Breaking the Viewers

As Tateru Nino points out, Oz Linden issued a stark warning yesterday when commenting on third-party Viewers (TPVs): “[A]ny Viewer that isn’t being actively maintained is going to start having fairly serious problems over the next months. We’re making a lot of changes… if viewers don’t keep up, things will break.” 

Now, Oz isn’t the most diplomatic of individuals, it has to be said; but a lot of people seem to be getting unnecessarily bent out of shape in response to his comments, apparently reading them as “You must swap to Viewer 2!” – which is certainly not what is being said.

Rather, he is pointing to the fact that with all that is coming down the line, there is a risk that some Viewer devs (particularly those working with the Viewer 1 / Snowglobe code who have to backport everything) may find their Viewers becoming obsolete. And his comment may well have merit.

While it is true that much of what has been developed for Viewer 2 has been backported to Viewer 1 TPVs (Display Names, multiple clothing layers, Avatar Physics, etc.), it is by no means certain that this will be possible going forward. for example, LL have already stated that Mesh objects will not render in Viewer 1, so it’s by no means clear if the code required to enable meshes to be visible can be integrated into the older Viewers. Similarly, they’ve also stated that the “Search 1” used by Viewer 1 is to be turned off at some point this year – leaving TPVs based on the code either without a search engine or needing to try to integrate with the Search used by Viewer 2. Therefore, there is a risk associated in staying with the Viewer 1 code base.

The Popularity Stakes

In the same meeting, Oz went on to say, “[T]that being said, we’re looking hard at what motivates people to stay on a 1.x viewer so that we can try to address those issues too,” a comment that was also met with a certain amount of derision, with people pointing to things like “usability”, performance and features as the major reasons why Viewer 2 “isn’t working”.

Much has been made of the Viewer 2 UI being “unusable”. At the risk of offending some, I think it fair to say this view is more reflective of people’s unwillingness to accept Viewer 2’s UI than it is of the usability of the interface.

Yes, there are quirks, annoyances, and things within the UI that could be a better than currently implemented – but none of them render the UI “unusable”. The fact is that *if* the Viewer 2 UI had been the de facto  UI for the last 4 or 5 years, and was now being replaced by the Viewer 1.x UI, many of those decrying the Viewer 2 UI to be “unusable” would be making the very same claim against the “new” V1 interface. I’m not being snide in saying this: I’m simply pointing to a reality of human nature; Viewer 1 is in our comfort zone, and it is naturally more attractive.

Performance has been an issue with Viewer 2. Many report tremendous downturns in performance when swapping to it; I’ve experienced it myself in the past. However, today I carried out a couple of (admittedly simple) tests*, measuring FPS rates and rezzing times for the four Viewers I routinely use together with the “official” Viewer 2 and the Kokua development viewer (more out of curiosity with the latter than an attempt to measure its actual performance). The results were surprising, as this table on average frame rates on sims occupied by 2 avatars and 12 avatars respectively demonstrates:

Viewer frame rates on sims occupied by 2 and 12 avatars respectively

In terms of rezzing (using a mall as my baseline), Viewer 2 again performed well. The fastest Viewer for rezzing was, unsurprisingly, Kirstenlee’s S21 (The KLee Viewers have always preformed pretty well on my PC), with Viewer 2 running it a close second. Again, given the use of the JPG2000 library with the official Viewer, this might not be so surprising, but it does perhaps point to Viewer 2 not being as slouchy as its reputation suggests.

Obviously, the test is entirely subjective; what works for me, may not work for you. But its interesting that the overall performance of the Viewer 2 is not so much an issue as it may have been just a few releases ago (when things like frame rates did have me grinding my teeth in frustration).

Giving People What They Want

Truth be told, if Oz wants to understand why people stick with Viewer 1.23.5-based Viewers (or for that matter prefer the likes of Firestorm over Viewer 2), then he only need to really consider one thing: features.

Firestorm in-world Profile display: fast, easy, fun

simply put: TPV developers give users the tools they want: client-side AOs, radar, massive improvements to the Windlight engine and sharable presets, and so on. All these have served to keep Viewer 1-based Viewers at the forefront of popularity.

