According to Frederick Linden, we’re about to see a series of “cool social tools” and a web Profile tools released over summer (and possibly beyond) that will enhance “social networking” capabilities within Second Life.
Precisely what is coming down the line is unclear – Frederick was somewhat vague in the meeting where these tools were mentioned. However it would appear that we can expect:
- The ability to manage Friends lists directly from web profiles (found at my.secondlife.com/first.last)
- An ability to issue in-world, location-based status updates” from Second Life to your web profile
- The development of a “Profile API” that will enable the functionality of web Profiles to be more easily extended in the future
- Other undefined “cool tools”.
The first three items are particularly intriguing, and may potentially add a lot of benefits to using web-based profiles. The “location-based status updates” is somewhat eye-catching, as it comes close to describing a Twitter-like feed capability from in-world to people’s Profile pages – assuming I’m understanding Frederick’s broad hints correctly. Given that many of the SL-to-Twitter HUDs that are available have been broken as a result of changes to the server-side of Twitter, the provision of such an update capability might be seen by LL as a means of providing a reasonable alternative – although most people who use Twitter (like me) will probably want a more direct means of updating followers and friends as to what they are doing in-world.
The ability to manage Friends could be seen a boon as well – while it is nice to see your friends listed on your Dashboard, the fact that there is next to nothing you can do with the information (other than see where those who allow you Map might be in-world) tends to negate any real value in having the list visible.
However, given there is already an Action button on web Profiles, were the new API and Friends management tools to allow you to say, pay a Friend directly from your web Profile or IM them, then the value of web Profiles dramatically increases and would help them overshadow the static list presented in the Dashboard.
In fact, looking at the rough outline supplied by Frederick, one cannot help but wonder if we might not be seeing the first steps towards doing away with the Dashboard completely (which has become increasingly irrelevant since the launch of the Lithium-based Community Platform) and replacing it with our web Profile pages. Providing feeds to things like the Grid Status pages and to Events can be supplied the web Profiles, then the Dashboard becomes somewhat redundant.
Certainly, we’ve recently seen LL move positively to address privacy concerns surrounding web Profiles, actions which have clearly been intended to allay fears and increase the popularity of web Profiles. As such, making them more central to our SL lives would seem to be a direction LL would wish to move, and this would further marginalise the value of the Dashboard.
It’s going to be interesting to see what precisely emerges from Frederick’s broad hints in the coming months – and just how far things go in the other direction (an API can, after all, open up web Profiles for others to use…and possibly mine…). As such, this could well be the topic to watch between now and the end of the year.