We first heard of some of the new features coming to Second Life, including this new website (the Dashboard feature had been in Beta on the back channel since late June), when Tom Hale demoed them at this years Second Life Community Convention (SLCC).
Yesterday, Torley Linden gave us a sneak preview of the new site as he highlighted some of its key features in one of his renowned video tutorials.
Today, the new site went live on http://secondlife.com/ and I have to say I love it!
The first thing you notice is the beautiful high quality photos (thank you finally!) and the visually stunning machinima’s. I especially loved the Titanic like ending of the “What is” video (below).
It’s all superficial though! Not only did Linden Lab take feedback from the community and address some issues from the JIRA, they created a truly Web 2.0 website which hints (that may be later further developed) at ways we can connect are other interactions and social media web presences with our avatar’s virtual interactions. Thinking of how this could develop and expand in the future reminded me of Botgirl Questi’s image visualizing the movement of identity within and between worlds (seen below).
This movement towards embracing and intergratging social media was discussed when Mark Kingdon, aka M Linden, appeared on Metanomics earlier this year.
I am looking to seeing this further evolve. We have so many tools in-world such as Twitter HUDs, and there are lots of SL-centric activity on other online sites such as Flickr, which has thousands of SL groups, that it only makes sense to further incorporate this into the user experience of the SL web (and eventually the viewer UI). I hope that is will further expand in the form of intergration/aggregation on the Dashboard page! Think early Facebook.
I’m also thankful for the prominent featuring of XStreet on the Shop page, but also throughout the website and included on the Dashboard. By putting numerous links throughout and allowing easy access to quick buys, currency exchange, and your personal Xstreet adminstration, Linden Lab has given new users and residents plenty of opportunities to shop, and have increased the visibility of creators and merchants.
The Second Life Map is now web based and interactive. You can now search and find places and events around the grid and then easily teleport to them. The Showcase is also prominently featured on this page as well.
The most notable change to the Land store is the addition of “developed” land aka themed Private Regions. To be honest, I am not sure how useful these will be. I imagine while it might seem interesting at first, a good part of the Second Life experience is having a custom place that represents you. With so many content creators available, I would think more people would want to customize their space themselves. I’ll be interested to see the details and statistics surrounding this type of land in the future.
The feature mostly likely to increase and keep users is the added Help for new residents. Linden Labs redesigned the registration page and process and added a PDF Starter’s Guide. They also embraced their international users by adding a handy drop down menu to change the language at the top of each page, and by providing toll free support numbers for non-English speaking residents.
Lastly, in order to make it work with the new look, XStreet SL is also debuting a somewhat fresh look. I’m not a huge fan of this, but Pink Linden assures me that this is not the final look of XStreet so I will hold off on my thoughts about it for now.