Return to Inworldz

IW Website: Somewhat “plain Jane”

There has been much said about InWorldz of late – and the camps seem to be sharply divided as to how “good” it is, so I decided it was high time I popped back (after an absence of some eight months) to take a look at things myself.

When I first reviewed InWorldz, my impressions were generally favourable – the place was just beginning to find its feet, and while it had some rough edges, the potential was there. So, what has happened since that time?

Well, rather a lot, and most of it for the good. User numbers have been growing steadily (Total user count approaching 40K, almost 900 regions online), and a growing number of SL merchants offer their wares in IW as well – of which, more anon – and an active social scene. Those running the grid have now formed a Limited Liability Company in the US – somewhat similar to a Company Limited by Guarantee in the UK – and as such, have revealed their personal details (the LLC itself has a correspondence address in Brooklyn, NY) and address is also given for DCMA issues as well. If nothing else, this should stop those who have in the past, taken pot shots at InWorldz – and OpenSim grids in general – for their “lack of accountability”.

Beyond this, the web site itself remains little changed from the last time I looked, although the range of available Viewers has increased: IW now “officially” recognises Imprudence, and also now has an SSE2-optimised version of their own viewer. Actually, the website is something that needs work; as it stands, it’s pretty unenticing, and doesn’t do IW itself justice in inviting people to come in and have a look around.

For the purposes of this review, I downloaded the latest SSE2-capable version of the IW Viewer and initially used that. For the record, the system configuration I used for this review comprises: Intel Q6600 quad-core processor, 2.4Ghz / 3Gb RAM; Window 7 with SP-1 installed; Ge9800GT GPU with 1 GB RAM supporting OpenGL 3.3 & the most recent nVidia drivers; InWorldz Viewer 1.2.7 (May 15th) or Imprudence 1.3.2; Phoenix .1102 (where specified).


The Coffee Station

Logging-in brought me to the familiar InWorldz Coffee Station, which is the default log-in for those new to IW or who haven’t set a home position, etc. Last year, this was subject to “heavy” (for IW at the time!) traffic, and had both masses of lag and people falling over themselves to provide assistance.

This time, the sim rezzed smoothly and at a speed comparable to SL and lag was non-existent; however, even with only five people present on the sim, I exhibited a familiar movement problem: rather than animating while walking, my avatar would simply “glide”, pose unchanged – something I frequently encountered back last year, when I was using a lower specification graphics card. This was to mark my movement wherever I went.

The first thing I did on getting logged-in was update my appearance to match my SL looks as closely as possible. As I was, until recently, using my own custom skin and am still using my own shape, this was relatively simple – just upload the skin textures (free of charge in IW), apply them via the appearance Editor & then tweak my shape and change hair colour. The results were pleasing, although I need a decent eyebrow shaper in IW to tweak the look a little more.

Yay me! (Left: IW circa Aug 2010; Centre: IW today; Right: SL today)

Search was very much lacking in IW the last time I was there – not so any more. It’s now available, if buggy, and those who remember the “old” (pre-google-ising) SL Search will feel right at home (right down to the keyword gaming that was such an issue in SL!).  Indeed, so much of the InWorldz Viewer harkens back to what was in SL several years ago, that using it is something of a pleasant trip down memory lane. That said, I’d avoid the Web Search option in Imprudence.

Phox-y Scripting

Like OSG before it, IW has forked somewhat from the “full” OS Grid standard; I understand the inventory system is being overhauled and they’ve recently introduced their own scripting language – Phox. Now, this gave me cause for concern as last year, I spent a fair amount of time working on various builds as I tried out IW, and most of these ended up scripted using LSL – so I was concerned that I’d have to go re-learn everything in order to re-do everything. However, a quick hop to a sandbox showed my fears were – so far at least! – unjustified. My rezzers worked and all the doors, lighting and other elements worked just fine. The only minor irritant I found was the repeated appearance of a line of object chat “play sound script: 45.000000”, which I couldn’t trace down.

I’ve yet to try out Phox in anger, so cannot give an honest comparison – expect that at some point in the future, perhaps.

Appearances, Shopping and Content

The general “look” of IW has come a long way as well; Windlight is enabled, allowing for eater reflections, etc., to be seen, sculpties are now very prevalent, sim extenders are commonly in use (although rather surprisingly, none of the ones I noted were set to phantom, as with SL, but they didn’t appear to create any issues with sim performance. Could this be due to the lack of any physics engine within IW at present?). Indeed, land in any developed sim in IW and allow it ro rez, and you’d be hard-pressed to tell it apart from anything similar in SL.

“Is this the real IW, or is this just SL?” (It’s IW, honest!)

The choice of shopping in IW has – due to the aforementioned influx of SL creators – dramatically increased in terms of quality and quantity. Prices in IW appear somewhat equitable to those found in SL; I visited a number of clothing stores and found prices ranging from Iz250 through to Iz600; however, given you get around twice the number of I’z that you do L$, then IW is considerably lower-cost than SL. In may respects, this is to be expected: land prices within IW remain markedly lower than SL.

