Something New Coming

The Lindens have been dropping hints that new features and wonderful things are coming. Hamlet at New World Notes (NWN) is curious about the idea in an article today. See: What’s Linden Lab Working on Beyond Its Peaceful Foyer? Unfortunately he has no hard information for what the new and wonderful coming changes may be.

Second Life Browser Based

Second Life Browser Based Viewer

However, his readers do have ideas and they are posting them in the comments. Of course everything written is speculation. The speculation ranges from horrible doom to creative. Some of the suggestions, I think are interesting, for what may be coming are;

 

Direct Facebook Link (Hitomi Tiponi) – We have seen changes that may indicate some closer tie to Facebook. Display Names and the single name login ID are suggestive of preparation for a closer integration with Facebook. The addition of Facebook links in our Profile is another suggestion. Gwyneth Llewelyn wrote [Second Life] Facebook integration (April 2011), which at 5 blog pages is a comprehensive look at the possibilities. There is the enticing possibility of Facebook contributing millions of new users.

On the other side of the coin is Facebook’s ongoing aggravation of deleting avatar accounts (Goodbye, Facebook June 2011). Plus there is Russian Mafia angle of Facebook (Facebook: Are You Interfacing with the Russian Mafia & KGB?). Advertisers are realizing the return on investment with Facebook is questionable. Facebook is seeing its first drop in membership and most of the user base is unhappy with Facebook. A couple of analysts have tried to figure out the advantage to Linden Lab of integrating with Facebook and it doesn’t seem that beneficial to Second Life.

Facebook is changing all the games over to using Facebook Credits. This means one will need to tie a RL financial account to their Facebook account in a system that has been repeatedly hacked and is being invaded by the Russian Mafia. Sure, I want to do that.

Of course none of these factors are going to make much difference to the Lindens. How aware SL users are of the problems is unknowable. So, I can’t see a way to predict what is going to happen here. But, the enticement of a massive numbers of new players will likely take LL into some level of integration.

Web Based Viewer (Hitomi Tiponi) – This is the basic idea of using the new web features in HTML5 and other tech advances to create a Browser Based Viewer. We saw testing of the idea in November 2010 and I wrote about it here: Second Life in a Browser.

It is certainly interesting that the new Basic Mode Viewer and the Browser Based Version of SL look so much alike.

Entire New World (Jan) – The idea that SL 2 will close and roll out SL 3.

iPhone App (several) – Many people expect to see some form of app that can give people access to SL somewhat similar to what Blue Mars has done.

What We Know

We know that since 2010 SLCC that Linden Lab has changed their work habits and focus. A number of the things that Rosedale targeted are now in place or in progress. This may suggest what things are coming next.

Region Crossings have greatly improved. I visited SL8B using the day’s newest Development Viewer (Second Life 2.7.5 (233393) Jun 21 2011 09:03:03 (Second Life Development)) and found I sometimes did not realize when I crossed a region boundary. Several months ago any region crossing would have been blatantly annoying.

Performance is a major consideration in the Lindens’ efforts. XMPP Chat that has possibilities for better integration with third party apps and social networks was developed, the foundation code rolled to the main grid, tried in ADITI and Release Channels and shelved. The group chat problem was found to be in the chat infrastructure. The infrastructure has been improved with a marked change. The Lindens say XMPP is still somewhere in the plan.

Mesh, Mono2 scripting, larger prim sizes, and modal viewer states are the things we know are coming and being improved on.

The Market Place, a source of irritation to many of us, has been reworked to be more of a worldwide virtual market. Items in the Market Place are starting to show up in Google search. However, the old archive still out ranks the new Market Place.

Linden Lab is doing little if any marketing.

New Search Advertising is changing… for the worse or better is debatable.

The new communication channels between Lindens and residents are going quite. For a time getting news on SL and coming changes was easy. Now I have to dig farther to get my news. We get hints that great things are coming. We know that the Lindens hate to over promise and deal with the blow back, but this quite is something else. SLCC 2011 is coming, August 12. So, there may be some gags in place to allow the thunder in SLCC announcements to be louder.

From the SLV2 experience we can see some lessons were learned by the Lindens. Residents have much more input to the development process.

What We May See

No one outside the inner circle of Lindens knows what we are going to see come out of Linden Lab. I expect to hear some of the ideas announced at SLCC 2011. The things that Rosedale came forward with last year were not telegraphed by staff.

Are the Lindens working on something in secret? If I count up the Lindens that have and participate in Office Hour Meetings the number is pretty small as part of total staff. Accountants and other support staff make up some significant part of staff. So, how many could be devoted to a secret project? I have no clue but I can’t see how it could be a large enough group to develop a new world, SL 3.

I suppose they could contract out some heavy development. That didn’t work too well last time, think SL Viewer 2. We can hope they learned something in that process. My belief is Linden Lab has spent most of the time since that fiasco recovering and repairing the mistake. I’ll give them that mistake could be a mislabeling. The new viewer is more modular and easier to work with, development-wise. So, we are seeing rapid change to the viewer and the SLV2 rewrite has enabled that. But, I do not get that the Linden process for adopting new ideas for a better SL has improved.

By August we should have Mesh and Mono2. Those features allow builders to do more. They will certainly improve the appearance and functioning of SL. But, that will do little for gaining new users or improving user retention.

We have seen the first steps in making modal viewers. The talk is to do more toward separating the render engine and user interface to allow more custom modes and user interfaces. I expect that to continue, but that is not earthshaking news. It is apparently making a difference in user retention. So, it may have higher importance in Lab circles and thinking than we notice.

Chat is a big problem and various project development teams have been robbed of staff to throw more talent at fixing the problem. Chat is probably an aspect of SL that can be integrated to more social networks. It has the possibility to bring more people to SL than anything other than direct advertising. So, we may see new social networking in a future chat and may be yet this year. I don’t see that as being a big deal announcement at SLCC, but one never knows.

Region population limits are another big issue in SL. This limit effects music and other events, effectively limiting any event to 40 or so concurrent users. Intel has just released code to allow thousands of avatars to be in a region. A change in the population limits would be a big deal. I doubt the Lindens have done much with the Intel code. But, we know increased-population-limits are a high priority goal of the Lab.

Browser based viewers and smart phone apps are another possibility. For integration with social networks and smart phones these are foundation level components. Moving to smart phone apps requires cloud based rendering and data transfer. One cannot have a smart phone downloading 10 gb of SL data to fill the cache. Those things render and data transfer things need to happen cloud-side. The companies providing the tools to move games to the cloud could be working with the Lab to make it happen. One basically needs a modified viewer to run in the cloud and a smart phone app to run as a terminal. I think this could be one of the big SLCC announcements and secret developments.

There are lots of pieces and parts that could lead to SL Viewer 3. We are at 2.7 now and will probably see 2.8 at least by next month. SLV3 could be a modal viewer with browser based and smart phone apps versions. It could be much easier to integrate it with social networks. Basic and Intermediate user interfaces with a consistency across platforms would make it easier for people to move from one to another and lead into the advanced desktop application we use now. Thus giving people various levels of participation and smaller leaning curves.

A simplified browser based version might become a Facebook game. With the new popularity of 3D TV’s and movies SL could be a new rage on Facebook. Also, Facebook and many social networks were originally about getting laid. So, a Larry the Lounge Lizard SL game on Facebook that exploits sex could be explosive. A plan to sell sex could explain the Lab’s seeming disinterest in businesses and educational groups.  The sound you may mistake for the foundations of the Earth shifting is just people groaning over that idea…

Whatever the case, only time will tell which speculations are on the mark.

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