Second Life blogfather Wagner James Au weighs in on Viewer 2.0 He loves it -- or at least he loves parts of it -- but he says it won't drive Second Life mainstream adoption. He's right.
Second Life has several barriers to mass adoption. Ease of use is only one of them, and it's not even the biggest one.
The first barrier is that you have to register. That's a barrier for all social media sites, but other social media sites have boiled the registration process down to e-mail address and password. In Second Life, registration is a lot more than that.
In Second Life, you have to choose an avatar name. That confuses newcomers. They want to use their real names, or the nicknames they use everywhere else.
Then you have to decide what your avatar is going to look like.
Then you have to download and install software.
Then you have to learn to navigate in-world. That takes an hour or more. When I'm bringing in guests for my Copper Robot podcast, I can get it done in 15 minutes or so, but that's only teaching a limited subset of Second Life. Some people I've talked to say that it takes 20 hours to get competent at using Second Life. That's a lot of time.
Some people enjoy the puzzle. They're the ones who stick around.
But many people don't want to go through all that. They're used to the Web. On the Web, if you hear about an interesting site, you don't have to do all that work to visit it. You just click a link and go.
"It's like I'm trying to get friends to look at icanhascheezburger.com but I have to explain the whole internet to them first," says Jura Shepherd, commenting on James's blog,
And once you've been through the whole "in-worlding" process, then come the questions: "Where is everybody? What do you do in here?"
If you don't know people in Second Life, and you don't know how to find events, Second Life looks like a vast, empty world of abandoned sims. Many of the sims are beautiful, but still, there's nobody there. If you get to the right places at the right times, you'll find Second Life is bustling and friendly, but first you have to find those places. And that's hard for newcomers.
That's Second Life's biggest hurdle, letting people know what there is to do in SL. The new viewer doesn't really address that problem. It has new search functionality built-in, but the new search is getting bad reviews (I haven't tried it myself).
And search won't solve the what-to-do problem. The only solution is to connect newcomers with like-minded people. The best communication mechanism for Second Life is the oldest one on the planet: Word of mouth. You find out about things because your friends tell you about them.
I don't think the Viewer was designed to address the "What do I do?" problem directly. But the Viewer is important. Because it's better than the old one, and easier to use. That's a big step forward, but Second Life still has a long way to go before it achieves mass-market adoption.
And I think Linden Lab knows that too. More on that another day.
Read my earlier write-up of Viewer 2.0: Second Life seeks mainstream adoption