Money brings me to my first gripe: currently, IW uses PayPal as the “official” mechanism for buying currency. This hurts on two counts: the additional transaction fees thrown in by PayPal themselves, plus the fact that I only have one credit card, and that is assigned to a PayPal account I *cannot* use for making personal purchases. While there is an alternative means of obtaining currency – via in-world ATMs linked to their counterparts in SL, so you can transfer L$ and Iz in either direction, it would be beneficial if a further mechanism could be provided by which those unable to use PayPal and who may not be involved in SL could obtain currency.

Content-wise, IW has the familiar PG, Mature and Adult ratings assigned to it – but in a much more logical and  user-friendly way (Rodvik, please take note!). Mainland is restricted to PG content only, with private sims available for rating as PG, Mature or Adult, according to the owner’s preference. While this does mean those wanting to run Adult-related activities are restricted to purchasing private island sims, this is not as hard as it may appear, again due to the cost of land.

Land Costs

Sims come in a variety of formats; Mainland sims are limited to 30,000 prims (twice that of SL sims), with pricing set at $60 USD a month tier, and an initial set-up fee of $60 USD. Private island sims come with prim options from 35,000-45,000, with tier set at $75 USD a month and an initial $75 USD set-up fee.

It should be noted that these prices are somewhat “introductory”, and will increase (tier at least), when IW officially goes “live”. However, those taking sims now will have their tier grandfathered at these rates for 12 months following IW going “live”.

There are other much-touted advantages to IW and grids like it beyond the prim count that sims are given: prims can be edited to a size of (on average) 128x128x128, and can be shrunk down to the size of nanoprims without the need for editing tricks as well as supporting a hollowed-out rate of 99%. While there are undoubtedly good, there are still limitations on linking prim sets (though not as restrictive as SL), and assuming LL take linksets into account when mesh is rolled out, it is probable that in terms of resizing prims, SL will be able to match IW and elsewhere for the majority of building tasks.

Show Me the Seccs!

SL has – unfairly in many respects – a “seedy” reputation. While “adult” activities do go on (just like in real life), they are hardly “in your face” as many a tabloid journo would have us believe. Truth is, if you want to find them, you have to make something of an effort and go find them.

Truth further be told, I actually see nothing wrong with much that does pertain to “adult” activities in SL; a lot of them can be downright fun. This being the case, it’s good to see the IW founders being as open-minded towards things “adult” as Linden Lab once was. As mentioned above, there is a sensible rating system (although admittedly no age verification process at this time). Given IW is a place for the over-18s, it should allow for the widest mix of activities.

However, I was genuinely surprised to find RLV in operation on the grid; I was totally oblivious to the fact it had been ported, only that there were rumours of people attempting to port it to “other grids”. It’s only available through those Viewers with RLV/a  implemented (such as Imprudence). Suitably themed sims are already popping up, and I noted a couple of (in)famous fetish/BDSM Groups from SL are apparently active over on IW as well.

As an RLV user, I’m pleased to see it in use elsewhere, although I’m curious as to how it will be maintained over time; presumably someone is keeping an eye on Marine’s Kelley’s development of the code – and has had the courtesy of letting her know they’re porting it elsewhere (or if it is RLV/a, letting Kitty know, if she’s not responsible herself).

Stability, Physics and Other Matters

There has been much written on IW stability and general usability, with many reporting they have issues – particularly in the areas of rezzing and crashing.

Gurl-6 is one of the well-known SL brand names with a major IW presence

While these things are highly subjective, I can only report that I leapt around over a dozen sims in my visit; I rezzed and de-rezzed items, I slid through stores, Tp’d hither and thither – and encountered few rezzing issues. Those I *did* encounter all occurred when on Mainland and when flying across sim boundaries; on several occasions things in the sim I was entering would not rez until after I’d Tp’d somewhere in-sim. This was a little disconcerting, as I’d find myself seeing furniture and plants hanging in the air just before I’d hit a wall that wasn’t there…

Viewers-wise the IW and Imprudence Viewers operated admirably well: Imprudence shoving out an average frame-rate of 30fps on sims with others around, and up to 40 on sims where I was alone. The IW Viewer banged things out for me at just *very* slightly lower rates: around 36fps when on my own, and around 25fps on sims with others. Phoenix did not fair quite as well; the frame rates were appreciably lower (22pfs when on my own, 16fps when on a sim with 1-4 others). I also routinely found I needed to force a rebake after Tps in Phoenix in order to properly rez to myself. Logging-out from Phoenix was less than elegant, as it tended to think I was connected to SL, and have been forced to log out, generating the message about viewing chat  / IMs or quitting.

