As a part of his keynote presentation today at this year's Second Life Community Convention, Linden Lab's Tom Hale has unveiled a new plug-in framework for the Second Life viewer. The Second Life viewer has hitherto been restricted to rendering media content that was supported either by its browser component or by the use of Apple's Quicktime. Quicktime is certainly quite workable, but only provides a subset of the extensive range of potentially viewable media that's out there.
The introduction of the LLMedia API looks to change all that, by allowing a straightforward plug-in system to extend the viewer's ability to render various arbitrary kinds of parcel media.
Linden Lab will shortly be distributing source code and binary installs for a special developer-release of the Second Life viewer that includes the LLMedia API, as well as providing documentation and sample media-rendering plug-ins.
Developers should be able to create media-rendering plug-ins that support alternative types of audio (such as Ogg Vorbis or MIDI), or visual materials (PDFs, Spreadsheets, office documents, Xvid and so on) that can be rendered by the Second Life viewer in much the same fashion that Quicktime and MP3 formats are rendered on parcels today.
Instead of writing code as part of the entire Second Life Viewer, plug-in developers can now write their rendering engines for media as separate libraries that get loaded at runtime into the Second Life viewer using this interface.
Indeed, the current media-rendering subsystems are to be migrated to media-rendering plug-ins themselves, giving them essentially the same basic status within the viewer as those provided by third-party developers.
Of course, viewers without the appropriate media-rendering plug-in would not be able to view or listen to otherwise unsupported media content without downloading and installing a compatible plug-in.
Linden Lab doesn't have any current plans for a centralized 'app store' by which plug-ins can be identified and located, but hasn't ruled out the notion.
All in all, this seems to greatly add to the versatility of the viewer, perhaps even more-so than the introduction of HTML-on-a-prim. We're looking forward to seeing what new types of content appear on the Second Life grid. We'd guess MIDI would be a popular format. It has certainly been one of the more frequently requested media types.
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