Improvements to mapping and upgrade to

Hi all!

For those wondering generally what I’ve been up to, I said in earlier transition announcements from CEO to Chairman that I wanted to get back into engineering and the design of Second Life in a more hands-on way.  So I am now working with two other great engineers as one of Linden Lab’s technical teams.  In early December we decided that a good first project to work together on would be improving the performance and experience of using the web-based SL map, and also changing the architecture to be able to handle a much larger number of sims/servers. And, I have to say I’m having a great time getting back into development.

Hopefully, the general direction we are going with the map can help to make place and proximity more meaningful in SL.  It should be fun to explore the map: to look at what is near your home, to drill down for more detail, to randomly surf around and jump to places that look interesting from the air.   We always felt that this would be a big part of the appeal of SL, but the practical challenge of rendering things far away combined with the weaknesses of the existing web and in-world maps have made this more an aspiration than a reality.

More specifically, we’ve just released some improvements to the SL web-based map ( that should be immediately noticeable.  First, the map should load faster and be smoother when you use it.  Secondly, you can now single-click on any location on the map and teleport directly there.  The map is also accurately updated much more rapidly then the former map – so changes to the Second Life Grid or content should now be visible within about 2 days.   Finally, the map images themselves look smoother and are more accurate when compared to the actual in-world content, and you can now zoom out and see how big SL has really become!

We’re not done with this project!  We also intend to update the SL viewer to read its map tiles in the same way as the web map, meaning that you will be able to zoom and move around on the in-world map in a manner similar to the webmap, with much better performance than before.   Look for a viewer release candidate next with those changes.

For SL developers, and the more technically interested:  We are now serving map tiles directly from Amazon S3, and have changed the file naming convention to hopefully make it much easier to develop other 3rd party maps based on the tiles we are generating.    More documentation on using the webmap API is available on our wiki.  The map generation process is much more scalable than before, and is able to image the entire SL grid of about 30K regions in less than 2 days with just 4 dedicated machines.   In general, the architecture approach of generating tiled images on sims into a public repository like S3 seems like the right approach for both performance and openness – it anticipates the ability for individual sim owners/operators in the future to create their own maps (or not make them at all!) and upload them to a common shared filespace on which multiple mapping systems can then depend.

Note:  If you have built a map that depends on the old mapping API, we will leave the old tiles accessible for another few weeks, but will not be updating them in the future.  You will need to switch to reading tiles directly from S3.  We will post more  information about this changeover on the wiki.

Also, here is a link to the forum for more discussion or any questions.

This entry was posted in -Miscellaneous, Announcements & News, Web Development. Bookmark the permalink.

33 Responses to Improvements to mapping and upgrade to

  1. I’ve already switched sw.slr over to use the new sources (though I need to fix the owned land page too).

    I’ve also updated the grid map using the S3 sources (which can be updated quicker than via the old sources).

    Now for the first time, you can see the entire grid!

    You can also see how tiny the Teen Grid is compared to Agni-

  2. Winter Ventura says:

    That is a really zippy looking map, loads a lot quicker.. I very much approve.

    Any chance we might see these tiles used on the minimap as a sort of optional mode? (right-click, choose sattelite/prims mode).. I’d really love to have this sort of colour detail available on my daily-use minimap.

  3. SLurl Link says:

    Looks good! Nice terrain textures.

    There is however an odd behavior in the way the map renders prim texture colors at the moment. The same texture being rendered to a different color tone (probably based on the Z position shift) rather than a unified average tint like before.

    The logo colors should likely match the outside border instead of lighter and darker prims in the middle.

    It seems as if the “depth” behavior used for terrain and water should not apply to prim colors/textures somehow…

  4. subquark says:

    Excellent! I used to use the map heavily for business until it just stopped updating. I was shocked (and rather pleased) when I saw that our sims were once again pictured! Thanks Philip!

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  6. Great to hear from you Phillip! Some of us sorely miss you so nice to hear that you are becoming more involved now that the holidays are passed. Keep in touch with us. Afterall, SL was your baby.

  7. Alvi Halderman says:

    Philip Linden saves the world!
    I really love this update

  8. Rhaorth Antonelli says:

    Thanks for the info Philip.

    WOW the teen grid is small, this is the first time I have seen a map of the teen grid.

    tiny compared to Agni

    Looking forward to what is coming.

  9. amberlyssamariepalowakski says:

    Thanks for the info! 🙂

  10. Gypsy Paz says:

    wow, that’s really news. I’m glad development on this got picked up again, very much looking forward to the new API details!