One slight issue I did have when working with the various Viewers is that my inventory views didn’t always sync. I first noticed this when creating an Alpha Layer (of which, more below). I used Imprudence to create the layer, but when I re-logged to the IW Viewer, the Alpha didn’t initially show-up – I had to relog. The same issue occurred when creating a Tattoo layer in Phoenix – when I first logged back to the IW Viewer, the tattoo icon was a no-show in my inventory.

And yes, IW does support both Alpha and Tattoo layers. What it doesn’t currently support, however, is multi-attach or multi-layer clothing wear or the new SL Avatar Physics. Doubtless these will come in time, but this is still a Beta grid, so no complaints on these being absent, please!

It is true that IW lacks a physics engine (ODE doesn’t appear to be implemented, and while nVidia PhysX has been promised, it has yet to be delivered), and this is currently limiting – no cars or other modes of transport, including elevators. While not an absolute killer, there are many who do like their vehicles and things, and until physics arrives at IW, it will put people off. That said, I did encounter some odd physics-like behaviour around the grid that was similar to SL pushing. A few times when flying between locations, I’d land at a store and immediately get pushed back to the parcel boundary; if I walked across the boundary, I’d be OK, but flying would see me pushed gently back to the boundary upon landing (this was not any form of rubber-banding).

The Search bugs are a nuisance: items listed in the left-side “results list” don’t always yield information in the right-side “details” pane; annoying when trying to find something like land or go shopping, when all you get is “Land Type: (unknown)” and a blank field for the location.

But these were for me, all niggles. I don’t drive, I rarely fly with anything needing wings in-world, and while I’d like to get my elevator scripts working, that all can wait. Other upsets in IW I can deal with; over the course of a day-and-a-half I found them to be no better or worse than the tribulations I routinely face in SL.

General Impressions

IW is maturing steadily. When I was last there, crashes were frequent to the point of being able to tell the time by them every 1/4-hour or so. Today, nary a crash for me. Teleports all worked fine (although around 1/4 of the LMs I’d collected last year were now invalid, suggesting that either people have moved around, or there has been something of a mild attrition rate within IW.

There is still clearly a lot of work to be put in on it before it is ready for prime time, to be sure – but the creators and their team are aware of this. The population also may be on the low side (in terms of concurrency at any given time) – but a) it is one the rise; and b) those involved in IW are some of the friendliest people on Twitter, where there is always plenty of chatter about events and the like going on in-world at IW.

It is hard to say how well IW will do compared to other grid-based VWs. Certainly, at this point it does not represent real competition to SL; rather, Avination and other OS Grids are more properly its competitors. As such, perhaps the biggest problem it faces (as does Avination and others) is how to reach out to enough users to achieve some form of critical mass; SL itself is a relatively small pond for them all to fish from, and not an easy one to gain a decent catch from at that.

Right now, the bias of use type in IW seems tipped towards content creators rather than consumers. While land costs are very favourable, there is a need to balance this out; low tier won’t matter a hoot if the traffic flow of customers doesn’t offset the cost in being in IW.

And to be sure, persuading people away from SL is no sinecure. When all is said and done, SL is established, both in terms of the platform and it warts and, more importantly, the amount of investment users have made in it over the years – not just content creators, but those consumers who have thousands of items representing hundreds of dollars of expenditure sitting in their inventory. Anyone trying to encourage these people to split their time between two ostensibly similar worlds is going to have their work cut out, plain and simple.

This is not to say IW and grids like it cannot survive. Many are attracted to them because they represent something that has been lost from SL: the frontier spirit, so to speak, and the feeling of community and being in something together. And while enticing people away from SL may not be easy, it is not inconceivable that Linden Lab themselves might spark – unintentionally or otherwise – a mass exodus from SL that could massively help the likes of IW. Let’s be honest; when it comes to user engagement the Lab does show a remarkable ability to aim a loaded handgun and aim it at their own pedal extremities before divesting themselves of a toe or two on squeezing the trigger.

Right now, IW is, alongside of Avination and (perhaps) OSG, the place to watch when it comes to OpenSim-based grids. They seem to have the leap on others, and are exhibiting a stability to make them very viable propositions. Certainly, the care being exhibited in the development speaks volumes; it would have been easy to rush to market with a “final” product (as others have tried). Taking a step-by-step approach and not being harried by dates on a calendar (which LL seemed to be half the time), the creators of InWorldz are demonstrating they are building something then intend to see last.

I know that now I’ve been back for the first time in eight months or so, what I’ve seen has whetted my appetite once more, so hopefully, I’ll be popping back there more regularly in future.

