New Second Life Viewer Initiative – Can It Be Competitive?

Windows Dominates Market

Windows Dominates Market

Who is the new SL Viewer initiative really going to serve and how will it help SL/LL be more competitive with other Virtual World environments?  Trying to Crowd-source your way to a more compelling or user friendly product offering is risky at best.  Quick, name ONE (1) “Fat Client / Client Server, Open Source Business Productivity or MMOG application that is a household name or “owns” the market!

Even if you love Linux/Open Source, the reality is Windows dominates with 86% of the desktop OS market!  Apple, at a little over 4% of the market, is the only other OS with “significant” mainstream market share.  To have a client that caters to the lowest common denominator of proprietary UI design, simply to make it “feel good” to Open Source proponents is competitive suicide!

No matter what your particular area of interest (education, role playing, social networking, science, etc.) is, almost every Second Life user would benefit from core functional upgrades like: (no particular order)

  • Rich in-world Messaging

Enough of these useless group messaging pop-up windows that provide flat information with no live links to additional content!  We want messages we can interact with, from following a URL/SLURL to watching a video or adding an event to our synchronized in-world calendar (see below)

  • Real Document Creation / Collaboration Tools

    Google Docs 4 Collaboration

    Google Docs 4 Collaboration

Let’s face it, NoteCards just don’t cut it.  We need direct access to Google Docs in the client!  These documents should be able to be viewed and manipulated in a re-sizable browser window or viewed with more limited functionality on a prim.

  • Integrated Personal / Community Calendar(s)

SL users are constantly producing a stream of interesting, informative and entertaining events.  Let’s build a robust calendar system into the client, that can synchronize with Google Calendar & Outlook (90+% of the market) and allows for event invitations to be easily turned into calendar entries/reminders.  Let’s go a step further and build in group calendaring features that allow people to more easily schedule meetings or give an event sponsor an idea of how many people might be attending (RSVPs).

  • Robust Contact / Presence Management
Meeting In Progress

Meeting In Progress

I’ll admit it… We all love all our SL friends/contacts, but we need a better way manage them, with RL categories like Associate, Vendor, Friend, Family, Acquaintance, etc.  There are times we want to be “visible” / available to some of our contacts, but not necessarily everyone we know.  If we are in a conversation with someone or in a meeting or just working on a project, our status should be visible to people BEFORE they send that first IM.  We should also have a better method of controlling who can see various elements of our personal profiles.

  • Integrated VOIP, SMS & Email Integration

Let’s face it… SL Voice is “Cool” when it works, but ubiquitous personal communication is where it’s at!  We should be able to seamlessly make/take calls or send/receive SMS messages from in-world.  A true email gateway, that didn’t append huge strings of worthless text, choke inbound message lengths and offered Rich Text / Media messaging is required.  ps.  Would someone please shoot SLIM and put it out of our/its own misery!

  • Mesh (AutoCAD) Content Support
CAD Integration

CAD Integration

This is an almost ABSOLUTE requirement for broader adoption of the platform for business use.  There is a huge body of content and pent up demand for bringing 3D content into a Virtual World, where it can be prototyped, analyzed and used for real/virtual world integration!  Without this support, architects, engineers, planners, etc. are simply going to bypass SL for other platforms that support Mesh (CAD) import/export.

I could probably name a dozen more features I would like to see in the SL client, that have nothing to do with gee-wiz shading, maps or other misc. geek-driven priorities.  Many of these features are ideally suited to a “premium” membership (no I did NOT use the word community) structure, that offers tangible incentives for having a paid plan.

If LL is committed to augmenting their in-house development team via the Open Source community, they should at least take a leadership role in prioritizing the projects and accelerating the process of application development.  One way to do this would be to offer competitive rewards for the “Best” new application enhancement(s) in categories with the greatest potential market share ROI for the platform.

I hope LL “gets” this Memo and prioritizes making SL a truly robust and feature rich platform for content sharing, collaboration and social networking.  If they don’t and they survive, I predict they will wind up like Linux is today, with less than 1.5% of the Virtual World market; a “Fan-boy” environment, largely ignored by business and consumer users alike.

61 Responses to “New Second Life Viewer Initiative – Can It Be Competitive?”

  1. John Kent Says:

    the author of this article doesn’t know what he’s talking about :\

  2. Hey John! Thanks for commenting… although I always hope for more substance. Tell you what… you say I don’t know what I’m talking about. How about you come armed with your “facts” (please include citations) and I’ll pony up mine. We can have a good old-fashioned debate right here. We’ll let the rest of the readers decide whether I’ve defended my assertions or you’ve proven me wrong. What do you say… I’m rolling up my sleeves and re-checking my sources as I type.

  3. What is the author thinking, lol, just kidding. List looks good to me. I think there are two approaches to this, one is to keep adding more and more to the client or second is to work more towards breaking the client into pieces with a standard that lets people add modules into it so new functionality can be added and used without having to wait for a new client release.

