Back in 2008, quite a big thing was made of Vivox's lightweight voice/IM client for Second Life, called SLim. That buzz continued through 2009, with the announcement of voice fonts, SLim-to-SMS, and client-side recording (all scheduled for the second half of 2009) and conference calls, group text/voice chat (via SLim) and browser-based voice applets on the Second Life Web-site (scheduled for this year).
Yesterday, the news came down in a mailout from Linden Lab about the status of the SLim beta. "The program has been a great success," said the Lab and, "we have decided to end the SLim beta program, effective immediately."
That's obviously what you do with great software successes.
We asked the Lab about that, and were told that over the course of the two year beta, approximately 27,000 users (about 1.9% of active Second Life users, by our calculations) had tried SLim out. "[W]e had lots of feedback through the course of the beta that helped to shape our current course of action." Thus: success.
The Lab says in the mailout that the plug was pulled "in order to channel our resources toward some of the promising new opportunities we discovered in the beta process" – not that any significant Lab resources were ever really devoted to SLim – it being primarily a third-party project with first-party branding, and actually not much more than a lightweight and incomplete reskin of a stripped-down Vivox Connector.
Unfortunately, SLim never really worked very well. It couldn't handle anything beyond the basic 100 or so printable ASCII characters, leaving foreign-language users in the lurch for IMs, and – whether it was Linden Lab's grid or Vivox's servers at fault – the list of friends online rarely matched actuality. We're guessing a lot of the feedback that the Lab got was "It stinks" – but we really don't have any hard data to back that up.
We're told that those otherwise undisclosed 'opportunities' will be announced sometime in the future, and if we had to guess, we'd say that it will involve uncannily similar functionality to that which was previously announced, only using first-party software rather than third-party software.
Compared with the considerable and ebullient fanfare of the first six months of the SLim beta, its closure has been almost stealthy by comparison.
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