Some Recommendations

Before entering InWorldz (or returning to have a look if you’ve not been there in a while), some personal recommendations (not necessarily endorsed by the folks at IW):

  • If you have an older version of the IW viewer, de-install it / remove it from your computer and install the latest version
  • If you are using Imprudence or other Viewer to access IW, don’t overload your Viewer’s bandwidth settings – it can actually be a mistake to set your bandwidth too high; both LL and the likes of Phoenix provide information on why bigger bandwidth settings are not necessarily better; if you experience issues with IW, try dropping your bandwidth down to around the stated 1.5Mbps
  • If you are using Phoenix, consider swapping to either Imprudence or the IW Viewer – Phoenix looks like it might be a little more unpredictable.

Further Reading

June MoM premier and LEA bits

This week sees the premiere of the next set of entrants in the Month of Machinima event. June’s theme is “Mixed Reality”, and the films will be shown at the LEA theatre prior to being available on the MoM YouTube account.

Full details:

  • Premiere:  “Monday 1st June”, 10:00 PST (that’s from the official blog post, so look out for it on either Monday 30th MAY or WEDNESDAY June 1st!)
  • Theatre teleport points: LEA 1LEA 2LEA 3, and LEA 4.

LEA Avatar Games

Also kicking-off on Monday are the LEA-sponsored “Avatar Games” – aka running an art-related obstacle course – on the LEA 3 sim. These games will take place at the somewhat inhospitable for non-US users time of 16:00 PST (a time when most of Europe will be either in bed or heading that way, while Australia & the Far East will be heading for work).

For those wishing to enter the event, you’ll have to submit an entry form and hope you get picked – the event is limited to 10 competitors a week. It’s unclear as to whether those not selected one week will be carried forward to the next, but I’m going to presume so.

Spectators are welcome at the games, although no actual Surl for the event was included in the official announcement, but if you wish to watch, the link given above for the LEA-3 sim should get you to the right place. There is also a wiki page on the event.

LEA Sandbox

Opened rather quietly on May 20th, the LEA Sandbox has been created to give (quote) “Residents space to build and play and experiment with the tools of Second Life as a medium for artistic expression”. If you want to find out more on the Sandbox:

  • There is a wiki page on the subject you should read
  • The Sandbox itself is on LEA 5.

Blondin Linden goes

Blondin Linden (With thanks to Ciaran Laval)

Blondin Linden appears to be the latest departure from Linden Lab. His reasons for leaving are unclear; there has been no official announcement, nor has he revealed anything via his own Twitter account – neither of which is surprising.

Blondin joined Linden Lab in May 2008, by way of the Electric Sheep Company, the former operators of On Rez, which was purchased by Linden Lab a few years ago and shut down.

Working out the East Coast office (Boston), Blondin had responsibility for Zindra, Bay City and Nautilus, and first came to major prominence when Zindra was being set-up. At that time he found himself pretty much in the firing line between the Adult user community and Linden Lab, as the latter started to effectively back-out of promises and understandings relating to land allocation on the new continent, etc. While Blondin carried a lot of the blame, the fact of the matter was, he did not have the seniority to make decisions, but was pretty much locked into the role of messenger, running back and forth between users who were growing increasingly frustrated and a line management at Linden Lab that increasingly appeared as if it couldn’t give a hoot.

Recently, Blondin has appeared out-of-sorts at Zindra user group meetings (something Ciaran Laval commented upon to me), which have themselves come across as fractious affairs, something which could not have made Blondin’s life any easier. Nor could the fact he reported into Amanda Linden who, when all is said and done, appears to be both embarrassed and frightened by the Adult elements of Second Life – whatever form they take, be they in-world or reasonable discussions (or indeed, entirely innocent words) in the official forums.

Whatever the reason for Blondin’s departure, there are many who will miss him. Despite often being hampered in his work, Blondin did participate in-world, attending parties and events, was well as chairing office hour meetings and, later, user group meetings. In this, he was very much part of a rare breed at the Lab and for this – as much as all his efforts with Zindra, Bay City and Nautilus – he will be missed. His departure also leaves a burning question – who will now run the Adult User Group meetings?

Review: Second Friends and Moolto – Part 2

<- Return to Part 1

Moolto Home Page

Second Friends and Moolto are social media sites aimed at users of Second Life (and similar virtual worlds). In this 2-part article, I take a tour of both sites and look at the various features and options.

In part one, I gave a general overview of each, and looked at setting up accounts and profiles, as well as look at the various communications options available to both.

In this part, I look various other elements of the sites, including Groups, Events and the various tools provided for both, and some of the differentiators that lay between them before giving some personal feedback on both. 


Groups are analogous to Second Life Groups, and can be used to promote business and the like, or to generate communications between like-minded individuals, and so on. While there is no direct linking of Groups with in-world activities (you cannot, for example offer people in-world the opportunity of joining your Second Friends / Moolto Group(s) via a direct in-world request (subscriber board, etc.), the Groups function do provide a flexible means of interacting with other Second Friends / Moolto users.

