As I’ve previously noted, Linden Lab is working on an iOS client for Second Life, the first phase of which will be focused primarily on chat.
Keira Linden, who is now a Product Manager at the Lab, is heading up the project, and at a recent open-source developer meeting (held every Wednesday, but at a time I can rarely make), she offered some feedback on the upcoming app, with Oz Linden, the Technical Director for Second Life providing some additional comments on the Lab’s approach to mobile.
You can read an excerpt of the meeting’s transcript that encompasses the discussion in the forums – with thanks to Arielle Popstar for posting it – and the following is a summary of the comments made, grouped by topic.
Summary of iOS Specific Comments
- The iOS app is to be deployed in stages, starting with – as previously noted – the chat capabilities. This will support IM and group conversations, and will likely include the capability to search for friends and non-friends alike.
- It appears This initial release of the app will not support local chat, with Oz Linden noting:
Unlike other current apps, the plan is that your avatar will be in a separate space inaccessible to others, so it won’t just be standing somewhere not moving, so you won’t have a regular ‘location’ at all to chat in.
– Oz Linden, Open Source Dev meeting, August 14th
Presumably, this will change in later releases.
- Further capabilities for the app are being discussed internally at the Lab, and these discussions include prioritising capabilities for release as the app is enhanced.
- At some point in the development cycle, Keira will be reaching out to users to gain feedback on what are considered to be the important capabilities / options, in order to help the Lab prioritise future enhancement of the app.
- Overall, the plan is to add as much functionality as possible as the app continues to be developed beyond the initial release.
- There are no dates for when the app might be made available for testing – but the development work is considered a “high priority” by Keira and within the Product Team.
- The precise framework for testing hasn’t been finalised, but will be announced via the forums when decided upon.
- Side note: it had been previously indicated that when the app is made available for testing it will be through Apple’s beta testing environment for apps, and users wishing to test the app will need to have TestFlight installed on their iPhone (or iPad). It’s not clear if this is still the case – but given Apple’s requirements, I would assume so.
- Currently, the Lab isn’t focusing on providing any graphics support (a-la the 3D world view in Lumiya), with Keira commenting:
We haven’t focused too much on the graphics side, as we’ve been working on chat and security, but I’ll be sure to include that consideration when we get there.
– Keira Linden, Open Source Dev meeting, August 14th
Summary of Overall Approach to Mobile
- When starting the project, consideration was given to developing mobile apps in a multi-platform framework, but the decision was made to develop natively for different platforms was the better way to go.
- The decision to go for iOS over Android for the first app was largely made on the basis that Android was better supported at the time (late 2018) by 3rd party apps (including Lumiya).
- The Lab believe that by focusing on one platform at a time will, ultimately allow them to roll out individual apps and enhancements to those apps faster.
- Once the Lab is happy with the status of the first app, they will consider porting it to “other platforms”.
- Concerns have been raised over the potential of a mobile app to increase ad-hoc group chat griefing. Both Oz and Keira indicated there are various server-side means of cutting back on such griefing under consideration as a part of a broader project that’s not directly linked to mobile app development.
- A browser-based streaming solution is currently excluded from consideration, purely on the basis of cost-effectiveness to users (e.g. considering the pricing model for Bright Canopy), with Oz Linden commenting:
We’ve done several experiments with streamed viewers, and are watching the evolution of the required server side costs and capabilities. So far, we don’t think there’s a viable business model (that is, we’d have to charge too much), but we expect competition and technology to eventually change that.
– Oz Linden, Open Source Dev meeting, August 14th
In addition to the above, and more recently – during the second segment of Lab Gab – Reed Linden indicated that the Lab has a number of initiatives related to mobile support, including optimising the SL Marketplace for use on mobile devices. Please refer to my summary (with video) of that session.
- Second Life iOS companion app – mini update (with audio comments) – July 2019
- Linden Lab confirm Second Life iOS client in the making – January 2019
- Lab working on a Second Life iOS client? – January, 2019
Again, thanks to Arielle Popstar for posting the transcript excerpt.