First, just a small disclaimer. We've yet to actually see most of this material. A few tidbits have been posted by the Lab to publicly accessible Web locations at the time we're writing this, but most of it hasn't actually been published yet, so we've not had the chance to lay our eyes over most of it, but we can talk about what we do know, and once we see the rest, we'll talk about that too.
The Second Life 2.0 viewer exists, and you can get it right now for English, French, German and Japanese, and without signing your life away to an NDA. There's a good start right there. Thanks to the Metaverse Journal, we've gotten an early look at the basic user-interface, and agree that it doesn't seem so radically different from what we saw in the accidentally leaked build last June. It's shinier and slicker maybe, but not a radical change from that early build, and the system requirements are no steeper than those for the Second Life 1.23 viewer.
There's some interesting stuff lurking just beyond the visible user-interface, though.
For example, there's an entirely new type of wearable called Alpha Masks that can mask out portions of an avatar, rendering invisiprims obsolete for that purpose. There's also:
- Context-sensitive help.
- Slide-out panels (like we saw in the early build) that are used to access common features.
- A more Web-style teleport history/navigation system (though we find the idea of that a bit disappointing, it might work better in practice than it seems).
- Probable future integration with Avatars United via additional Web-based content.
- Support for Flash, HTML, Web-pages and video on almost any surface through a system called Shared MediaTM, which the Lab is promising to tell us about tomorrow
... and more.
We're not sure how long the viewer is going to be in public beta before officially going into production, but we anticipate between 2 and 5 weeks. We're not expecting it to remain in beta after the last day of March, come hell or high-water. That means official support for viewer 1.22 should end by the end of April, and support for 1.23 should end at roughly the end of July if Linden Lab keeps to its commitment for quarterly releases of viewer 2.
A word of caution, there are apparently some issues switching between viewer 1.23 and viewer 2.0, most likely to do with cache-structure and versioning, so you should be careful out there. Also, if you're using Viewer 2.0 you'll see the new content-rating names: General, Moderate and Adult (replacing PG, M and AO).
The open source viewer program appears to be ramping up, with a release of Snowglobe today – though we're not yet sure if that's Snowglobe 1.31 or the to-be-announced-today Snowglobe 2, based off the new Second Life 2.0 viewer code.
In conjunction with that, we'll likely be seeing the Approved Third-Party Viewer Registry and/or its official policies later today. Very likely the announcement and application criteria will be announced by the time you read this.
The release schedule for viewer 2 is going to put a ferocious amount of stress on user-groups and the new Resident Help Network, as the majority of documentation oriented towards new users is written by users who will have to review every class, notecard, texture and handout in order to update the material to the new viewer before it goes official. Anything left alone on the day will likely cause unnecessary confusion to new users once the new viewer has become their default.
All in all, it's going to be an interesting few weeks.
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