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Oracle: destroyer of virtual worlds

Lights out for Sun's Project Darkstar

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Another of Sun Microsystem's almost-practical projects for Java has been shuttered now that Oracle holds the purse strings. Project Darkstar, an open-source application server catered specifically for massively multiplayer online games, will no longer receive Snoracle funding.

The news was announced yesterday with a post to the Project Darkstar community forum.

Loosely, Project Darkstar is open-source middleware written in Java aimed at helping developers create massively scalable persistent virtual worlds. The project later expanded its aim to include social networking applications as online ventures are wont to do these days.

The idea behind Darkstar was to help smaller game developers and operators avoid the complexities of multi-threaded and distributed systems programming. (And larger firms in theory too, although they usually like to keep this sort of thing proprietary). Server-side magics like resource allocation, transaction management, and task scheduling are automatically handled by the Project Darkstar infrastructure, allowing game makers to keep their hands clean of the stuff.

Although shy of any major wins, Project Darkstar did have its share of smaller adopters.

Though Oracle has turned the lights out on Darkstar at version 0.9.11, the hope is that the community will continue to develop the project on its own. "We will be maintaining the source repositories and the projectdarkstar.com site for as long as we can, but we are also investigating other homes for both the code and the supporting content," a Sun representative said on the forum.

Another virtual world-related casuality of the acquisition will be Sun's Project Wonderland, an open-source toolkit for creating 3D environments (ala Second Life) for business meetings and presentations.

At the Project Wonderland blog, team lead Nichole Yankelovich said they had anticipated their fate under Oracle rule and have already been pursuing both for-profit and non-profit options for becoming a self-sustaining organization.

It's safe to say the butcher's bill for Sun's vanity project incubator will continue to climb dramatically going forward. ®

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