August 2020 Web User Group: updates & upcoming attractions

The Web User Group meeting venue, Denby

The following notes are taken from my recording of the Web User Group (WUG) meeting, held on Wednesday, August 5th, 2020. These meetings are held monthly, generally on the first Wednesdays of the month, with dates and details of the meetings available via the Web User Group wiki page.

When reading these notes, please keep in mind:

  • This is not intended as a chronological transcript of the meeting. Items are drawn together by topic, although they may have been discussed at different points in the meeting.
  • Similarly, and if included, any audio extracts appearing in these summaries are presented by topic heading, rather than any chronological order in which they may have been raised during the meeting (e.g. if “topic X” is mentioned early in a meeting and then again half-way through a meeting, any audio comments related to that topic that might be included in these reports will be concatenated into a single audio extract).

Web Properties Updates

The primary focus for the web teams remains the transitioning of services from the Lab’s own servers to AWS servers as a part of the Uplift project. However, other work is continuing as an when possible, and in the last month this has meant:

  • The new Second Life logo (see: Out with the green, in with the blue) continues to be rolled out across the various services – in this case, notably the Cashier pages – as the team get to them. This is a relatively low priority item so it will still be a while before the logo is consistent across all properties.
  • UTF-8 will now be accepted in response to security questions.
  • Additional back-end work on Name Changes was implemented, mainly tools used by the Lab but also some changes that may allow for some possible future features related to the capability.
  • The secondlife.com log-in page images received a refresh.
  • Fixes:
    • Marketplace: received a fix for images not showing correctly.
    • Events: fixes for images not showing with posted events; for multiple pages of hosted events not working and for the language picker drop-down not working on exiting events pages.
    • Place Pages received a number of fixes.
    • Land Auctions received a fix for beta lifetime users being unable to bid on auctions.
    • A back-end issue with Premium acquisition was fixed.
    • Viewer download page: now includes a link for Mac OS X Catalina (and later) users experiencing problems installing the Mac flavour of the viewer, and that takes them to the Troubleshooting Second Life Installation on Mac OS X page.
Viewer installation help for Mac OS X Catalina (or later) on the viewer download page

Mobile Client

  • The iOS version has been in a closed alpha for 2+ months. These is now a build destined to go to Apple’s App Store.
  • Work continues on the Android version, but is currently some way behind the iOS work.
  • See for more.

Post-Uplift Work

Note: the following is a general list of work LL are looking at, post-Uplift to the cloud, however, it is still subject to change, and none of it should be taken as a firm commitment for carrying out the work or any indication of the order in which it might be carried out:

  • Marketplace: variances for listings (e.g. one listing for an item offering it in different colours).
  • Events: bug fixes, category  and search refinements.
  • Names Changes: further tweaks.
  • Web properties in general: better optimisation for display on mobile properties.
  • Further work still to be added to the list.

Marketing Brief

  • Following the presence of Gen Con in Second Life (see: Coming to Second Life: Gen Con “the best four days in gaming”, Gen Con: sneaking a peek in Second Life and Gen Con in Second Life: let the games begin!), LL have had a debriefing with the VRazeTheBar team, and the hope is it will pave the way for further displaced conferences to be held within Second Life.
  • There are potential opportunities in the offing for a further media presence for Second Life which may be akin to the CSI:NY episode Down the Rabbit Hole (2007), or SL’s appearance in the US version of The Office. Details still TBA.
  • There is also an upcoming partnership with the Peale Museum in Baltimore, so the latter can bring their exhibits and events in-world with a reproduction of the museum building (itself a National Historic Landmark in the United States) and special virtual open house as part as the museum’s August 15rh Founder’s Day event.
  • These styles of events are seen as a way to broaden awareness of Scone Life and its potential.

Premium Plus

  • Still on hold.
  • May be revisited at some point.
  • May also be revised before being released.

Next Meeting

Wednesday, September 2nd, 14:00 SLT.

Second Life Mobile mini update, August 2020 with audio

As I’ve previously reported several times over the last year, starting with Linden Lab confirm Second Life iOS client in the making, Linden Lab is developing a companion app for Second Life.

Since that first article, I’ve provided a number of updates on the development work – please use the SL Mobile tag to catch up with all of them.

At the Web User Group on Wednesday, August 5th, Keira Linden gave a further update on the client’s status, as per the notes and audio below, which have been provided alongside my usual notes on the app.

August 5th Update

iOS Client

  • The iOS version has been in a closed alpha that includes a number of residents for some 2+ months, having started in May.
    • In keeping with the Lab’s plans, this version offers the ability to communicate via IM and view your Friends list.
  • As a result of this close alpha testing, the Lab now has a build that is “destined for [Apple’s] App Store”, which is currently “bouncing back and fort”h between the development team and LL’s QA team.
  • The hope is that this version can be submitted to Apple for review some time in August 2020.
  • This does not necessarily mean the iOS client will immediately appear within the App Store, as Apple can be exceptionally picky in their review process, which can result in requests for changes to an app to be made before listing is allowed.
  • LL obviously hopes the app will not encounter significant issues, but because of the review process, no time frame can be given on when the app will appear in the App Store – but there will presumably be an announcement once it is available.