Groups can be created either by displaying your profile page and clicking on the GROUPS link in the options panel below your profile picture, or by going to COMMUNITY -> GROUPS (SF) or clicking on GROUPS (Moo). All of these will take you to the Groups page, which has a button to ADD a new Group in the top right corner.  Alternatively, you can scroll down the Main / Home page and locate the Groups display panel and click on the ADD A GROUP option directly below it.

Add Group (Second Friends)

The Add Group page itself is straightforward, allowing you to define your group in terms of a name, description, group image / logo, the options you want to set for the Group (the ability for members to send comments to the Group wall, etc), and define who can see the Group. You can also include a link to any supporting website and a location for the Group – this can be a real world location (if you have face-to-face meetings) or an in-world Surl.

On creating a Group, Second Friends allows you to immediately invite your friends to join it, a stage you can skip if you wish, and just return to your personal Groups page. Moolto dispenses with the invite friends step and takes you directly to your personal Groups page.  However, and while it is not made clear on the website, Groups created in Moolto require approval, and this can take a while.

Clicking on a Group you have created will display the Group’s page, which includes an OPTIONS button to access various additional capabilities. Within Moolto, these comprise either editing the original settings for the Group (other than changing the moderation setting) or deleting the Group entirely. Second Friends offers you the additional capabilities of being able to set / remove additional administrators for the Group and block specific SF users from the Group.


Add Event (Moolto)

Events follow a similar format to Groups – you can create information about an event in terms of a name, description, date(s) and time(s), include a location (real world or in-world), add an image / logo, set the event to public (anyone can respond) or to invited guests only, set one or more categories for the event (e.g. “fund raiser”, “charity”, “pageant”), and so on.

Events themselves are displayed on the Events panel on the Main page or by going to COMMUNITY -> EVENTS (SF) or clicking on EVENT (Moo); you can also display a list of the Events you have created.

Clicking on an Event name or image will open the page for the Event, which allows you to RSVP to the event (if it is open RSVP or if you have been invited) – and your profile image will be added to the Event page. You can also leave a message on the Event’s Comment Wall (if one has been created for the Event), should you wish.

Event pages include some nice additional options: you can page back and forth through the available Events using the PREVIOUS and NEXT buttons located in the Event description panel; you can click on any of the categories set for an Event to display a list of similar events, and you can export the Event details directly to Microsoft Outlook or iCal. As with People and Group profiles, you can also toggle between displaying the main Events page or a list of the Events you’ve RSVP’d to. Additionally, any Events you’ve RSVP’d to can be displayed by clicking on the EVENTS link in the options panel below your Profile page image.

Other Features


The Forum can be accessed in a wide variety of ways – via COMMUNITY -> FORUM (SF) or FORUM (Moo), or from the Forum panel on the Main page. you can also start forum discussions from a variety of locations within the site. Discussions are limited to a pre-set number of categories (with SF providing much the broader range compared to Moo). When creating a new discussion you can attach files, set tags, etc.


Moolto Profile Page “option panel”

The Blog tool can again be accessed in a variety of ways, and allows members to blog about just about anything they like. Blog entries can be viewed via the Blog panel on the Main page, or via COMMUNITY -> BLOG (SF) or BLOGS (Moo), or by displaying a person’s Profile page and clicking on their blog link (if they have created any blog entries). Displaying the main Blog list page or any individual blog entry further gives you the opportunity to quickly flick between the Blog list page, a list of your own blog entries or editing you blog entries.

Blog entries can include links, images and video, and can be sent for public viewing, friends or just yourself, with similar options available for who can comment. You can also set the date / time at which a blog post is published (allowing for the time zone upon which the two sites are bases – Moolto may be Central European time and Second Friends US Pacific Time).


Images and video can be uploaded to the sites.

Users of Second Friends are limited to uploading 5 images a day, with no such restriction for Moolto users. JPG, GIF and PNG file formats are supported on both sites. Images can be organised into personal albums for viewing, and can be browsed in terms of all images on the site, or via all albums created by users, or you can simply view your own images / albums.

Video can be added to the site using standard embedding code from the likes of Vimeo, YouTube, Hulu and others. Videos can be tagged for searching, etc.

You can define whether or not (and who) can leave comments against any images or videos you upload.

Video and images are uploaded via the MEDIA option in the Second Friends navigation bar, or by clicking on the relevant VIDEO or PHOTO link in the Moolto navigation bar.


Allows you to add various applets to your Profile page; the applets are all third-party produced. The same apps are provided on either site and cover a wide range of activities.


Many elements of both sites can be shared via Twitter and / or Facebook. Simply look for the appropriate icons, displayed wherever anything can be shared.

Gifts – Second Friends

You can send little gifts to other members of Second Friends. These take the form of images, and can be seen as a nice or supportive gesture and help foster the feeling of community and friendship. Received gifts are display on people’s Profile pages.