  4. [...] I have to say that I really like theslrevolution posts, they are raising real and interesting issues so yes I am little bit disapointed because of the latest post. [...]

  5. Eirik Haefnir Says:

    I agree with John Kent. The author doesn’t know squat about what he’s talking.

    Want to bet the server this blog is hosted on runs Apache, and probably on Linux even? And the blog software itself … WordPress it seems. And what about Wikipedia?

    OpenSource is all around you, and to claim it is an unimportant phenomenon only meaning something to less than 5% of the people around means you look at the world around you with blinders on.

  6. The viewer is already open source and builds on Win/Mac/Linux. No extra effort is needed there, I don’t get the rant. I got the impression their new push to be more open was more about behaving like a regular opensource project where outsider patches and driving of direction is possible. Right now many talented developers are working on other viewers that ARE implementing things users want, because it’s a PITA to deal with LL’s current “openness”. Things that sit for months in LL’s JIRA are already fixed or improved in the other viewers, it’s possible if LL’s viewer becomes more open like the other ones that these people will find it easier to contribute back their improvements. Ripping out SLIM would be amazing :)

  7. Mr. Thomsen,

    Let me first congratulate you on taking the time to offer a solid rebuttal of my original post. I enjoyed reading your perspective and encourage the readers of this post to follow the link back to your blog to read it.

    My comments about Open Source are purely market driven. You will notice my comments singled out “Fat Client / Client Server, Open Source Business Productivity or MMOG application”s as non-starters, not the inherently more nimble and easy to deploy web apps, such as WordPress.

    You may be surprised to know I actually use and appreciate Firefox and am thrilled to hear the Open Source Mozilla Graphics Group is working on improving the admittedly slow graphics engine so that it can handle the demands of Virtual Worlds.

    I think you misconstrued my comment about in-world messaging. I’m not advocating Exchange, although another well known SL designer I was speaking with yesterday, whose background is also in IT, compared SL to Lotus Notes. What I am suggesting is that in-world messaging allow for rich content. Forcing me to open an attachment and clumsily cut and paste content, including URLs to take further action on the information is NOT a solution. Whatever back-end platform this functionality comes from, it needs to improve!

    I respectfully suggest, in answer to your question about “missing the point;” yes, I think you are “missing the point” regarding document creation and collaboration. It will be interesting to talk to the folks at Insolence and ask them if it would be more efficient for them to be able to open, create and share one of their Google Docs in a in-world window. I might even ask what they think about having a virtual filing cabinet, that provides them with an easy in-world metaphor for storing them!

    As for calendars. Once again, the fact that “the vast majority of the modeling agencies (you are) part of are already using google docs for sharing info and dates.” is a clear sign that this type of functionality needs to be integrated in-world. Notice I use the word integration, NOT replacement. I actually use Google Calendar and the mechanizedLIFE CalendarCog ( http://www.mechanizedlife.com/calendarcog-hud-documentation/ ) product to provide me with basic Google Calendar access in-world. Once again, I wonder of those same fashion designers would find it useful to have us be able to add a fashion show to our calendars with a single click and then reminded to attend, wherever we happen to be?

    As for SMS and email integration and it disturbing our sleep… The point is to have tools that allow us to route and control the flow of information, not isolate us from it. In my current Small Business (IRS definition < 20MM) I have voice mail, email and fax services in the cloud. I manage all of them from my laptop, with all message types routed to my smart phone, depending on their priority, time of day and who they are from.

    Your comment about mesh support puzzles me. You totally ignore my point about the tremendous volume of content and the corresponding investments that already exists in CAD programs. A sole proprietor graphic artist, working from their home office, might not need mesh support, but anyone who wants to bridge the gap between virtual modeling/prototyping and “Real World” application is going to insist their virtual platform provide it.

    My conclusion is that your post is NOT “meaningless” or a “rant,” as you have suggested mine is. Rather we both perceive what is important, based on our own paradigm.

    You may be correct, when you say that thousands of your fellow SL users don’t need or want the features/improvements I’ve suggested. My perspective and the point of my post, is based on my understanding of what matters to hundreds of millions of business software users in the real world, many of whom are looking for ways to use VW technology for enhanced collaboration, training, prototyping and demonstration.

    To be fair to both of us, I’m going to talk with some associates about conducting a survey, that asks current and prospective SL business users about features they would like to have access to in the SL client itself. Would you would agree to publish a link to the survey in your blog and also post the results?