In the Viewer 2 department, TPV developers are being as equally accommodating, providing features and options users are requesting while LL turn a deaf ear: in-world Profile viewing that avoids the use of the Web Profiles, inclusion of the Media Filter, options to replace the context menus with pie menus, and so on.

As TPVs based on the Viewer 2 / Snowstorm code base mature and inherit features from Viewer 1 TPVs, people will migrate to them and overcome their bias towards the UI.

When that happens, perhaps the only question that will be asked within Linden Lab will be, “Why is Viewer 2 still the minority Viewer?”  In reply to which, I can only say “check back here guys, and read that last few paragraphs…”

* Test information:

  • Hardware: Intel Q6600 Quad Core CPU, 2.6MHz, 4Gb RAM 320 GB hard drive @ 7200rpm
  • Graphics: GeForce Ge9800GT with 1Gb.
  • Viewer settings: Bandwidth 1500kbps; cache size 1024Mb; Draw distance: 384 metres; multi-threading enabled.
  • Sims used: 2-avatar test: Qiu Xiang; 12-avatar test: Mesmerize Dungeon.

8 thoughts on “Breaking the Viewers

  1. This is a bit worrying, normally I use a V1 build…
    I wouldn’t really say that viewer 2 “doesn’t work” either. My main pet peeve was transitioning from one interface to another. To me, the viewer 1 interface just makes more sense. All of the buttons you need are out in plain sight. I didn’t even need a tutorial to get accustomed to v1, it was all right there. Viewer 2 was a little bite more confusing to use with the sidebar and all, plus now the build button was nowhere to be seen. I think, for me, the main flaw I have with V2 is the inventory load time. It’s just too slow, I can’t even get past 5,000 items. If i was forced to use viewer 2, I wouldn’t complain much, though it would be a bit of an inconvenience. I might be more welcome to the idea if it didn’t take an hour or so, plus multiple relogs, to load my inventory.


    1. Certainly there was a lack of logic involved in V2 development; when it was first launched. With the initial release, building was even more confusing as you simply could not access the options even via a context menu if you were standing on a prim – CREATE simply wasn’t there.

      You comment on inventory load time is interesting. I’m admittedly paranoid about my inventory (I never allow unpacked items to exceed 10K, anything that is unused and Xfer gets shunted to my “storage alt”, everything is ordered by folders / subfolders, etc. However, I’ve never had an issue with V2 with getting my 9K+ of unpacked items to load. Have you tried a V” TPV, such as Dolphin 2 or Firestorm or Kirstenlee’s S21? You might get better results – although don’t ask me why.


  2. I don’t see anything inherently wrong with Oz’s statements, TPV’s do need to keep and it would be useful if LL did find out why people want to stick with 1.23.

    The only point is, LL have been being told why since V2 was launched in beta, first we had the charge that people don’t like change, this completely missed the point. Then it was that V1.23 was beloved, this missed the mark too.

    LL have listened, the no build when building on top of another prim solution I was given was to use CTRL, ALT, B, which worked but wasn’t what people were complaining about, it was a workaround to something that should have been there from the start.

    All the information LL need on why people still prefer 1.23 is out there and has been out there for over a year, some things they won’t be able to deal with and then you do get into suck it and see terrirory but some of the other issues they can deal with and LL should be pushing the advantages of V2, the address bar, multiple layers, media on a prim …. hmm that one just didn’t really make an impact.


    1. Yep, the information is out there. In fairness, LL did eventually respond in some areas, but it did feel like users were dragging a kicking and screaming horse to water in order to try and help it to drink. We did get improvements around build options; CTRL-B for Build would have been a tad more convenient than CTRL-ALT-B, but the latter works, and they did eventually get the horrendous way in which the Sidebar impacted the world view sorted out, and there have been other significant improvements over the last 14-ish months.

      There is still much that is wrong with V2 – don’t for a moment think I view it as picture perfect, I don’t. That’s why I’m still a Phoenix user in the process of migrating to Firestorm; I do however feel that as valid as some complaints around V2 are, there is also a lot of noise thrown up around it (and I come dangerously close to agree with Hamlet on this particular matter: it actually is as much about people’s resistance to change as anything else).