Android Client

  • Having started much later than the iOS version, which remains the Lab’s focus, the Android version is still at a somewhat earlier stage of development.
  • However, it is under active development.
  • When it is ready, it will likely follow a similar Alpha / Beta test process to the iOS version.

In-world Presence

  • In a change to earlier statements, Mobile app users will have an in-world location.
  • This will be in one of several special “Mobile” regions. However:
    • As Mobile users have no 3D world view, these regions are not landscaped or populated in any way.
    • Access is restricted to those using the Mobile app, general access by users on the viewer or other clients is not allowed.
    • Currently, three Mobile regions have been set-up.

General Capabilities

Note: this is a reiteration of notes from earlier updates on the SL Mobile client.

  • It should initially be regarded as more of a communicator / companion app than a fully-rounded client. The initial intention for the client is to provide users with a means of maintaining basic contact with other users whilst away from their main means of accessing Second Life.
  • As such, it will support logging-in to Second Life services to support IM and group chat support.
  • Capabilities such as having an in-world rezzing location, the ability to chat locally, support for scene rendering will be added over time.
  • However, in terms of any in-world rendering, this will not be part of any initial released (in the meeting it was described as “not even Soon™”), as LL are focused in just trying to get the basic app available to users as soon as reasonably possible.

Reporting and Updates in this Blog

Again, all information I’m able to provide through this blog, including future updates can be found under the SL Mobile tag, and can be accessed directly from the top menu options:

  • SL → User Group & Viewer → Viewers → Android & iOS and then selecting either:
    • Android Clients → SL Mobile or
    • iOS Clients → SL Mobile.

Second Life Mobile mini update, May 2020 with audio

As I’ve previously reported several times over the last year, starting with Linden Lab confirm Second Life iOS client in the making, Linden Lab is developing a companion app for Second Life.

Since that first article, I’ve provided a number of updates on the development, including that the client will be for both Android as well as iOS, and speaking at the Web User Group meeting on Wednesday, June 3rd, 2020, Keira Linden – who is the Product lead for the client – provided and update on process, the core points of which are bullet-pointed below.

  • iOS Client:
    • The iOS version is now in a closed alpha featuring some residents.
    • In keeping with the Lab’s plans, this version offers the ability to communicate via IM, and has a basic Friends listing.
    • Further updates will follow  – the next being the addition of Abuse Reporting support and improved management for the Friends list.
    • Once the Lab believe the client has an initial set of functions to make it useful as a communications tool, it will will move to a beta phase and made available to a wider cohort of users for further testing.
  • Android Client:
    • Work is progressing, but it will take time for it to reach a point where it is ready for testing.
    • When it is ready, it will likely follow a similar Alpha / Beta test process to the iOS version.

General Capabilities

Note: this is a reiteration of notes from earlier updates on the SL Mobile client.

  • It should initially be regarded as more of a communicator / companion app than a fully-rounded client.
    • The initial intention for the client is to provide users with a means of maintaining basic contact with other users whilst away from their main means of accessing Second Life.
  • As such, it will support logging-in to Second Life services to support IM and group chat support. However:
    • It  will not initially present you with an in-world location, nor will your avatar rez in-world, it will not not support local chat nor any form of world rendering.
  • Capabilities such as having an in-world rezzing location, the ability to chat locally, support for scene rendering will be added over time.
    • However, in terms of any in-world rendering, this will not be part of any initial released (in the meeting it was described as “not even Soon™”), as LL are focused in just trying to get the basic app available to users as soon as reasonably possible.

All information I’m able to provide through this blog, including future updates can be found under the SL Mobile tag, and can be accessed directly from the top menu options:

  • SL → User Group & Viewer → Viewers → Android & iOS and then selecting either:
    • Android Clients → SL Mobile or
    • iOS Clients → SL Mobile.

Second Life companion app: mini update, March 2020

As I’ve previously reported (see: Linden Lab confirm Second Life iOS client in the making), Linden Lab is developing a companion app for Second Life.

As the last mini-update I gave for the product was in July 2019 and there is some further news to be had, I thought it time to provide a further update on where the client stands.

First and foremost, while the client was initially defined as an iOS client, speaking during the 19th episode of Lab Gab on March 27th, 2020, Ebbe Altberg confirmed the Lab has now started on an Android version as well, which they have to have up to parity with the iOS version at some point.

In addition, he indicated that the iOS version is currently close to being at an “alpha” testing status, which may only be for internal testing.

So, lot’s of activity there. We have a person who’s worked on a mobile – what do we call it? Companion client, because I want to make it clear that people understand that the mobile client will be primarily a communication client, where you can chat with people, and stay connected, but it’s not a 3D viewer. So you will not be running around with your avatar in the mobile client for quite some time. But you can at least, when you’re on the road, stay connected with your friends and customers, etc.

