Steve Linden, director of Linden Lab's 'Studio Shiny' development group has weighed in with the plans for the Second Life viewer for Q2 2008.
Everything planned focuses on one (or both) of two goals: Making the viewer more stable, and making the viewer more usable. Most Second Life users can agree that these two goals are quite laudable.
One of the things the viewer suffers from is its history of feature-focus. 'As anyone who has spent a lot of time looking through our code will know, much of our code base is poorly structured and difficult to maintain,' says Steve, 'And as every resident of SL knows, the client suffers from crashes and memory leaks. Improving stability requires a lot of resources.'
The stay of work on features that began last year looks to continue at least through Q2 2008, leaving the development team to focus on bugs. That also means that open source contributions that aren't straightforward bug fixes are unlikely to be integrated into the viewer source during Q2.
'We will continue to address bugs as they come up and prioritize them as usual. Critical bugs will be fixed and others will be evaluated and addressed as we can get to them. Much of this effort is done during the Release Candidate process, and many of the bugs come from the public Jira issue tracker, so any contribution to that process helps us considerably.'
Most of the developer attention is going into stability and bug-fixes, however some is additionally being directed at improvements to the texture pipeline and to the notifications system (all those darned popups which are handled in multiple different ways by many different sections of the code).
The notifications system is being refactored and redesigned so that a single module handles the various types of notifications/popups in a way that can be better managed, maintained and extended.
As for texture pipeline improvements, we don't think anyone will argue that the way textures are downloaded and processed couldn't stand some improvement.
That largely leaves us with the skinning project, phase one of which is due before the 1.20 release candidate becomes the official viewer. Phase one involves being able allow users to install and switch between custom user-interface appearances.
While the new Dazzle skin will be the default going forward, it won't be a part of the official viewer until users have the option to select some other look.
"Because the majority of the objections to the new look appear to be contrast and color scheme issues, we are going to immediately prioritize a project to provide an in-client interface for modification of custom colors and maintenance of these customizations across updates, just like we do for other settings."
There also seems to be some minor usability adjustments involved in A/B testing through Q2, but no specific details seem to be available on those at the present time.