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.

Region owners impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic encouraged to contact LL

via and © Linden Lab

Speaking at the Above the Book session at the 2020 Virtual Worlds Best Practices in Education (VWBPE) conference on March 26th, Patch Linden had this to say about region owners who may be facing financial issues / loss of income as a result of the SARS-CoV-2 / Covid-19 pandemic that is currently having a significant impact on people’s lives around the world. In doing so, he also  touched on the plight of the Second Norway / Sailor’s Cove East estates that formed the subject of a March 23rd report in these pages (see: Second Norway & Sailor’s Cove East: rumours & statements).

Region owners are absolutely encouraged to approach my support team, if you find yourself in a situation of difficulty because of what’s going on.

And specifically for Second Norway, we are working with Ey on that situation, and actually, I think we’re going to see a really good outcome there.

Patch’s comment can be heard at the 1:11:16 point in the session video.

As he notes, region / estate owners facing hardware as a result of the SARS-CoV-2 situation should in the first instance contact the Second Life Support team for advice / assistance.

You can read a full summary of the VWBPE session with Patch and Lab CEO Ebbe Linden here: VWBPE 2020: Above the Book with Ebbe and Patch – summary.

Second Norway & Sailor’s Cove East: rumours & statements

Second Norway, March 2020

Update, April 2nd: Ey Ren, founder of Second Norway, has created a website to keep people appraised of the situation. For the latest news and updates, please go to: Bad Elf Blog.

Update, March 26th: Speaking at the VWBPE Conference Above the Book session, Patch linden commented on the SN / SCE estates situation saying:

Region owners are absolutely encouraged to approach my support team, if you find yourself in a situation of difficulty because of what’s going on.

And specifically for Second Norway, we are working with Ey on that situation, and actually, I think we’re going to see a really good outcome there.

Patch’s comment can be heard at the 1:11:16 point in the session video, and a summary of the session itself can be found here: VWBPE 2020: Above the Book with Ebbe and Patch – summary.

 

There have been several rumours that the estates of Second Norway and Sailor’s Cove East are closing, with one of the reasons being given as “high vacancy rates”.

Both estates are operated by Ey Ren and Mialinn Telling, and form an important part of the environment connected to Blake Sea, offering private homes to many as well as open waters and skies for the Second Life boating / sailing communities and the aviation community.

Currently, as far as I’ve been able to ascertain, the precise future of both estates is unclear. The only official statement on the matter has been posted on Mialinn’s Second Life profile:

I am sorry to inform that due to year of deficit and the current corona crisis, job loss and failing krone exchange rate, Ey Ren are no longer able to keep the ship afloat. LL has closed his account. Ey has contacted LL and the other owners of Blake Sea in hopes of reaching an agreement for further existence of SN and SCE. Unfortunately, I have no more information at this time.

I’ve reached out to Mialinn in the hopes of learning more – if there is indeed further news to be had at this point – and if I do hear back, I will provide an update.

Lab blogs about SL operations and coronavirus

via and © Linden Lab

With the world-wide concern over the latest coronavirus strain and Covid-19, Linden Lab CEO Ebbe Altberg blogged a message concerning the situation, social distancing and Second Life operations on Wednesday, March 18th. In particular he noted:

As concerns about the current coronavirus outbreak continue, we want to assure the community that we have taken steps to ensure that the Second Life operations stay steady while also helping our employees stay safe through this public health crisis. Our hearts and thoughts go out to those who have been affected by this unprecedented event.

Second Life will continue to be available without interruption as we get through this tough time together. Due to our previous crisis contingency planning and the flexible nature of our distributed workforce, we are not expecting any changes to response times for support inquiries and payment processing.

We know that Second Life serves a great purpose for our community as people seek ways to stay in touch with their friends and co-workers, as they grapple with new social distancing protocols, mandated remote work requirements, and other precautionary measures. …

Like many companies across the globe, we’ve put into action new remote work policies for our employees to ensure that they can take care of themselves and their families while continuing to work from home. Prior to this incident, a large percentage of our company was already working from the “Moonlab” (that’s what we call remote employees’ locations), so we have been able to transition quickly and efficiently to a fully remote setup.

The blog post also noted the recent reduction in tier fees that has been made for educational organisations and non-profits (see: Second Life: support for remote working & reduced education / non-profit fees – updated), and goes on to indicate that Second Life is seeing a resurgence of interest in the platform as a result of the outbreak, with an increase in new user registrations and in returning users.

As a pair of purely anecdotal comments on this latter point, out of the attendees at the Tuesday, March 17th SUG meeting, one indicated they were a returning user, brought back to SL as a result of the pandemic. Meanwhile, on Wednesday, March 18th, I was able to assist a student trying to reach lessons at NOVA, the Northern Virginia Community College. He was on his first day in SL, his classes having shifted to being on-line / in-world and had managed to get himself somewhat lost! It only took a moment to look-up the college in Search, provide a link in chat and explain to him how to use it, and he was on his way! So, as the blog notes, it’s worth taking the time to make newcomers welcome and provide a little support to help them feel comfortable.

 

Second Life: support for remote working & reduced education / non-profit fees – updated

via and © Linden Lab

We’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about how Second Life can help organizations, events, and conferences continue to safely and efficiently operate during the coronavirus outbreak.

Many individuals and organizations are being affected by this unprecedented public health crisis, and we recognize that Second Life can provide an important and valuable way for people to stay in touch with their friends and co-workers amidst new social distancing protocols, mandated remote work requirements, and other precautionary measures.

