VRML meant self-hosted worlds. They weren't MU but they weren't hard to build. There was enough technology to build your own worlds and use them as you like.
The phrase "You can't cheat an honest man" is from the world of confidence games in which you can't hook someone unless you can persuade them they can have something for nothing or at least less than market value. It is the conspiracy itself that traps the mark.
When you sign up for Second Life for free, you are getting a service that you didn't obligate yourself to but then realistically, neither does LL have an obligation to you. You may sign up for Terms but that contract is the legal extent of the commitment. If you pay for WoW, you have a better claim to service but still within the contracted terms.
If you rent a world (the Ogolio model), you possibly have a contract limited in time but should include more guarantees of service.
When you build and host your own world, that is as independent (for the comparison, "honest man") as it gets. But then like a band who opens its own nightclub, you have to get marketshare (butts in seats) and that is the hook of the free worlds such as SL: shared branding to get traffic.
If you want to host your own, you need a system where your worlds simply work with others, and unless you want to build the tools for that, you buy them like any other.
A good tool kit enables the artist to design a world quickly and for a selected purpose (meaning libraries, drag and drop, task or class specific).
The system is MU and it works. The artist is dependent on the hosting because of the tools and the datatypes, but otherwise, it works well for VR building in MU space. D'oh.
On the other hand, qui bono? What services/affordances do you allow?
Talk community as much as you like. Use all the classical arguments of objectivism vs communal obligation. It will come down to the company offering the service, the terms, your willingness and ability to litigate and their willingness and ability to contest your litigation. Risk management 101.
For those reasons and others, businesses are beginning to look at the SL services with some skepticism. They may take that skepticism to the ogoglio project types as well, but given limited terms, they have reduced their risks. Companies and individuals who choose to host their own worlds assume all costs and risks, but also all control. The question of note here is what technology they choose to apply.
Scarcity of open source is not in question. Scarcity of talent is. For the artist to be other than a server farm's sharecropper, scarcity of talent is the artist's natural advantage. The inability to control copy reduces the artists income significantly unless the site dev shares profits on sale of the plantation. The other option is artist-controlled worlds.
So that is where the next generation for virtual worlds business will evolve: purchase of self-hosted worlds which is where we started. Now server software, libraries, id management, accounts, and so forth become the issue. The long conversations about change while philosophically interesting are moot. The change is local and so is the control.
Evolution is not about choices. It is about the choice of choices. Emergence is statistical. The choice of choices is political.