[opensource-dev] Client-side scripting in Snowglobe

Kent Quirk (Q Linden) q at lindenlab.com
Thu Feb 18 07:57:52 PST 2010

This makes me sad.

I've been trying to have an open discussion about some of the design issues in my office hours, specifically to understand the constraints and requirements of the community. But every office hour seems to be followed up by flames on this list and in other forums interpreting what was said in the worst possible way.  

I'm afraid the tone and direction of this discussion are making it impossible for us to talk about this project productively.


On Feb 18, 2010, at 7:42 AM, Morgaine wrote:

> I referred recently to Linden's internal project "Firefly" to add client-side scripting to SL viewers.  This has been the topic of open discussion at several Office Hours with Lindens in SL, but that openness has not extended to many design details --- the Firefly design process is not open to the community.  The only technical details that are being disclosed about Firefly appear to be:
> "Scripts" are actually Mono assemblies, so that only languages that compile to Mono will be allowed.
> The programs run in a sandbox, which means that most platform resources are not accessible to them.
> Please note that I quite like C# as a language, but the following remarks are about Mono use in the SL viewer, only, where its tradeoffs are poor.
> The first known detail about Firefly (mandatory Mono) is problematic on several fronts:
> Only a tiny fraction of the world's applications, libraries and languages work on Mono, so client-side scripting will be unable to benefit from the huge mountain of resources available on the Internet.  This is an extremely severe limitation, and an unnecessary restriction in the context of client-side viewer scripting.  If I want to use a locally-installed package X from within my client-side script, I should be able to.  What runs client-side should always be our individual choice, not someone else's.
> Programmers want to write client-side scripts in the language that they know best, because that always yields the fastest progress and highest quality results.  There was a good technical reason for forcing everyone to use LSL server-side, but there is no technical reason to impose this requirement on all client-side scripting.  It is counter-productive to force CLR compatibility on client-side script developers when there is a simple alternative:  define a socket-based viewer API for client-side scripts instead, hence usable from any language.
> Mono runs poorly on Linux, so from being rock-solid on Linux now, the LL-derived viewers will become second-rate on this platform.
> The viewer is already extremely bloated and a memory hog.  Adding a Mono dependency will compound that horribly.
> There is only one effective supplier of Mono:  Novell.  That is a very bad situation to encourage and to support in the viewer.
> Some parties identify other reasons for avoiding Mono in general.  Without getting into that subject at all, 
> The second known detail about Firefly (mandatory sandbox) is problematic on two related fronts:
> Sandboxes by design do not allow most platform resources to be accessed, as a security measure.  This is fine and important when scripts are being downloaded from unknown places (like Javascript in web pages), but that same protection also means that client-side scripts would be powerless to do useful things for us in concert with local applications, files, devices, etc.  Sandboxing client-side scripts effectively hardwires in script weakness for no reason discussed as a requirement.
> Sandboxed applications cannot be linked with user-chosen native libraries since allowing native code breaks sandbox protection.  This means no accelerators, no extensions, and no interop with other systems since sockets are inaccessible from any strong sandbox.  This also means no evolution or progress outside of what the sandbox designers permit.
> This mailing list is concerned with development of open source viewers, in particular Snowglobe.  This is heralded as a community viewer, embodying community requirements much more directly than the LL mainstream viewer.  Client-side scripting will impact on every single aspect of Snowglobe bar none, yet the community is being excluded from the design of its most powerful infrastructure element.  This is entirely wrong, far beyond the normal observation that secrecy in design has no place in open source.
> It is hard to assess things technically when the design requirements are formulated in secret.  The Snowglobe community has design requirements too.  Those deserve to be examined here openly, not limiting Snowglobe to a design that stems from Linden requirements alone.
> Morgaine.
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