Linden Lab has always teetered on the fence between pure stabilization and performance improvements on the one hand, and new features on the other. However much users ask for the former, there's a measurable drain of users over time when the Lab doesn't provide at least some of the latter. We all beg for bug-fixes, but get hugely excited about flexiprims or dynamic shadows.
Sometime after all of that has been shaken down, and Adults-Only content support is sorted, we're looking forward to a new project codenamed Viewer 2009 (though if we'll actually see that finalized before 2010 is anyone's guess).
Viewer 2009 seems like it will involve an almost complete rework of the much-maligned Second Life user-interface, with two big-name companies reinventing it. Big Spaceship (whom we already know) appear to be primarily involved with design and feel, while 80/20 looks to be producing the implementation. We don't believe that any additional customer input is being entertained in the meantime, judging by Benjamin Linden's long absence from his regular office hours.
Third party viewer developers have been taking advantage of Benjamin's absence to consolidate wishlists from Second Life users at the scheduled office hours for incorporation into their own viewers.
It looks increasingly as if there will be two entirely divergent user-interfaces evolving through this year. One based on what the users say they want, and one based on what the Lab and two design firms believe they want. That's going to be an interesting showdown, and no mistake.
||Are you a part of the most widely-known collaborative virtual environment or keeping a close eye on it? Massively's Second Life coverage keeps you in the loop.