The Lab has issued a blog post outlining some of the current improvements being made to Second Life.
Regular readers of my weekly SL project updates will already be familiar with the work referenced in the blog post, which focus on the changes being made to the viewer’s log-in screen, the removal of the viewer’s reliance on the GPU table when initially setting graphics preferences, the ongoing deployment of support for using a Content Delivery Network (CDN) for texture and mesh fetching, and an announcement of the upcoming HTTP pipelining viewer, which should offer some significant improvements in people’s SL experience, as well as including further adjustments to leverage the CDN.
Commenting on the new benchmark viewer, which will eliminate the need for the GPU table, the Lab’s blog post states:
This is a new way of figuring out the best default graphics settings. Maybe this has happened to you: you got an awesome new graphics card, fired up SL… only to discover your graphics settings are set to Low, and can’t be changed? No more! This Viewer does away with the old GPU table and instead uses a quick benchmark measurement to detect your GPU to assign appropriate default graphics settings on startup. The settings on shiny powerful hardware should really let that hardware shine. Get a Project Benchmark Viewer today and help us gather metrics! Please file bugs in JIRA if you find them.
The new log-in viewer is currently the only release candidate viewer sitting in the viewer release channel. As such, it is liable to be promoted to the de facto release viewer in the near future – probably in week 41 (week commencing Monday October 6th), assuming the statistics for it haven’t shown up any issues.
As the Lab’s blog-post indicates, this viewer is being introduced as a result of several months of A/B testing with the current viewer log-in screen. This testing appears to show that new user retention is some 3-5% better when incoming users are presented with the updated viewer’s log-in / splash screens than when compared with those for the current version.
For those interested in finding out how the new viewer differs from the current version, I have an overview of the new version already posted.
A point to note with the log-in screen changes is that they do not impact the widgets, etc., used by TPVs. Therefore, these changes shouldn’t force those TPVs using their own log-in splash screens to replace them with the Lab’s updates.
The final two aspects of the Lab’s blog post are the deployment of the CDN, which is currently for texture and mesh fetching, and which I’ve also extensively documented through my week SL project updates. At the time of writing, the CDN is available in ten regions across the main grid: Denby, Hippo Hollow, Hippotropolis, Testsylvania, Brasil Rio, Brocade, Fluffy, Freedom City, Rocket City or Whippersnapper. However, more regions will be added as time goes on.
There is no requirement for any special viewer in order to get an idea of the faster downloading of textures and meshes users should witness on entering any of these regions (there may be some rare instances where things are a little slower if you happen to reside closer to one of the Lab’s data centres than to your local CDN node, but these instances are likely to be very rare). However, once the CDN service is available across the grid, it may see a final viewer-side update as a part of final fine-tuning, and well as potentially being extended to include the delivery of other viewer-consumable assets.
The HTTP work, which has been ongoing for the last couple of years and very much a focus of Monty Linden’s work, is something I’ve also reported upon through my weekly SL project updates. This should have some general improvements on performance, both with texture and mesh downloads through the CDN, and with other HTTP-specific SL services. This viewer code is allegedly so fast, the Lab refer to it internally as the “weaponized viewer”.
The benefit of the CDN and the HTTP viewer code – which TPVs are being encouraged to adopt as quickly as their merge / test / release cycles allow – is summed-up in the closing comments on the Lab’s post:
Separately, each of these will improve texture and mesh loading performance, but put together, you should really see some exciting improvements in how long it takes to load new areas and objects – making touring the many fabulous places in Second Life you have not yet visited even better!
Those who have been independently testing both the CDN and the pipelining viewer (in a pre-project viewer release state) have been reporting that results with either / both are impressive. Check Shug Maitland’s comment on this blog, for example, after she tried the CDN regions with a current viewer.