  8. ofcourse, i dont mind a good, survey which will not be biased, if i didnt comment too much about meshes is because mainly the SL rayligthining is much more simple, you cannot cast real looking shadows unless a client modification will construct the responsible shadow prims IN the client, treated as the same as the particles.

    i think the tools are to be created by residents and not only by LL

    the differences between closed source and open source models are covered in “the cathedral and the bazzar” written my mr Stallman, i know both models have issues but for couple of years we see what a closed source windows centric world means, viruses, exploits, loss of resources

    for example i dont simply understand why do I have to lose important processor power by antivirus scanning everything in or out of my system memory, that is just lost energy so I do prefer to use linux which is not plagued by viruses aand various unnumbered issues

  9. SL is a resident created world, real life business models are failing inworld, the vast majority of users don’t think corporate, the number of corporate users is also failing, i am still simply astonished by users coming inword for the first time, being greated and helped by me in help islands and asking me if they have to steal cars in SL or what the point is, simply the expectancy of users regarding SL is nothing about corporate and corporate tools

  10. Is it me or did Chaz completely miss touching on pretty much any issue raised in the post?

    Way to rant, Chaz – glad to see you’re not bitter. I find it amusing and yet embarrassing that you just spent this much time to write such a nice essay dissing something you seem to despise (SL sucks would’ve been much more succinct). Get out much?

  11. hawksrock Says:

    LOL Heidi, I kinda thought mayhaps this was a copy and paste that is applied to a variety of SL blogs… but might be wrong. ;)

  12. Lizzie Lexington Says:

    I’m going to be snarky and simple here. Valiant do you work for MS? Maybe the residents don’t want SL brown nosing MS and forgetting about the concept of open source and linux and mac, etc etc. When I first logged in and began to navigate my way around my thought was “There is no way big business will succeed here, this is more of a mom and pop environment which allows more creative freedom and leverage when buying and selling products and services.” And when I popped over to Iustian’s blog and read the word “exchange” that was enough for me to nix this whole idea you are proposing.

    On a more positive note, great blog – lots of ideas for discussion and debate. I look forward to your posts!

  13. Hey Lizzie!

    Thanks for the comment! No, I do NOT work for Microsoft, although I have been earning a living promoting and implementing Mostly Microsoft-based solutions for 20 years. Make sure you read my reply to Justian’s comment about Exchange. It was not what I was recommending. Although, to be fair, there are a millions of Exchange users who benefit from that platform’s collaboration features every day.

    My previously mentioned MS experience has been primarily focused on the SMB (Small to Medium Business) market. I agree with you that SL has a definite “Mom & Pop” feel to it. It is those people especially who could benefit from better tools. Unlike large corporations that have SharePoint or Lotus Notes for collaboration, most SMBs and sole-proprietors in SL don’t have the know-how or resources to put a collaborative solution together themselves.

    If we want to continue to leverage the tremendous creative energy & talent that exists in SL, we need to find better / easier ways for people to share their knowledge and work together in both formal and informal collaborative teams. Many of these teams, many of whom are in different time zones and may not have access to the same software installed on their computers.

    This is why I believe having tight integration with a Google Docs / Google Groups type of environment, from within SL is so important. The easier we can make it for the “little people” to share ideas and work together, the better chance we will have for them to produce truly innovative ideas and products, that will benefit all of us.

    I look forward to you reading my future posts and your future “snarky” (they really weren’t) comments!

  14. Forgive my ignorance and clarify if I’m wrong, but, won’t html on a prim help on that? I think that if LL should improve on the robustness of that feature, and we’ll be happy as clams.

    CAD support? I’m all for making content creation easier here. Thrown in better sculpty and animation creation tools, and the Lindens will have a VERY HAPPY user base.

    But then again, with all my time looking through stuff inworld, I believe that the community has grown adept at making lemonade out of lemons. Furthermore, I believe that the creative community here in SL has learned how to produce something out of nothing and with very little help from LL.

    I think that Philip is right on his direction with regards to opensourcing the code and all…look at what the web is now? There are now many browsers for many kinds of activities, one example is Flock which focuses on easier social networking access and updates. If it weren’t for that, there won’t be a Cool View, Imprudence, or Shadowdraft….heck there won’t even be Restrained Life….lol.

  15. I’m here because when I was little I played with dolls. My avatars are dolls…………and I play with them just like I did years ago. I’ve learned to make things to enhance my doll playing. I’ve found friends for my doll to play with. I found things to buy for my doll. Places for my doll to go. Nothing earth shaking………if SL disappeared tomorrow I’d be disappointed but I’d find something else to do and survive quite nicely.

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  58. Professional, Professional, Professional.. this is the only way forward.

    Thank you Valiant for highlighting the point. Marketing is paramount.

    Do we all remember Betamax vs. VHS (Betamax = best tech but bad marketing) and Netscape vs Explorer (many similarities there too with Netscape saying publicly that they would be happy to hang onto Microsoft coat tails – lost them their business). So we have Google and Facebook as our latest models… But my money is on Google long term and Facebook being dropped into the same bin as Betamax and Netscape.

    Mass adoption means mass appeal. The current drivers are thin client and quality graphics, as well as the usual mantra of faster, easier and cheaper. A very demanding spec to meet, but in various forms, many of these are available individually through browser based ‘Cloud’ facilities. To bring them all together under one umbrella takes some skill. to MARKET them takes even more!

    Again, thank you Valiant for a great blog!

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