I actually started writing this post back last week, but abandoned it for lack of in-depth information as to whether we were seeing something new or something abandoned that had accidentally resurfaced. However, after attending today’s mysecondlife.com User Group meeting, I’m now more confident in going to press – even if the news is now rather old!
Essentially, in the next few weeks our web profiles will be turning a lot more “social” in their look, feel and capabilities. With the “new” Profiles, people will be able to:
- Link more closely to any other social networking identities they may have & which they wish to connect to their SL identity (e.g. Twitter, Plurk, Facebook, etc.)
- Allow people to comment on their own and other profiles (subject to permissions being set) in a Twitter-like manner
- Manage their Friends and Group lists through the web profile as well as in-world
- Upload snapshots directly to their web profile.
Some of these changes can already be seen on my-demo.secondlife.com, although the more recent code updates appear to be only available if you actually physically log-in to the Beta grid and use the new profiles through the in-viewer browser.
Several of the new features look to be well-considered and have been much-requested: the ability to manage Friends lists for example. Others are likely to prove more questionable among the masses – and indeed are already generating concerns.
The Feed option is most analogous to Twitter in many respects. Essentially it allows those to whom you give permission (defined as a Friends only, or anyone in SL or anyone coming across your profile while browsing the web) to leave a comment on your profile. Replies to comments can also be made – as shown in the example above.
This has already given rise to concerns about spammers abusing the system and people finding their feeds filled up with ads for tat, tosh and trinkets. However, this can be mitigated against by adjusting the privacy settings for the Feed option (setting it to just “Friends” – which really, it should be by default).
Another concern with the Feed is that if it is used via the in-viewer browser and Viewer 2 / a V2 TPV, your in-world location is automatically appended to the message you send out. This is something that did not prove to be popular among those attending the my.secondlife.com user group meeting today, doubly so when it became apparent that the option to transmit your location is opt-out, rather than opt-in, and that there is currently no blanket opt-out option: you must do so message by message. However, Fredrik and Teddy Linden, attending the meeting on LL’s behalf, appeared to take concerns about the opt-out rather than opt-in situation on-board, with Fredrik commenting:
[11:41] Frederico (fredrik.linden): again, we want to help people socialize and stay up to date with what’s happening in Second Life. Location does that, and we want to push it. we’ll be sure to tweak the opt in/out before we go live to agni
Given that people will be able to comment on your profile, the new system includes options to notify you when someone does so – you can elect to be notified in-world and/or via e-mail and these options can also be set should someone comment after you or comments on a message you leave on another person’s profile.
Faster, smaller, neater
A repeated complaint about the web profiles, and I’m as responsible as anyone here, is that they a) take far too much time to load when using the in-world browser (4 seconds on average for me – others have reported up to 10 seconds on busy regions) and b) they take up far too much screen real estate. Again, LL appear to be listening to these concerns, with both Teddy and Fredrik giving assurances that the “new” profiles will be faster on loading and “more integrated” into the Viewer.
The new profiles are not ready for prime-time as yet: the data used at my-demo.secondlife.com is from the Beta grid, and thus is very stale for many users (other than those who routinely spend a good deal of time logged-in to it). More work is required on various aspects of the new look – and both Fredrik and Teddy seemed keen to take on board as much feedback from the UG meeting as they could – presumably so that it could be fed-in to the development process in the lead-up to the release some time in the next few weeks.
Right now it is unclear (at least to me) as to which page / tab will be the item others see when looking at your profile; “Home” would appear to be the obvious choice, but given this is essentially a blank page with a feed box in it, it would appear somewhat redundant. The ABOUT tab appears more informative – and it is actually hard to understand why this isn’t, by default, the “home” page for a profile.
Overall, the new-look profiles offer much of promise and provide a set of potentially useful social networking options. A part of me wonders as to how effectively they will be used, however – those that want to extend some of their SL contacts and activities into the “pure” social networking space are probably already at home with the likes of Plurk and Twitter, and may not be overly attracted to the new profiles unless deeper integration with their preferred communications medium are available, or all their existing contacts can be persuaded to swap over or get involved. For many SL users however, there is a risk that these additional bits and pieces will be at best ignored, as they don’t have any place in their in-world lives, or at worst seen as a complete distraction.
For my part, I do find it hard to believe that things like the Feed will do much to pull me away from Twitter (and to a lesser extent, as I don’t use it so much, Plurk) – it simply isn’t as convenient a tool to use. However, I do like other aspects of the new profiles; overall the new tabbed approach is a lot cleaner and easier to grasp. I also look forward to seeing just how LL tweak the profiles for “better integration” with the Viewer as a whole.
I’m also curious as to how the Firestorm team will respond to these changes – if at all. Currently, Firestorm takes profile information and displays it in a Viewer 1-style window within the browser. This actually works a lot better than the in-browser approach – but will it be able to display all the new widgets and options, or will Jessica and the team opt to leave that to using web profiles through the in-viewer browser.