The iOS client is very close to what we call an “alpha”; I don’t know exactly how the alpha will then progress to a beta to like a full release that people can try…

I’m not sure if alpha is even just for internal people; we probably want to get the whole company using it first, but we might, umm, some pre-production grid, get some external users involved in the alpha as well, I don’t know the exact details. But it’s being worked on; hopefully most of us will be able to use the iOS client to stay connected with Second Life in, I don’t know, a month or two, I’m guessing.

And we also have added more resources, so we now have people working on an Android version as well. So hopefully that will catch-up and will get neck-and-neck or almost parallel with iOS here by the time we get to full release. So, actively being worked on.

– Ebbe Altberg, Lab Gab, March 27th, 2020
(video extract)

Summary of What is Known

The following notes are an amalgam of my July 2019 mini-update, and more recent comments from Third Party Viewer Developer Meetings, Simulator User Group meetings and the aforementioned Lab Gab session.

General Capabilities

  • As noted, the app should initially be regarded as more of a communicator / companion app than a fully-rounded client. The intention is to provide users with a means of maintaining basic contact with other users whilst away from their main means of accessing SL.
  • It will support logging-in to the Second Life service and initially provide IM and group chat support.
  • Initially it will not:
    • Present you with an in-world location, nor will your avatar rez in-world.
    • Support local chat (as your avatar does not have a defined in-world location)

A mobile user won’t actually be in an area … they can use p2p or group chat, but not local, because we’re not rendering the world (yet) in the mobile app [and] we didn’t want things to be unbalanced: you can see me but I can’t see you, I can “go” somewhere but can’t see anything [etc.]. [But] direct IM is supported (that’s what I meant by p2p).

– Oz Linden, VP of Engineering, Simulator User Group Meeting,
March 17th, 2020

  • In theory, the app should work with both mobile ‘phones and tablets / iPads, although there may be some configuration differences.
  • Over time it will be enhanced – but additional capabilities and their order of development is still TBD.

Availability

  • As noted above, the iOS client will likely be available to users ahead of the Android client.
  • The time frame for the iOS client appearing is not confirmed, but might be in a next 2-3 months.
    • The Lab had started the work on getting the initial test versions through Apple’s acceptance process some time ago.
    • It had been previously stated that iOS users will need to have TestFlight installed on their iPhone (or iPad), as the app will be made available though Apple’s beta testing environment for apps. I assume this is still the case.

 

There may be further news on the mobile client in the April 3rd Lab Gab session, in which case, I will update this article.

Second Life mobile apps: a (belated) update

Logos © and ™ Linden Lab and Apple Inc

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.

Related Links

Again, thanks to Arielle Popstar for posting the  transcript excerpt.

Second Life iOS companion app – mini update

Logos © and ™ Linden Lab and Apple Inc

As I’ve previously reported (see: Linden Lab confirm Second Life iOS client in the making), Linden Lab is developing a companion app for Second Life that will run on Apple’s iOS.

Recently, during a Meet the Lindens session held at SL16B and at a Third Party Viewer Developer meeting, Oz Linden, the Senior Director, Second Life Engineering, provided further information on the status of the app, and what the initial release of the application will include.

While there is a degree of overlaps between what was said at the two events, there were also some differences in the information provided, with the TPV Developer meeting in particular being used to give further information on the app.

This being the case, I thought I’d offer a mini-update on the status of the app’s development, combining the comments made from both meetings into a single bullet-point list, with the relevant audio extracts from both meetings also provided for reference.

Note that throughout, Oz is only talking about the initial releases of the app, and so these notes and the audio comments should not be taken to mean the app will be “feature complete” when it appears, but that it will be enhanced over time, hopefully developing features that will make it more client-like (e.g. Radegast, MetaChat, lumiya, etc.) in general capabilities.

Summary of the comments made:

  • The app should initially be regarded as more of a communicator / companion app than a fully-rounded client:
    • It will provide a log-in option, and chat options (IM, group chat). Local chat will not initially be supported.
    • It will not present you with an in-world location, nor will your avatar rez in-world.
    • Seen as being useful for merchants / business owners to maintain contact with customers when away from their viewer.
    • Over time it will be enhanced – but additional capabilities are still TBD.
  • In theory, the app should work with both iPhones and iPads, although there may be some configuration differences.
  • The Lab have started the work of getting the initial test versions through Apple’s acceptance process.
    • It is not clear how long this will take, as it is the first time the Lab have followed this route themselves. However, it is hoped the first test version should be available in the “not too terribly distant” future.
    • When the app does appear, those wishing to test it will need to have TestFlight installed on their iPhone (or iPad), as the app will be made available though Apple’s beta testing environment for apps.
  • The major reason for selecting iOS for building an app of this kind is that at the time the decision was made, Android was well represented by Lumiya.
  • Some of the back-end infrastructure the Lab is building is support of the app might be applicable for use with a web application at some point. However, doing so is not in the current plans.

Oz’s comments from Meet the Lindens, June 25th, 2019:

Comments from the TPV Developer Meeting, June 28th, 2019 (these also include a comment on the app and iPads from Vir Linden):

  Again: note there is some overlap between these two sets of comments.