Games – Second Friends

You can play games on Second Friends in a variety of ways. A default set of simple games from MindJolt is displayed on Profile pages (and displays a different selection of games with each view). Click on a game to play.

There is also a GAMES option in the main navigation bar, which provides multiple categories of games. Some of these are direct-to-play; others appear to require Facebook access.  To be honest, I’m not a games player, so I’ll leave this area to you to explore should you sign-up to Second Friends.

In Summary

Given both Second Friends and Moolto are based on the same software, there is little to choose between them in terms of functionality and features. Both are comprehensive in what they offer, and what they do, they do well. That said there are some broad issues that impact both of them:

  • Outside of Groups, no solid support for in-world businesses in the form of business profiles, etc.
  • No ability to link accounts – something that would be handy for those who use the same identity across multiple Grids (as many do)
  • The Main / Home pages are very busy – there is simply too much going on for them to make sense. Worse, the positioning of the various panels given both sites the appearance of being static; to actually get to the good stuff – like seeing any activity on the site, you have to scroll down and hunt around. This may be a fault of the engine driving the sites more than a flaw in the actual designs, but it doesn’t change the fact that it hurts the sites more than helps.

Making a choice between them therefore comes down the aesthetics – background theme, text visibility, and the like; all of which are highly subjective. However, it has to be said that in this regard, Second Friends comes off somewhat better. The chosen theme is largely readable (although not always ideal), and links aren’t overwhelmed by the background. Sadly, the same can’t be said for Moolto, which has a bizarre flames background (and a logo featuring a couple of fire fighters for some reason). The problem here is that the background often clashes with links on various pages (and even some buttons), making them exceptionally different to read – and not that much easier to see.

In terms of differentiators, again, there is not a lot to choose between the two. I doubt if many people will find Moolto’s ability to send mass invites asking e-mail contacts to join the site particularly attractive. Similarly, while a nice touch, it is questionable as to how endearing people will find Second Friend’s games and gifts.

However, Second Friends does score over Moolto in the provisioning of better tools for Group management – being able to assign other users as Group Administrators is a huge plus. So to is the inclusion of the chat applet; it may not be word perfect, but it encourages conversations – which is one of the points of such sites.

For those used to the likes of Facebook, both sites offer much that will be familiar – such as Comment Walls, and image / video options. The flexible approach to navigation (hard-to-see links in Moolto notwithstanding) is a definite plus and is easily picked up after just a few minutes on either site.

Which Site?

If you’re looking for a social media and networking site that enjoys close links to Second Life, and you’re not overly bothered about any presence you have in other worlds, you may well find that 2ndHub is preferable to either Second Friends or Moolto; more so if you’re running an SL business: the level of integration between 2ndHub and SL make it a clear leader.

If your desire is to have a central home for your avatar’s online presence outside of SL, however, Moolto or Second Friends, with their more integrated approach to things like image and video libraries, the familiarity of Comment Walls, etc., might be more your cup of tea.

Which is not to say there is anything stopping you from joining all three!


Review: Second Friends and Moolto – Part 1

Second Friends Main Page

So, after stumbling on 2ndhub, it now seems I cannot turn a corner without tripping over SL-related social media sites, having discovered both Second Friends and Moolto in rapid succession.

Powered by the same engine, these sites each offer a range of similar services and features – although there are some distinct differences between the two. This being the case, I’ve attempted to compare / contrast them here.

Both sites have something of a “commercial” feel to them – by that I mean they are ads-heavy on their respective Main page (Second Friends) and Home page (Moolto). This actually doesn’t leave a good impression on first looks, as it makes both sites look a bit of a graphical hodge-podge, with meaningful information seemingly lost among the ads.

Given they are powered by the same engine, there is a high degree of commonality between the two sites, some of the highlights being:

  • 140-character Twitter-like instant messaging, which can be automatically directed to Twitter or your Facebook page
  • Forum and blogging tools
  • Group creation and Event listing
  • The ability to upload and share images and media (including the ability to create your own image libraries)
  • Sign-on via Facebook, Twitter, Google, etc.
  • The ability to add applications to your account (not SL-specific apps)
  • The ability to share messages, images, videos, etc with Twitter and / or Facebook.

There are also some differentiators:

  • Second Friends (SF) includes:
    • Live chat applet
    • “Gifts” you can send to SF Friends or receive from them
    • The ability to play on-line games from within the site
  • Moolto (Moo) allows you to invite friends from various e-mail contact lists (Yahoo, hotmail, Gmail, AOL) to join Moolto.

Both sites, while geared towards Second Life are not SL-specific; there is no reason why they cannot be equally used by those involved in other grids – indeed, the welcoming e-mail from SF mentions InWorldz.


