Yesterday saw what marks a major set of announcements – and linked comments – from Linden Lab. During her appearance on Metanomics to promote the Beta launch of Viewer 2.0, Amanda Linden admitted that LL’s track record in communications with to and with users has been pretty appalling over the last few years, and she made mention that things were going to be changing.
Later, Amanda popped up in the Forums (nothing unusual there) and proceeded to actually respond to critiques and concerns voiced by users (which, given the general preference for senior LL executives to cherry-pick comments in the forum and sway towards answering those more given to praise than critique, was a little unusual). Now we get the “start” of a process of “Coming Soon” announcements designed to highlight upcoming changes / implementations, etc.
This in itself isn’t new per se. We’ve had similar “programmes” in the past, taking a variety of forms from website announcements all the way back to special town hall events. Few have stuck over the years once the heady thrill of the first few posts / sessions has faded. The cynic in my says this effort also won’t last: the timing of its arrival suggests it is an attempt to show the “new influx” of users that SL is an alive and vibrant place, and LL are working hard to keep it so.
Nevertheless, kudos for the effort, and well done on presenting what is for the most part, very exciting news. Long may it continue.
While I’m not overly fussed about Viewer 2.1 (I’m still bouncing between Emerald and KirstenLee’s S20 viewer); it will hopefully bring some kind of decent stability that will enable TPV developers really sink their teeth into it via Snowglobe, and generate some really first class Viewers.
Similarly, I can’t get excited about the new Second Life Marketplace that is entering beta. This looks like it will be superseding XStreet in the future, and goes some way to explaining why Pink Linden has been conspicuous in her silence. I’m finding it hard to get excited by this new venture, for a couple of reasons. OK… more than a couple.
First off, Pink appears to be in charge. Sorry, but she is someone I have very little respect for and has proven herself less concerned about user’s views and legitimate concerns on matters than she is in pushing through policy and earning (one assumes) corporate brownie points. Beyond that, this new market environment looks like it’ll be the place where some of the more unpopular commerce policies will be enforced, and given Pink’s attitude at OH meetings, the control is liable to be draconian.
Most of all, however, there is the fact that however it is dressed up, this seems to be geared towards pushing shoppers into buying on-line, rather than in-world thus generating revenue for LL. As Pink herself states: The portion of Second Life Residents using XStreetSL has gone from 8% to 20%, with 2/3 of Residents telling us they shop on Xstreet before checking inworld. Now, I’ve no idea where or when the surveys and meetings relating to the gathering of these figures were held – I didn’t see or hear anything, and I’ve been an SLx / XSL merchant for well over 2 years, but the upward trend is something LL are very keen to see continue. XSL itself already enjoys many advantages over in-world shopping. For a start, Viewer 2.0 search can make finding what you are seeking unnecessarily complex at times – but more than that, XSL gets pumped straight to the user’s desktop “dashboard”, and faces no real competition from the forums…because there is currently no real classifieds forum (although we are being told that “will change”). Indeed, many policies and actions on the part of the commerce team have been directly geared toward pushing buyers to Xstreet, rather than towards in-world stores. Therefore, one cannot help but worry that this direction is going to be more aggressively pursued when the Marketplace is formally launched.
As it stands, given the information provided in the Merchant’s Wiki, those advertising on XSL will have their work cut-out in the coming weeks to gain “compliance” with the new standards for the SLMP.
Of a much brighter note are the announcements of forthcoming technical changes. First among these is the new that LL have listened to the complaints about Search and are putting effort into fixing it, particularly where Land and Events are concerned. Good!
We finally have official confirmation that Havoc 7.0 and full Mesh imports are coming down the line, with Havoc 7.0 due to arrive in the summer, and Mesh going to the beta grid around the same time, for public testing ready for a hoped-for end-of year launch.
Hopefully, the lessons of Havoc 4.0 are ingrained on a wall somewhere at LL, and the update to 7.0 will progress smoothly and effectively. Again, it has been on public test on the Beta grid, and those I’ve spoken to about it say it seems more than OK. If all goes according to plan, Havoc 7.0 will roll-out with Server 1.40.
Mesh is something a lot of people have been calling for a long while now, and it could possibly be the thing to revolutionise SL in terms of content. Demo videos on the subject have been around for ages, but assuming the implementation is well-handled, and allowing for the learning curve many content creators will face, mesh presents a lot of new opportunities for established 3D modellers.
That said, mesh will bring a substantial can of worms with it, and there are important aspects that need to be addressed:
- Impact on the economy. Two things here: not everyone is going to be able to get to grips with mesh and the creation import of objects…thus the sudden influx of seemingly high-quality items could well put a lot of content creators out of business; also the sheer “wow” factor of mesh object might lead to their prices being massively over-inflated, creating an unexpected (and possibly damaging) spike in economic returns
- Performance. Again, so far as I can tell from my cursory reading, two things: first off will be the risk of those of us (me included) who are far from experts in 3D modelling creating complex models withtens of thousands of polygons that…grind a sim to a standstill when rezzed in-world. Also, with the masses of 3D content (legal and ripped) floating around the web, the risk of the grid suddenly getting overloaded with a gazillion uploads
- Related to the above: IP rights, use of copyrighted material, etc., etc. Some form of safeguard needs to be implemented or SL /LL risks becoming home to even more copyrighted material & open to accusations of violations of the same.
Speaking in the discussion thread following the announcement, T Linden indicates these things are “front and centre” of LL’s thinking, and rightly so. But these aren’t the only concerns. There is potential here for LL to completely overhaul the commerce environment and mandate strict controls (I could say “licences”, as this seems to be the Linden Word of the Quarter) governing who can and cannot upload creations to SL and define the fees they pay in order to do so. As I’ve said elsewhere, eyes at Battery Street are probably looking over the fence at Blue Mars to see how well commerce and content creation runs there….
The feedback to the announcement has been largely positive – and rightly so. The concerns raised by some have been valid, and it again appears as if concerns are being taken on board. SL needs to stay abreast of developments elsewhere if it is to properly expand, and much of what is mapped out in this announcement will help in that regard. Nevertheless, as a couple of commentators in the discussion thread have pointed out, it would be good to see other “coming soon” features finally implemented – such as smooth sim crossings, something that has been “coming soon” since I returned to SL back at the end of 2006…!
P.S. I’ve ignored the comments around Avatars United simply because I don’t use it nowadays (never did really), and I don’t see anything there to attract me.