Linden Lab has released the source code for the Second Life Viewer under the GPLv2 free software license, opening up its virtual world's client to a host of potential new features and improvements. The 'open source' announcement comes amidst a period of scrutiny in which the media has begun to debunk the hype and seriously question Linden Lab's reported SL user base; a recent estimate suggests that Linden Lab has inflated user numbers by more than 2 million.
Since the source code release has arrived sooner than anticipated, it's no stretch to suggest Linden Lab is attempting to redirect media buzz. Ploy or not, the open source SL era brings with it an opportunity for an unproven developer to generate some needed exposure.
Update: clarified that this is a release of the client (not full game) source code.