Sign-up is relatively simple for both sites, although each follows a slightly different root:

  • Both require that you initially provide an e-mail address, password and date of birth. Or, if you prefer, you can use your Facebook, Yahoo Google or Twitter identity to initially set-up your account (note SF states Twitter can be used, but no actual button is displayed). Then:
  • SF sends a verification e-mail to your e-mail address which you must respond to (a nice button is displayed to take you directly to your e-mail account to do this). Clicking on the verification link in the e-mail message returns you to SF and the Create Profile window (below right). Fill out the required information on the window (indicated by (*)), and any of the optional fields and then click JOIN. This will deliver you back to the SF Main page.
  • Moo displays the Create Public Profile window (below left), requiring you to supply your “Full Name”, avatar name, date of birth and an image to be used with your Profile. You can optionally indicate your gender and country of residence. On clicking JOIN, you are informed your membership request has been accepted as is awaiting approval – and you have the opportunity of cancelling it. Approval can take anything for 15-30 seconds to over an hour. Until it has been granted, the majority of the site is inaccessible.
Create Profile Windows

Note: While both sites request you enter your “full name”, you are not required to give your real name – you can enter your avatar name here if you prefer (as well as in the box asking for your avatar name) – or any other alias.

The Main Page

When logged-in to either site the hub of activity is the Main / Home page. Those just getting started should probably kick-off using the three large activity icons:

  • Customize your page  (SF only) allows you to (as the name suggests) customize you’re your Second Friends home page – select a background theme, set the colours and fonts, etc., to make your Profile page more individual
  • Import (Moo only) allows you to invite your e-mail contacts (Yahoo, Hotmail, Gmail or AOL) to join Moolto
  • Add content offers you options to upload video or photos, create an event, write a blog entry, start a discussion or go to the applications list to add an application to your account
  • Add apps takes you to the applications list where you can add an application to your account.
Activity Icons (Second Friends version)

Beyond this, the Main & Home pages can be bewildering. Both employ a three-column format that displays a huge array of information panels and adverts. Finding information is therefore a matter of scrolling (a very long way in the case of Second Friends) and keeping your eyes open. A nice touch is that all of the main features for each site – blogs, forums, photo albums, etc., have options to take you to their dedicated pages, making viewing them somewhat easier – once you’ve found them, that is. In some ways the approach works against both sites, as it can give them impression that both are static in nature, and that not a lot is actually going on.


A preferable way of getting around either site is to use the various navigation options. The two most obvious of these are he three main activity icons mentioned above (Main /Home page only) and navigation bar that is displayed at the top of every page on each site.

Navigation bars: Second Friends (top) Moolto (bottom)

There are also additional navigation options located in your personal Dashboard located in the top right of every page you view, and in the “options panel” displayed under your Profile page image (My Page in Moolto, My Profile in SF).

Finally, many of the pages are linked so you can quickly switch between personal lists and public lists – such as with Groups, Events, Friends, etc.

My Profile (SF) / My Page (Moo)

This page combines the information you entered about yourself on sign-up with a range of other items, such as any photo stream you have created, any comments you’ve received and so on.

Profile Page (Second Friends)

There is a Twitter-like micro-blogging element at the top of the page where you can tell people what you’re up to. Comments are displayed on your Profile page and on the LATEST ACTIVITY panel on the Main / Home Page, and you can optionally send any comments to Twitter and / or Facebook. Sadly, individual messages cannot be replied to.

The amount of information displayed on the page is variable, according to which site you are using – Moolto doesn’t feature games, for example – and whether you install any additional application. However, the majority of the available panels and options are the same for both. SF perhaps scores over Moolto in that it includes the ability to set a custom theme for your Profile page (although this is not applied to the entire site, annoyingly).

Making Friends

To gain new friends you need to click on COMMUNITY -> PEOPLE (SF) or MEMBERS (Moo). This opens the People / Members page and thumbnails of all current members, with Moolto also providing a number of “Featured Members”.  How or why they are “featured” is unclear to me, but I’m guessing it’s to do with participation or something similar. Members currently logged-in to either site are indicated by a small green dot appearing alongside their name (excluding those in Moolto’s “Featured” list).  Both have a search facility and options to sort members alphabetically, by the newest joiners first or entirely randomly. Finally, a pair of links at the top left of the page allow you to switch between the full People list and your list of friends.

Add a friend requires you display their Profile page (click on their name or image in the thumbnail view), and then click on ADD AS FRIEND in the options panel below their profile picture. This displays a small pop-up asking you to confirm the friendship request and which includes an option to add a personal message to the request.

You can also message people without friending them – click on the MESSAGE option alongside their profile thumbnail.

Friendship requests from other users will appear in your Dashboard and send an e-mail to you if you are not logged into the site. Clicking on the link will allow you to accept or refuse the offer.

Friends Page

You can view details on the friends you’ve made via the FRIENDS link on your Dashboard. This opens your Friends page, which features the same search and display order options as the People list and links to switch between your list of friends and the main People List. From here, you can view individual profiles, send a message or a gift (SF only) to a friend and you can view individual profiles, or send a message to all your friends.

