New Second Life Viewer Initiative – Can It Be Competitive?
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
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
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
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.