Second life - on ice?
The discouraging thing is, it seems to be totally on ice. It may be a bit more stable than before (couldnt say for certain) but there are some key areas they seem to just be in a holding pattern on, and that would account for the decline in L$ trading volume over the past year from 1.2 mllion US per day to around .3 million. If that continues, we could be looking at .02 million per day by end of 2010, or effectively the end of SL as we know it.
You cant just not improve and keep it on life support and expect growth, I think. Here are some clear examples of what I mean.
1. Objects and real arrays still not supported in the native language. This means the objects in SL still talk to each other via a very kludgey "radio broadcast" method that makes OOP difficult if not impossible in SL.
2. No procedurals. The "trees" and "grass" still are just random objects you drop and hope that you get the one you wanted, rather than what Philip showed me when I was there 2 years ago, "speed tree" which would allow for the use of fractal based "growth" of much more realistic trees and other horticultural elements. This could apply to mountains, really any natural element and would make SL vastly more interesting and worth exploring.
3. No symbols. Symbols are objects that you could place and then update or alter all of them at once after the fact by updating one variable.
4. Visuals are stuck. We got "bloom" effects like glow and lighting a year ago, and windlight 2 years ago, but its seem to have stopped there. No marked improvement in rendering or lighting at all in the past year, again, the stability has improved but there has been no "eye candy" really. Reflectivity, refraction, procedural textures, nurbs, etc are all fairly old tech at this point but have failed to show up in SL to date. Also, the primitives seem to have stopped improving in that there are no "new ones" and not even poly based ones yet.
5. Physics engine is 2 years old now. I don't know the state of the art there, but my understanding was that in the new platform the physics engine would be plug and play, and that you could apply different physics to different regions if you wanted to, meaning one region could be optimized for fast moving vehicles /low accuracy and another could be high accuracy and slow - say for simulations of machines or physics experiments like levers, screws, and gears.
Could be that to be "profitable" SL has to just be what it is and be that as good as possible, and leave "innovation" to the high risk takers and financially endowed, but no one else is really taking the ball and running with it, perhaps as they had hoped Open sim would. (open sim appears to remain well behind SL in terms of capabilities) I should add that its a bit difficult to know exactly what open sim currently supports as the 'list of features currently supported' on their site is blank.
I would understand all this as SL has, in fairness, managed to survive as a profitable entity through one of the worst years recent economic history, so perhaps innovation was just not possible under rapidly shrinking revenue as they had to just lay off more and more people presumably.
Personally, my plan is to try re-entering SL when my internet finally is up to snuff, hopefully in the next 2-3 months, but start again from the perspective of an "entrepreneur" rather than an "experimenter". (Key difference being entrepreneur starts with little or no money invested as opposed to an experimenter that spends US$299 a month on an island with no revenue model...)
So I'll continue to keep an eye on it. I hope it continues to be a viable entity and has a breakthrough year in 2010!