Jessica Lyon, project manager for the Firestorm team has officially announced the upcoming release of the next version of SL’s most popular viewer, although no actual release date is given.
A new release has been hinted at several times over the last few weeks, and the team is working hard to keep to a 3-monthly release cycle. At the moment, the upcoming release is focus of the Firestorm QA team and is being poked at by beta testers.
Releasing a viewer isn’t necessarily straightforward as might be thought; new features and shiny have to be measured against current code status, stability, and so on, and bugs and their fixes must be weighed against the opportunity to add new shiny or not. All of this made for a balancing act for all concerned; one in which – especially given the size of Firestorm’s user base – not everyone is going to come away happy when a release arrives.
There have been a lot of updates flowing out of the Lab during the past year, many of which have yet to find their way into Firestorm. But as Jessica notes, stability tends to win-out over trying to crowbar everything into a viewer release:
Firestorm is not, and has never been, a “bleeding-edge” viewer. We have always focused on quality over quantity, stability over shiny. Slow and steady wins the day. Despite complaints and objections, this strategy has helped make Firestorm the most widely used viewer in Second Life by a long shot. In code, almost anything new has bugs and kinks that need to be worked out regardless of who wrote it and how vigilant they were at it. That’s because despite how much testing you do, it isn’t until it lands in the hands of the many that the deepest rooted software glitches start to crop up. Knowing this is one of the reasons we do not merge in and release new features from Linden Lab right away.
While the updates coming out of the Lab have all be to the good, they’ve also not been without their own problems. The AIS v3 code updates, for example, resulted in some od bugs and issues of a non-trivial kind, some of which have only recently been fixed in the new Attachments RC viewer (version 188.8.131.526355) that appeared on Wednesday, November 5th. And while the CDN and the HTTP pipelining viewer have brought improvements to the majority of SL users, they also have generated some issues.
The upshot of this is that while the upcoming release of Firestorm will have new features, bug fixes and improvements, in order to keep code merges, etc., as straightforward as possible and avoid issues which may arise from cherry-picking features and updates from different LL releases, Jessica warns that when released, the new version of Firestorm will be without AIS v3, HTTP (although obviously, it will work with the CDN, just as all viewers do already), SL Share 2, and may not have group bans.
But it’s not all bad news, as Jessica notes:
But we absolutely will have plenty of other features, bug fixes and improvements worth updating for to which I’m very excited about!
Testing is still underway, so it will be another few weeks, most likely, before the new Firestorm release appears. When it does, if you’re a Firestorm user, please do keep in mind that if the feature you were really looking forward to isn’t in the release, it doesn’t men they’ve forgotten it or are ignoring it; they’re just trying to bring you the best, more reliable experience they can whilst trying to avoid showering you with unwanted bugs and issues.
I’ll of course have the usual review of the release when it appears.