From Sl Wiki
The term "Metaverse" was coined by the writer, Neal Stephenson, in his sci-fi classic "Snow Crash" - a book that inspired a generation of developers to create 3D virtual environments. Second Life is only one such environment, there are many alternatives already, and more to come.
The development of the Second Life toolset has been restricted by the size of Linden Labs. At the end of 2006 they employed a little over 100 people in total, and the development team would represent only a fraction of that number. The possibility of taking the Second Life software to Open Source had been the subject of much conjecture in 2006. Finally, on 8th January, 2007, Linden Labs made the client source code (called "the viewer") available under GNU General Public License v2.0. Linden have provided extensive supporting documentation in the form of an Open Source Portal. Within 24 hours of its release the code had been downloaded over 1700 times. Latest figures are not available.
Why is this significant? Aside from getting a faster turnround on bug fixes and tweaks, it opens up a host of opportunities for integration with other internet tools (browsers, IM, chat, web services), and hence integration between the 3D Metaverse and the 2D internet.
3D Internet and Web3.0
Second Life is just one of several 3D metaverse environments. It appears to have attained a pre-eminent position through shrewd marketing during 2006, attracting large numbers of new residents and, crucially, large numbers of companies and organisations. The long-term ambition for Linden Labs is for Second Life to be the seed for a future 3D internet, bringing its cooperative, collaborative, immersive features to the mainstream. Opening up the server software and the associated communication protocols for general adoption offers the prospect of an extended grid of 3D systems, through which an avatar can move seamlessly. Each system would be able to offer its own unique features, implement its own policies, and manage its own configuration - being entirely independent of Linden Labs. In effect, this extended grid becomes the 3D Internet, and the technologies and protocols used to deploy it are already being referred to as Web3.0.
Here, at the start of 2007, we are still at the very earliest stages of this potential revolution but the comparison between 2D Internet and 3D Internet is instructive.
The Metaverse Roadmap
metaverseroadmap.org provides a comprehensive, indeed mind-boggling, array of articles on all aspects of the future for 3D Internet, attempting to give a roadmap for the next 10 years. To quote a press release from April, 2006: "Today's advancing 3-D virtual worlds, massively multiplayer online games (MMOGs), 3-D and video plug-ins, geospatial browsers, and social networking platforms are just five of a broad range of technology, economic, and social trends converging to transform today's internet into tomorrow's 3-D 'metaverse', a transparently connected encapsulation of and progression beyond the current possibilities of the offline world." The Metaverse Roadmap (MVR) is apparently the first public attempt to map the emerging possibilities of the 3D-enabled Web. The project calls for the creation of a concise aggregated 10-year-vision document for the 3D web.