A confusing element within Moolto is that the Friends link on the Dashboard and the page displaying your list of friends both include an “Invite” option. However, this does not enable you to make friend requests to other Moolto users; it simply takes you to the pop-up to send invitations to your e-mail contacts to join Moolto.

To terminate a friendship, display the individual’s profile page and click on the REMOVE AS FRIEND option located in the options panel below their profile picture.


Communications are well catered for, and take a number of forms. There is the message option on your Profile page, described above, together with the following options / means.


Accessed from INBOX link in your Dashboard, this allows you to send private messages to other SF users (individual messages or “group” messages to several friends at once). The mail editor applet includes a range of formatting options and allows URLs, images and video to be embedded in messages.

Wall Comments

You can add messages to a user’s Comment Wall (displayed on their profile page) via a number of routes:

  • By visiting their profile page directly
  • By clicking on the COMMENT link displayed in their thumbnail entry in the PEOPLE/MEMBERS list or your Friends list

The wall comment editor, like the mail editor, includes formatting options and the ability to include URLs, video and images.

Send a Message to All Friends

Available from your Friends page, this does exactly what the title suggests, and sends a mail-style message to all of your friends.

Chat Applet – Second Friends only

Second Friends Chat Applet

Second Friends scores significantly in the inclusion of a fully-functional chat applet; this allows for both public chat and private messages, with the former as the default. Accessing the chat option will display the chat window, which comprises 3 elements: the chat area (top left) your text entry area (bottom left) and a list of who is online on the right. Be aware that “online” does not necessarily mean they are actively using the chat applet, however!

The list of users includes a handy search option you can use to find a specific user if the list is excessively long, and display their name only.

Left clicking on a name in the list opens-out a list of actions which give you the ability to view the person’s profile page (opened in a separate browser tab, rather than carrying you away from chat), open a private chat session with them or send them a gift. A nice feature of the applet is that private conversations are effectively “tabbed” into separate window displays, each with the name of the person you’re chatting with displayed at the top of the tab. You can then click between tabs to view each conversation and click back to the main chat display in much the same way as using the SL browser.

You can also “pop-out” the Chat applet into its own floating browser window or shut down the chat applet altogether (does not log you out of Second Friends) using the buttons located at the top right of the chat applet. Click these again to re-dock the applet or log back onto it.

Continued in Part 2 ->

Search Project Viewer released

Linden Lab have released a new Viewer Project to sit alongside their exiting Mesh-enabled Alternative Viewer. This is the Search Project Viewer, which is promising to deliver a new and better Search experience in Viewer 2.

Given that Search has long been a contention where Viewer 2 is concerned – where it initially started out as a massive step backwards in so many respects – the fact that LL have moved it to a dedicated Viewer should be welcome news, in that it gives people the opportunity to properly test the new features, provide feedback and for LL to finally ensure that Search is providing what the user community wants and expects.

I’m not going to go into a long review of the new engine – Ciaran Laval has already done that, and I see no reason to repeat the work he’s done. Certainly the new Search looks very promising, although some of the more irritating problems with the engine remain – such as the number of steps you have to go through simply to be able to see the information you want to get to, regardless of the fact that the Search engine can finally now locate it.

What is interesting to note is that Linden Lab state in the blog post that:

New search will soon be available to you in the official SL Viewer and we will not be implementing it for the 1.23 Viewer. To be clear, you can still use the 1.23 Viewer, but search functionality will be impaired once new search is released into general availability, after the test period. 

Specifically, searches using the ALL and GROUP tabs of the 1.23.x Search will be impaired. So, where does this leave existing 1.x-based Viewers? Again the blog post provides a part of the answer:

 (We cannot speak to which Third-Party Viewers will adopt the new search technology.) All of our development efforts are focused on making SL Viewer with Basic and Advanced modes exceptional for all Residents–new and seasoned. 

In other words, as far as the “official” version of Viewer 1, already frozen in development in many respects, this pretty much marks the end of the road, and it will by up to TPV developers themselves to overcome any functional impairments in search by adopting the new “search 2”. How easy / difficult this might be remains to be seen, but it would certainly seem to add to the burden 1.x TPV developers are having to carry in their attempts to keep things going.

Given that many are already producing Viewer 2 alternatives (Dolphin 2, Firestorm, Kokua, Kirstenlee’s S21, to name but four), this might push them towards making a full and final switch to Viewer 2-based development and allowing any 1.x Viewer offerings they have depreciate.  This many not be a popular move among the wider user community should it happen, but the fact is – and Oz Linden has pointed out – there is a lot coming down the tracks in terms of new functionality within the Viewer that trying to maintain two code bases, or simply trying to backport functionality into the older code, may simply reach a point where it is no longer viable.

If you wish to try out the Project Search alternative Viewer, you can fins the downloads on the Alternative Viewer wiki page.