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Virtual world Second Life has released the source code that powers the client side of the popular 3D environment. While there are lots of issues with security and the service tends to go down fairly often, providing the “schematics� of how SL works to developers is surely going to create an enormous opportunity for improvement. I can imagine new social nets, dating services, collaborative environments and of course adult entertainment, distributed across the globe, accessed by all sorts of new SL clients.

As usual, BoingBoing cuts to the chase:

But there’s a fly in the ointment — it’s not very meaningful to amass in-game wealth if your ability to use it is contingent on your ongoing good relations with a single company. What good is your wonderful Second Life real-estate, architecture, gadgets and wardrobe if Linden Labs can throw you out at any time? It’s like amassing Soviet-era rubles — you could only spend them in Russia.

But by opening up the source code for Second Life, Linden is inviting a competitive marketplace for Second Life hosters. Indeed, they describe a “Second Life gridâ€? of multiple Second Life hosters who interconnect — the way that today’s Web consists of a single Web with millions of servers that are all linked together by their users.

This turns Linden wealth into real-world wealth. And it also takes an enormous stride towards turning Second Life residents into real citizens instead of mere customers. Citizens get to petition for redress of their grievances from a state that represents them; customers can only take their business elsewhere. Customers only ever get to love it or leave it. Citizens get to change it.

This is going to be huge, although it will most likely take a while to hit the mainstream. Enhanced social networking, new types of dating applications, games and more which will bring people together online in ways we can only begin to imagine. I can’t wait to see what Electric Sheep and the other world-builders come up with.

It boggles my mind to think how far we’ve come from the crude virtual worlds we built in the early 90’s on enormous computers which can now run on a basic laptop. Let the games begin.