As we near the end of 2012, we wanted to take a moment to highlight just a few of the ways in which Second Life has grown and improved over the past year. This isn’t an exhaustive accounting, of course, but it seemed like a good time for a quick reflection on some of the initiatives we hope made your Second Life better this year.
New Ways to Create, Share, and Discover
Some of the most exciting work we did this year was to grow the toolset that you can use to create amazing experiences in Second Life. This year, we rolled out the first set of advanced creator tools, launched Pathfinding (possibly the first time ever that dynamic pathfinding has been successfully implemented in a 3D, user-created world!), and resolved some important issues to make it easier to create with mesh. Additionally, we recently created the Good Building Practices wiki to make it easier to find all the info you need about mesh, scripting, physics, Pathfinding and more.
We also made it easier to discover interesting places to explore inworld. We revamped Destination Island, improving performance (by about 15 fps) and introducing a new design that surfaces regularly refreshed destinations based on the wide variety of entries in the Destination Guide. We added roughly 1,200 new original entries to the Destination Guide in 2012, bringing the total number of unique directory listings to about 2,400! We’ll continue to grow the Guide in 2013, and if you’d like your location to be included, you can submit it here.
New Perks for Premium Subscribers
This year we offered some new perks for Premium subscribers to add a bit more fun to their Second Life experiences. For example, we launched the Premium Wilderness region for subscribers to explore and offered several exclusive gifts - a railcar, a dunebuggy, and a biplane - for those users to enjoy inworld. More perks will be coming in 2013, as we continue to look at ways we can bring additional value to our Premium offering.
Better Ways of Communicating and Doing Business
A number of the changes we made to Second Life this year were designed to make it easier for users to communicate and do business. For example, we launched Direct Delivery, which simplifies the purchasing flow for buyers on the Second Life Marketplace. The majority of Marketplace listings and transactions now use Direct Delivery, which is more than twice as fast and more reliable than the old Magic Box method. Next year, we have more work to do to complete support of limited quantity sales and address Merchant Outbox issues, but then we look forward to completing the migration to the new, faster system.
We introduced CHUI - a new user interface that combines all of your inworld communication options into one easier-to-manage place in the Viewer. You can check out CHUI now in a project Viewer, and in early 2013, we’ll roll it out to everyone as part of the main Second Life Viewer.
We also improved the group management tools this year to make it possible to interact with very large groups inworld. It’s now faster and easier for the hundreds of large groups in Second Life to check their member roles and check statuses, for example.
Towards a Faster, More Reliable Second Life
Many of the improvements we made to Second Life this year were “behind the scenes,” so you may not have seen the changes themselves, but we hope you’ll notice things just generally working better, faster, and more reliably. This year, we kicked off Project Shining- a major initiative to improve Second Life performance and reliability. As part of this project, in 2012 we made the single largest capital investment in new server hardware upgrades in the history of Linden Lab, and we have introduced an improved HTTP Library(currently available in a beta Viewer) to make Viewer/Server communications more efficient. More work on Project Shining in 2013 will mean additional improvements to performance and reliability - i.e. Second Life will simply work better for everyone!
Also to this end, we introduced threaded region crossing to improve teleporting performance and reduce lag when you move from one region to another, and expanded our support of video cards to include the latest from all major manufacturers and enhance the settings on many legacy cards as well.
Looking Ahead to 2013, and Thank you!
For next year, our priorities include further improvements to performance and reliability, and to that end we have more work to do on some of the projects we began this year, including some of those mentioned above. We’ll be rolling out new some perks for Premium subscribers (scavenger hunts, anyone?), as well as some new features for everyone to enjoy (like normal and specular maps to enhance graphics), while continuing and completing initiatives like Project Shining that will make everyone’s Second Life experience more enjoyable.
Lastly, all of us at Linden Lab want to say a big THANK YOU to all of you for everything you’ve done to make Second Life better in 2012. In just about every way - from creating wonderful new things inworld to supporting merchants to providing code, testing new features, and of course much more - you, Second Life’s users, make this virtual world better every day, and we at Linden Lab are grateful and looking forward to making Second Life even greater with you in 2013!