Tuesday, 23 February 2010

New Browser for Second Life

Robert Scoble of Building43 released today a very interesting interview with Mark Kingdon of Second Life with a look at the new Second Life viewer.

In addition Second Life issued the following blog post detailing this new release:

Viewer 2 Beta Has Arrived
Today, we're excited to announce the launch of Viewer 2 Beta, the next generation of Second Life viewers -- combining an easy browser-like experience with
shared media capabilities -- providing what we believe is the best experience yet for accessing Second Life, and a new option to choose from among Viewer 1.23 and other Third Party Viewers. We looked carefully at the experience design of other successful social media and technology platforms--such as the web browser, Facebook, the iPhone, Twitter, etc.--and the key elements that enabled them to reach mass adoption. You'll see much of that thinking baked into new Viewer 2 experience design. Our primary goal was to create a more consumer-friendly viewer--an imperative to bring in a new wave of Second Life Residents. After all, more people in Second Life means that there will be more amazing content, more customers to purchase virtual goods, a thriving economy, more friends and communities, and we can do even more to improve the experience. All very good things for all of us.

Viewer 2 Introduces a More Intuitive User Experience
Viewer 2 has all of the capabilities of Viewer 1.23 and more; it has just been reorganized into a more intuitive user experience. In fact, it's chock full of cool features. Once you learn your way around, you'll definitely appreciate:

  • A browser-like navigation bar with forward and back buttons. You can even save favorites and review your teleport history.
  • A sliding right-hand panel that surfaces the most frequently-used features and makes managing your profile, contacts, groups, landmarks, inventory, and appearance easy.
  • Improved Search, powered by Google Search Appliance technology , makes it easier to find friends, places, and cool stuff to buy.
  • A superior alternative to invisiprims for non-human avatars. In Viewer 2, a new wearable type, called Alpha Masks, allow you to "mask out" parts of your base avatar to make entire body parts disappear.
  • And, you'll enjoy the new contextual help to help you acclimate to the new viewer experience.
Those are just a few highlights. There's much more! We'll be going into more depth on many of these features in future blog posts.
Viewer 2 Brings the Web Into Second Life

Yes, you heard that right. Shared Media™, a standard capability in Viewer 2, makes sharing standard Web-based media and content in Second Life easy, and enables content creators to make more compelling, interactive experiences. Content creators can now place Web pages, video, Flash content, and other web media, onto any surface in Second Life. We expect that Shared Media will inspire a creative renaissance in Second Life as Residents explore more immersive and integrated inworld experiences and business opportunities such as gaming or theaters. And, for enterprises using Second Life as a work environment, Shared Media allows everyone to more effectively collaborate and share documents. We'll be publishing a blog post tomorrow focused on Shared Media--so keep your eyes peeled for that.

It's the Little Things, Too
While much of the focus on the new viewer will be on the design and marquee features like Shared Media and Search,  there are lots of little improvements that should be sources of delight. Customization. Favorites. Inspectors. The right-hand panel. The notifications tray. The clickable names and SLurls in notifications. Icons for Residents. Outfits. Recent conversations. The notifications well. Clickable URLs. Selecting SLurls in the navigation tool bar. Global audio controls. Quick access to your audio preferences. Improved performance on the map. And, view controls with presets for over the shoulder and "What am I wearing?"

And a Lot Under the Hood Search and the Home panel
are web content. That means that we can continue to make updates to the content, design and interactions without forcing you to download a new version of the viewer. We believe that this will make a big difference for new users, because the content in that panel will help users discover the richness and depth of Second Life. Since it's web content, some of our recent acquisitions in the web space may soon be making an appearance--watch this space. We also focused on performance and stability. In fact, we believe this the most stable beta that we've ever released.

But, it's Still BetaAnd that's why we're putting it into your hands now. So, put it through its paces, stress test it, and give us your feedback in the Viewer 2 Forum.

Getting StartedViewer 2 is different enough from Viewer 1.23 and a few minutes perusing the Quickstart Guide will save you the frustration of "How do I do this?" or "Where is that?" Contextual support also available now within the viewer itself. If you're chomping at the bit to get going, then here are a few "high nails" that can help you get up-and-running quickly in Viewer 2.
A couple of features you may be looking for:

  • Camera Controls: Located on the Bottom Bar, labeled "View."
  • Voice Controls: The "Speak" button is now located right next to the nearby text chat entry field. Sound preferences can be set by clicking Me > Preferences in the menus at the top, then clicking the Sound tab.
  • Moving Around: Located on the Bottom Bar, labeled "Move."
  • Teleporting: You can teleport a number of ways:
    • Double-click a Landmark in the Places Panel in the Side Bar.
    • Type a Region or Landmark name in the location field in the Top Bar and hit enter.
    • Paste a SLurl into the location field and hit enter.

A few handy tasks:

  • Sharing Inventory: To share Inventory, start a Conversation (IM) with the person you to share an item. Click the "Share" button in the Conversation window which pops open the Inventory side panel. Then, drag the Inventory item over to the Conversation.
  • Pay L$ to Someone: There are two quick ways to do this: A) Right click on the person, then select "Pay" from the context menu. B) Click "Pay" in the Conversation window. The "Pay Resident" floater will appear. Choose the amount you wish to pay and then click "Pay."

But Where is My ?
We tried to balance the needs of existing Residents with the general consumer, and made some dfficult choices like replacing pie menus with context list menus -- a broadly used design feature in most consumer software. If some of these changes are important to you, then the good news is that you still have choice.

The Choice is Yours
We celebrate and encourage viewer choice. When it ships in its final form, Viewer 2 will become the primary viewer, included in the registration flow for all new Second Life Residents, but there are many other third-party viewers based on Snowglobe, our open source viewer, that are designed for Residents that have specialized needs and requirements. Viewer 1.23 will continue to be available for the foreseeable future and we will continue to support it as long as it makes sense.
A Word about Third-Party ViewersWe're also announcing the Viewer Directory and the Policy on Third-Party Viewers. The Viewer Directory is a list of third-party viewers for Residents with specialized interests or viewing needs, such as languages that we do not support or additional navigation and accessibility features. To apply to add a viewer to the Viewer Directory, the software developer must be a Resident in good standing, and self-certify that the viewer complies with the Policy on Third-Party Viewers, which prohibits griefing, fraud, theft of passwords, and infringement of intellectual property.
It is important to note that we will not tolerate malicious viewers that violate our policies. Enough said on that topic. To learn more about our announcement, read today's blog post on the new directory and policy.

Snowglobe, our open source viewer program, will release later today. Snowglobe 2 is based on the Viewer 2 Beta code base. If you're a third-party developer interested in Snowglobe 2, visit our wiki page where you will find information and the downloads.

Resources to Help You Learn Viewer 2

And, if something breaks or you're really stuck, then contact Support and we're happy to help.
This is Only the Beginning and We Want Your Feedback
We're excited about what you'll experience today and we're only at the beginning. There's so much more that we'll be adding to Viewer 2 in the coming months. And, one of the most exciting things for folks at Linden, is that the Viewer 2 code base will enable us to improve the product at a much faster pace than ever before. So, that's where you come in. We need to hear from you! Participate in the Viewer 2 Forum and share your experience and suggest future enhancements. And, if you find a bug, then please log it in PJIRA. Then, go tell your friends! If you Twitter, then use the #SLViewer2 hash tag.

So, go download Viewer 2 here and try it out. We hope you like it.