– from Second Life to Expand Support & Reduce Prices for Education & Nonprofits

Questions have been asked of late how Linden Lab can assist in the growing crisis surrounding the Corvid-19 pandemic that is affecting the world. When asked about promoting Second Life as a platform for meetings, etc., Brett Linden, speaking during the Lab Gab #16 session featuring the Marketing Team noted that the company was aware of SL’s unique capabilities, but also of the need to respond to the growing crisis responsibly and in a manner that is not seen to be a crude attempt to simply leverage the situation for their own advantage.

On Friday, arch 13th, the company issued a blog post announcing a new imitative that is aimed at helping promote the platform as a platform for remote working, and to announce the reduction in region fees for registered educationals and non-profits.

In the latter regard, the blog post announces a reduction in tier fees:

One of the first things we’ve implemented to help is a reduction in pricing to a flat $99/month per region to qualified accredited non-profit or educational institutions. Effective immediately, this limited-time price reduction is applicable to any new or added regions including renewals of existing regions. See our Terms & Conditions for more information.

No time frame for the fee reduction (or applications for receiving the fee reduction, if this is what is meant) is provided, and I’ve asked the Lab for general clarification on this; if I receive a reply, I will update this post.

The post goes on to note practical steps those wishing to use the platform for remote solutions for conferences, events or classes can go about getting started, which also introduces the Lab’s new micro-website connect.secondlife.com, and an accompanying updated FAQ on working in Second Life.

Please refer to the blog post for full details.

Updates:

  • Patch Linden has confirmed that it is the period of the reduced fee offer on educational / non-profit regions that is limited. He added that the US $99 / month fee “will remain in place as long as their [the organisation’s  / individual’s] invoicing is current.” My thanks to Brett Linden for co-ordinating the clarification.
  • I noted to Linden Lab that the links within the knowledge base FAQ are (at the time of writing), not working. These are in the process of being fixed, in the meantime, Brett has asked me to refer people to the wiki version of the information.

Marketing Second Life: Brett Linden’s insights

via and © Linden Lab

As both the Lab and I have blogged, members of the Second Life Marketing Team will be sitting down on Friday, March 6th in the 16th edition of Lab Gab to discuss their work and respond to submitted questions (see either Lab Gab Episode 16 Streams this Friday at 11am PT/SLT – Linden Lab Marketing Team! – official blog post) or Previewing Lab Gab 16: meet the Marketing team – this blog).

Marketing work is both an art and a science – and with Second Life, the fact the such is the breadth of potential audience and the rich diversity of opportunities within the platform, it can be something of a an arcane combination of activities that, were truth be told, the majority of Second Life users likely wouldn’t be able to fathom as being part of the ongoing work to attract potential new users, were they to be asked.

So, to help shed some light on matters – and to lay the path towards the Lab Gab session he’ll be attending along with Darcy and Strawberry Linden, Brett Linden has prepared a special blog post, The Heart & Science of Second Life Marketing, that offers considerable insight into the Marketing Team’s work when it comes to promoting Second Life, reaching a audience, and bringing new users into the platform and hopefully engaging them as retained residents. As such, it makes for a worthwhile read.

In particular the post examines a number of channels the Lab users for new user acquisition, some of which active SL users may not be aware of, or may not actually associate with trying to bring-in new users. Take video series like those covering destinations in SL or aspects of SL creativity. While we tend to see them by way of the Lab’s blog, we’re actually not the primary target audience.

Running to around 90 seconds in length, these bite-sized looks inside SL are ideal marketing tools that can be used through the medium of paid advertising campaigns, which are and have been enjoying success such that LL is currently in the process of expanding them, both in terms of the numbers of videos and the channels through which they can be used.

Alongside of this, Brett writes about the concept on performance marketing  – one of the mainstays of SL marketing campaigns. Perhaps two of the most visible elements  of this approach of marketing are the SL ads we me see served by Google, or the themed landing pages I’ve written about five years ago (see Landing pages: marketing Second Life and which have continued to be refined and enhanced since then), while the Marketing Team has continued to build on early experience with performance advertising, also refining and improving their approach and the technologies they use, a Brett notes:

We modernised our acquisition efforts last year by putting into place the use of new technologies that allow us to more precisely target new users across numerous themes, communities and genres. As part of this effort, we’ve identified a few dozen strategically-relevant, high-impact community segments and themes — all of which now have new related display, search and video ad content served against specific matched keyword inquiries and sites. Some ads are also served across social media to those with social profiles that express an interest in some or all of our targeted themes. That means that you might see new sci-fi roleplaying ads appearing on some sci-fi fan sites, social media pages, or new romance ads on long-distance relationship forums – the list goes on…  

Encompassing the extensive testing that goes on around these ads and their associated campaigns, more organic forms of advertising, use of social media, outreach to SL users, a read of Brett’s blog post should – one would hope – dispel the notions that either LL “don’t promote” Second Life or that they “don’t know how” to go about promoting it.

The fact is rather the reverse: the Marketing Team pour considerable thought and action into marketing SL and do so by revealing the incredible depth and breadth of the platform’s potential. Which is also not to say they’re not open to ideas or feedback from users – hence the Lab Gab session the post helps to promote, and the links to feedback forms within the post.

So do take time out to read Brett’s post, and don’t forget to listen-in to the Lab Gab session at 11:00am SLT on Friday, March 6th, 2020.