Over the last several months, a lot of projects and improvements have been in the works, and we want to take a few minutes to talk about some of the highlights. Some of these have been released into the wild, and some are at exciting stages of development, so read on to get caught up!
Project Bento - extended Avatar Skeleton
Bento is making great progress! Week by week, the collaborative efforts between the Lab and Bento content creators and Resident testers continue to improve this project. We couldn’t be more excited about working with creators in making Second Life avatars better than ever! Stay tuned for updates or join us at our weekly user group meetings! We're getting very close to promoting the Bento-capable viewer to Release Candidate status, the next step in making it a part of everyone’s Second Life experience.
Visual Outfit Browser
We realize Second Life Residents have dozens and dozens of outfits and looking at a list can be boring and uninspiring, not to mention difficult to remember what is what (imagine that you couldn't look at the clothes in your own closet at home, but instead could only see a list of their names!). With the new Visual Outfit Browser, you’ll be able to see your outfits via an all new gallery-style display, making selecting outfits a snap. You provide the images that are displayed for each outfit or try out VOB’s new snapshot utility. Playing dress-up has never been so easy and fun! You can download this viewer now by visiting VOB’s Viewer download page.
Apple recently withdrew support for the Quicktime player for Windows, which has in any event been a steady source of security vulnerabilities over the years. This project replaces that plugin for the Windows Viewer with newer and more robust media support (the Mac Viewer will also get this new tech soon). It will play some media that Quicktime would not, but will not play some older Quicktime-only media. Content creators that incorporate media should be testing with this Viewer to see if the media they use is supported. In general, we recommend upgrading any shared media to mp3, mp4, or any HTML5 compatible format for best performance and stability.
Learning and Social Island
The latest Learning and Social Islands launched in March - the first to utilize Experience Tools as part of the new user experience. Early results have shown the new Learning/Social Island setup outperforming all previous (both Linden and Community) introductory setups in some key retention metrics. We’re continuously making optimizations to that experience based on the data.
We launched Gaming Island - a new Linden Lab region dedicated to educating Residents about skill games in Second Life. On this region, anyone can learn how to play all available games of skill in a free-to-play setting. If you want to then go play the games for Linden dollars, the Portal Park makes it easy to find them.
Over the last several months we've been working to make Second Life servers more robust with new limits and checks to manage bandwidth usage and CPU resources between Residents. This is to make sure that a shared experience will not turn into a shared crasher, and in addition to improving stability for everyone, these changes make things more difficult for would-be griefers.
Group Chat & Bans
We found a way to finally fix a long-standing issue with group chat and bans. Group moderators have the ability to remove troublemakers from a group; with the new change, this causes them to be immediately removed from the group chat and prevents them from returning or causing further disruption in the group.
Quick Graphics & JellyDolls
In order to give Residents more control of their graphics/performance balance and improve their performance, we released the JellyDoll Viewer which allows Residents to set limits on the amount of avatar complexity they render in their viewer. The Quick Graphics feature lets you save optimal presets for all different occasions.
We implemented TLS 1.2 for state of the art security to protect SL users’ financial transactions.
As part of our continued efforts to improve security and reliability of our services, we've set a goal of only sending emails from Second Life to verified email addresses. One step on the road to achieving this goal has just shipped - we now request all new accounts to verify the provided email address. Keep an eye out for the next steps!
For improved performance and stability, we replaced the old HTTP infrastructure of the viewer - no small feat, but one that we know was much needed. This has resulted in fewer problems with high volume operations like loading inventory, and has significantly reduced certain kinds of load on the simulator hosts (leaving more time for actually simulating). It's also made the viewer code easier to maintain and extend.
In November we introduced BetaSearch for the Marketplace with a new search engine and infrastructure. Though it performed much better in some regards, Merchants also let us know about some issues, so we’ve proceeded carefully. We’ve utilized Merchant feedback to refine and optimize the experience, and now we’re close to promoting the new Search. Additionally, we’re looking forward to getting off the ageing infrastructure that’s been causing nightly service lockups. We’re excited about providing better search results and a more reliable service.
We’ve been putting in a lot of effort to be more responsive to bug reports and improve turnaround time on fixes. We triage bug reports daily and you can often see a fix in a public code repository within days of filing a bug. We carefully consider feature requests and are always thrilled to accept and follow through when we can. In addition to the focused projects above, just on the Viewer side we’ve had 3 Maintenance Viewer releases this year, with a 4th one in RC, fixing more than 200 bugs in total. And of course, we do try to introduce fewer than we fix!
We know that much of the work we’ve been doing is ‘under the hood’. It’s an important priority to us to continue making improvements on performance and stability, while balancing feature development and Resident feedback. If you haven’t already, take the latest Viewer for a spin or experiment with one of the Alternate Viewers for a closer look at what’s been developing - and stay tuned to our blogs to keep up to date!