      As to the advantages of Viewer 2, well frankly, Linden Lab, in their best tradition of aiming a loaded gun inappropriately, again managed to blow several of their own toes off. Multiple clothing layers? In V1 TPVs. Alpha and Tattoo layers? In V1 TPVs. Display Names? In V1 TPVs; “Legal” multi-attach points? already in V1 TPVs. Even the “new” Avatar Physics are…in V1 TPVs. Had the users been listened to in the first place – had LL perhaps delayed launching Viewer 2 until many of the issues (such as the Sidebar problem) which were raised in the closed Beta had been fixed, and then promoted it positively, it might have scored better.

      Right now, while I have no problems with Oz’s warning regarding 1.23.5 Viewers and feel a lot of people took his comments totally the wrong way, the flipside is that when it comes to looking at why Viewer 2 hasn’t been better supported, LL have – to use another metaphor – now missed the boat. Like the V1 TPVs before them, the emerging V2 TPVs have everything Viewer 2 offers, combined with nips and tucks the users have been asking for over the last 14 months and are getting the additional features that have made V1 TPVs that much more popular than the only “official” Viewer 1.

      Until Oz and others are prepared to recognise that user actually do know what that want and and move to start meeting those needs, Viewer 2 will remain a trail-follower, rather than a trail blazer.


  3. Spewer 2. Way too many hidden tabs in UI.
    Every single new user that asks me for help, and I do a lot of that, has one very common response to their first look at the 1 code UI.
    “Wow, this is a lot easier”.
    End of conversation… stuff they can’t immediately see or find is a game killer.
    Secondlife as we know it will never ever be FailBook easy.
    I came four years ago as someone brand new to computers… what saved me was one on one help, I’m a senior citizen, and I’m uncommonly stubborn.
    Secondlife is a rather *geeky* platform, and won’t be learned quickly.


    1. Viewer 2 isn’t fault-free, don’t get me wrong; but the fact remains that while there are issues around it (which are being gamely dealt with as far as possible by TPV devs), my comment on much of the hyperbole involved in the more knee jerk reactions to still stand.

      That said, there *has* to be a better means by which new users can get to grips with Viewer 2; it seemed like the Basic Mode was an attempt to do so – but the problem here is that the Basic mode is far to divorced from the Advanced Mode to really stand new users in good stead when making the transition. This is something that really does need attention. At the very least, carrying over some of the help tools found in the Basic Mode to the Advanced Mode would certainly help overcome some of the more typical issues people have with getting things sorted out.


  4. I would say that V1 being in a comfort zone is a main reason to reject 2 is a bit of a false statement. It cannot be generalized that it is human nature to be against changes. I understand that several cultures in the modern western world tend to be stronger conservative which perhaps can trigger the assumption their about human nature about changes, dunno.

    I truly gave V2 a long shot over at least a half year. Problem is i went from showstop to showstop. Where 1.23.5 provides with smooth movements and high fps, 2 Always gave me micro freezes, longer freezes and so on, lowered fps. On top of that V2 simply clutters the screen which does not help very much with the immersive experience. Bars are thicker, floaters have wider edges, the awful sidebar et cetera. I still have 2.7.2 and 1.23.5. Both are highly usable in terms of inworld smoothness, but the V1 UI is much more elegant with my own baked dark glass skin.

    The new CEO does recognize all this and i know that Philip has never really been fond of it nor have many Lindens, but they have to keep a happy face as a profession.

    I undestand that the new CEO is very open for changes, but he is a very conservative guy (as he says himself during interviews) who makes small steps when it comes to things done before his time at LL. At the same time he is very focussed on fast other kind of changes and for him the UI and its current ‘skin’ and looks are not his highest worries.

    This sets the door wide open to far better 3rd party viewers. What i understand inworld is that the official viewer is hardly used other than ~20% of users who like the UI, performance on their comp and 99% of the newbs because it is how they login during their noob days.

    I hope LL one day will wake up…


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