  11. Thank you Phil. Splendid idea, well done. A definite improvement of my SL experience, the first in a long time.

  12. Sgeo Comet says:

    Ooh, looks nice. Was going to suggest having a look at the AlphaMapper of AW, but this is basically the same sort of feel, which is awesome (and, of course, this, unlike that, is updated in a timely fashion)

  13. Frans says:

    I’m very happy to see the map work so well, and to hear that the viewer map will enhanced as well. I fondly remember back to 2005 when SL was much smaller and the viewer map easily loaded and zoomed in and out.

    All most the exploring I did back then was just looking on the map and selection a interesting looking or named Island. But as SL grew that became harder to do, because the viewer map behaved and loaded poorly.

    I will be looking forward to see how the viewer will behave and if it lives up to the memory.

    Frans Charming (inSL)
    Jeroen Frans (RL)
    Executive Director
    The Vesuvius Group

  14. Noisey Lane says:

    Great news Philip!
    It certainly is a better map experience already!
    It would be good to have a region search function on
    The in-world emergency maintenance seems to have improved things considerably too – thanks for the heads-up FJ!
    Now… let’s go shopping! 😉

  15. Anny Helsinki says:

    its funny, as long as i owned the sim, it didnt show up in the slurl, now it shows, but isnt there…. rotflmao

    and in my group i still own the sim too… funny thing, Philip, very funny and so much functionality….. lol

    each need a thing that didnt work for month´s and shows things they arent there.


  16. Tom Bender says:

    Awesoem job I have to say 🙂
    The old map was more or less a catastrophy.
    I’ve seen a picture of my island which was aeons old…
    So I’m really curious what will be next up.

    But now comes a maybe dumb question:

    What were the bugfixes in the new 1.24 Server release?
    And when are you planning on releasing the 1.22 viewer?

    I would be grateful for any lil answer 🙂

    Live long and prosper 🙂

  17. Anny Helsinki says:

    Greetings Tom, 😀

    “TOM BENDER SAYS: The old map was more or less a catastrophy.
    I’ve seen a picture of my island which was aeons old…”””

    That didnt change yet….only other pictures, but old too… lol

    huggs ya :))

  18. Chaffro says:

    Yay Phillip for the map!

    Now if you’d only come back and sort the rest of the darned thing out, we’d be all sorted…

  19. Hehe, awesome. Though I’ll admit the slow updates came in handy when I threw a one-year anniversary for my first island, because the map still had an image of the sim made days after it was created. 🙂

  20. Ewan Mureaux says:

    @ Tom bender the recent rolling restart was to fix an exploit with group names that could hide the second name I believe.

    Glad you’re having fun Philip, maybe sometime it will trickle down to us, can but hope.

  21. Ewan Mureaux says:

    Apologies for double post but I forgot some positivity, the map is pretty freaking awesome, I can zoom in and see my duck pond which is pretty small so well done, very cool work.

  22. Yanik Lytton says:

    Nice colours, and very fast. Too bad it shows way outdated sims, and even some that have been gone for months (only at certain zoom levels). Need some tweaking.

  23. TigerCrossing says:

    Great job with the web map! Very speedy. Looking forward to the same changes to the in-game map!

    One thing… Should the new URL for this old one:

    …at least according to the wiki. Doesn’t seem to work, however. Am I doing something wrong I’m missing?

    ~ Tiger Crossing

  24. TigerCrossing says:

    Yeah. I was! 🙂 The sim address isn’t 996×272, it’s 996×1007! I forgot the old addresses used a different scheme!

    Everything looks great. 🙂

  25. DJ Welles says:

    Great work. Responsive, detailed, with more good stuff to come. Map enthusiasts should be thrilled.

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  29. Excellent work, Philip! I’m really glad to see you continue to advance Second Life’s technology in new areas and are having fun doing them — I’m eagerly awaiting more news and hope that you keep feeling encouraged and motivated to remain on the R&D areas of Linden Lab, coming up with innovation.

    Oh yes, stability and reliability are the keywords for 2009, I know that, and fully understand why people wish them, but innovation is, for me, at least as important as that.

  30. Braden Galthie says:

    Yay Philip :]

  31. Archie Lukas says:

    Brilliant, a map that scrolls and zooms, excellent.

    REQUEST, Can I search for an island / sim?

    I’d like to find my home sim -but the in-world map is terrible and I can’t ‘see’ the regions geographical region, it just goes all blue like.

    What we need is the occasional immovable landmark.

  32. Any idea on when there will be a fix for the odd object/x/y SLURL when viewing mappable friends online?

    Otherwise, awesome work! Keep it up. =]

  33. Xon Emoto says:

    Great improvement. Very smooth. Thank you, Philip + team, keep reminding us of what SL is really about 🙂

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