to it. There’s no point in reinventing the wheel for the necessary 2D content that the human race has come to adopt in many flavors for storing and transmitting information. But maybe Linden Lab doesn’t want Second life to be the 3D Web after all, that was just a temporary PR glitch, or maybe a collective misunderstanding. Looks like Linden Lab wants Second life to be their own 3D game. They have all the right in the world to do that.

My only hope for this is that the general idea of the Metaverse has been placed out in the open. Sooner or later it will happen, with or without Linden Lab. The real OpenSearch will probably have to wait until that happens.

SLBrowser Integrated with Built-in Second Life Search

SLBrowser search integrated with Second Life client

Forget the “profile web page” hack we tried… that’s sooooo last month. Now we can truly integrate directly with the built-in search. Here’s the scoop:

Linden Labs included a new search feature in the Windlight release candidate client of Second Life. At first it looked like another closed system, but then DrenBoy Opus discovered that the search page is configurable via an obscure setting. Since Diva Canto and I have been running our SLBrowser search engine for the last 6 months, we’ve been looking for better ways to hook into SL.¬†We turned DrenBoy’s discovery into something useful by creating Open Search for Seocnd Life to augment the Linden Search with some search alternatives. The Open Search page gives you quick access to multiple search pages, including SLBrowser, Linden Labs, OnRez, SLExchange, and Google. The line-up is subject to change, but this is our current offering. You get all the functionality of Linden Labs new search, plus these other great search engines. We believe that search should be open, and that the best way to improve things is for competition… where the users choose the best solution, rather than being forced to go with once choice. If you have the new Release Candidate (see the link above) you can easily configure it for Open Search. Thanks to Bettina Tizzy and DrenBoy Opus for letting us know about this possibility.

SLBrowser search is always up


The SL grid has been plagued by technical problems in the last week or so. The problems affect several functions, including LL’s search. But those problems don’t affect SLBrowser. Our search is always up even when LL’s is down, and even if you choose to access it from within SL using your web-on-the-profile.
Besides the obvious selling point here, there is a much more subtle, but important, architectural point that I want to make with this post. SLBrowser search is the living proof that several features of the metaverse not only don’t need to be centralized, but benefit tremendously from being provided by independent groups/companies. Search is one of those features, but there are a lot more. The good old principle of separation of concerns has served hardware and software design well for many decades.

As the community moves forward with virtual worlds, including efforts to design the next generation architecture of an SL-like scalable system, it is important to keep this principle mind.

Getting in


Last night, Linden Lab announced its new search service available on their latest release candidate. We had been waiting for that to happen for some time now. Their new search is definitely a big improvement over their previous one. At the very least, they got rid of rank-by-traffic, which was essentially the opposite of relevance, and they gained Google’s powerful language processing capabilities. That, alone, makes the qualitative difference that we all see. But ranking for giving out meaningful results… boy, oh, boy. They have a long way to go.

Our SLBrowser engine is much closer to the right formula. We think people will like it if they could compare! But that’s where the train stops. Linden Lab doesn’t seem to be ready to accept third-party components over their data. We have a JIRA filled out asking for LL to open up their search button, and that has gone ignored. Technically, opening that up is trivial, especially now that their own search service works over http/html, just like SLBrowser.

So, while things stay the way they are, here are two ways by which you can access the SLBrowser search engine while being inworld:

or — read this!

  • Use the embedded html viewer that is available on your avatar’s profile. Did you know about this? Most people don’t. Here’s how to do it: pull up your profile and choose the Web tab. There’s a text box in there, so type and enter that. Voila! You are on our web site. From there you can enter your queries on the search box. Since that floatie cannot be resized, you’ll have to scroll down to see the results.

(hmm, I wonder why that floatie in particular can’t be resized… all others can. Could it be that LL discourages residents from using potential competitors on the web?)

16 sqm text documents

16 sqm words

People’s creative solutions for overcoming technical limitations and for gaming the systems to their advantage always surprise me. The whole idea of camping (“earn money while sitting/standing here”), is in part a consequence of Linden Lab’s built-in search ranking the results based on traffic. Clever people thought “Let’s pay people to be here, so that we climb up the ranks!” Camping is an emergent activity and it ended up being a major attraction of SL. My step son camps for hours while playing other games on the computer.

I recently found yet another clever solution for a feature of SL that can be limiting. First let me describe the limitation. The limitation is that while SL is great for creating 3D content, it sucks at capturing plain old 1D text and 2D pictures. You build a fantastic virtual village with great shops and products, you want to list them in Linden Lab’s search-in-places, and then you have only 128 bytes to describe your creation. 128 bytes is about the size of this sentence that I’m artificially extending so that it uses exactly 128 characters. There. After you’ve done all that amazing work, you probably want to say a lot more, and preferably in several languages.

OK, the first approach is to divide the sim into parcels corresponding to the different stores and points of interest. That way you have 128 bytes to describe each one, and you can list them all in search-in-places for L$3o/week each. That’s better if you can afford it. But for some clever people that’s still not enough. They go on sub-dividing the space into the smallest possible units (16 sqm), using each of those little squares essentially as word-holders, text documents, for search-in-places. The picture above shows one of those. That particular square is about DUNGEON stuff, and the description is (hey, googlebot don’t index this, please) “Adult Free Sex Nude Beach & Orgy Room – free sex girls pussy cock orgy porn escort sexroom sexbed bdsm fuck cum bukkake”. Right next to it, there’s the DISCO square: “deutschland germany tanzen deutsch werbung treffpunkt disco party club dance shop rent disco camping events contests sex girls”. There are several more: FETISH, ESCORT, BONDAGE, SHOES,… That sim has 137 parcels, 133 of which are 16 sqm text documents. :-)

oil on canvas

First post, and it’s under the category “Stuff out There” — interesting stuff you can find in SL with the SLBrowser search engine.

Yhrrah Wakawaka GalleryIf I were rich I would spend a lot of money on paintings. I like the way they make rooms come to life. In SL there is a large number of RL visual artists selling digital copies of their RL creations (I hope they’re theirs!). ?oil on canvas finds lots of those digital reproductions. There’s a large exhibition in Hobak, but there’s lots more all over the grid. The picture here is of a gallery in Elim. Some of these paintings are amazing, and I only wish I could afford them in RL…