If you've ever heard me speak about virtual worlds for learning, you've heard my mix of love and hate for Second Life. I love the openness, I love the freedom, I love the complexity...but it made it too complicated for most users. Navigation wasn't intuitive. Attrition rates after the first log in were atrocious. It didn't integrate with other technologies well. Frankly, for most people, it was just too hard.
I have friends in the virtual worlds industry who stood by Second Life. To be honest, I wasn't sure Linden Labs "got" that the same thing that made Second Life great was also the thing that was holding it back.
But yesterday, I tried out Viewer 2.
Yeah, here's where I take some of that back.
Sure, its still Second Life, with the prims and the rezzing. And no, the new viewer didn't magically fix security concerns or the (in my estimation, silly) worry about inappropriate content. But Viewer 2 tackles the usability issues head on, and makes Second Life a lot more digestible for a new user...and that, my friends, has been the biggest obstacle to virtual world adoption.
I don't want to detail all of the new features...you can find the write up here. I will say that little features like streamlined navigation, the improved search functionality, and the simplified menus help overcome a lot of the issues that new users faced in the previous interface. The embeddable media (audio! video! Flash!) makes me swoon. But the single biggest improvement in Viewer 2? It works like a web page. Its intuitive with minimal poking around. Its better designed for user experience.
And that's what makes all the difference. Game changer? Maybe. Gauntlet thrown? Definitely.