My name is Jessica Lyon. My goal during my time with the Emerald Project, was always to give the users what they want. That goal has never and will never change. I’m very happy to announce, it continues…
A few days ago, I assembled a team of developers to work on a new viewer. Some who were originally Emerald developers, some who were not. All are respected reputable residents in the Second Life Community. The goal was simple, to provide users with what they want and do it transparently.
I’m am very proud to announce the launch of the Phoenix Viewer.
Jessica Lyon, September 3rd, 2010
With those words, printed in her personal blog, Jessica Lyon announced the arrival of the Phoenix viewer, and the birth of what would become Second Life’s most popular third party viewer.
It marked a new beginning for a number of people – Jessica among them – who came together out of the ashes of the Emerald viewer to try to continue the work started by that viewer before one or two wombats (the term my father endearingly uses to denote “complete idiots”) who opted to trash the innovative work started in that viewer for the sake of petty stupidity. Emerald hadn’t been the first third-party viewer on the block, but it had become one of the most innovative, both exposing viewer capabilities hidden the the vagaries of the viewer’s debug settings, and in developing various viewer-side only capabilities, such as multi-attachments (more than one attachment on the same attach point).
With Phoenix, Jessica and the team around her sought to carry on the good work started with Emerald whilst leaving the stupidity well behind them, embracing the closer working ties between the Lab and TPVs that would come to grow out of the Emerald debacle with the rise of the Third-party viewer policy and an unfolding of greater co-operation between TPVs and the Lab.
Why history might suggest otherwise, Phoenix itself had a relatively short active lifespan – by the time it arrived, the Lab had launched the viewer 2.0 UI, and by the time Phoenix reached its first anniversary on September 3rd, 2011, the Phoenix team had already launched their own version of the viewer using the new UI code base – Firestorm – which was destined to become the focal point of the team’s work, although they tried to keep Phoenix, with its Viewer 1.2x UI, going for as long as they could.
Nevertheless, in just its first year, Phoenix attracted a large following, partially due to things like the multi-attachment option (even if it did make those using it appear as if the were walking around with a tail of attachments trailing out of their rear ends to those on other viewers), and this trend continued as Firestorm ramped-up and continued with the innovative approach taken to capabilities, both in exposing those in the viewer, and through the adoption of others (such as William Weaver’s Phototools).
As noted, as the time passed, Firestorm developed an ever-closer working relationship with the Lab, routinely making code contributions to help benefit the latter, and offering proposals for specific improvements, such as an official implementation of a hover height slider capability. Now, to be fair, Firestorm have never been alone in making code contributions to the Lab, but they have been one of the most consistent in doing so, as the visualisation below shows.
This video from Firestorm’s Pantera Północy shows the flow of code and contributions from LL to Firestorm and Firestorm to LL over a 10-year period
They’ve also dared to push the boundaries of viewer capabilities from time-to-time, trying to respond to user requests. One of the most notable examples of this came in 2014, when – under the guise of an April Fools joke – the Firestorm team presented their proof-of-concept Dynamic User Interface that allowed UI elements to be pulled out of the main viewer window and displayed on secondary monitors (see: Firestorm Dynamic User Interface (DUI): it’s a real prototype), the hope being it might result in a collaborative effort among viewer coders to make the idea a reality. Sadly, that particular idea died a silent death, but setbacks like it have never stopped the Firestorm team from working with the Lab to offer viewer improvements – the most recent being the updates in the mesh uploader, which were promoted as this Lab’s de facto release viewer, and which incorporate contributions from Firestorm.
Firestorm has always sought to support the community as well – its in-world groups routinely share information with users, Firestorm is a part of the Lab’s Community Gateway Programme seeking to bring new users into Second Life, and so on.
All of which means that over the last decade, the Phoenix Firestorm Project has been a truly unique an beneficial collaboration within Second Life – and is likely set to remain so in the future.
The viewer’s tenth anniversary officially came on September 3rd, 2020. however, on October 18th, from 1:00 noon SLT through until 15:00 SLT, the Firestorm team are holding a birthday party, with special gifts for those attending and some special live performers. So, grab a taxi below, and head on over.
Happy 10th anniversary, Firestorm!
(Only valid on October 18th, 2020)