I just started today playing with the new Second Life 2.0 Viewer (still in beta), but I can already see it has a lot of potential to open the door for more nonprofit, educational and government applications for virtual worlds. Here's five reasons why educational institutions, nonprofits and governments should be excited about the new Second Life Viewer 2.0:
- Shared Media: This is the big one. Bringing your web-based content into the virtual world is essential for most organizations that have been operating on the web for the past 15 years. Particularly awesome and unexpected is the integration of Flash content, which means that everything from YouTube to uStream to Flash animations can now be easily brought into SL.
- Simpler User Interface: Yeah, it's not a good as "click to go there." But it's a lot simpler for a non-expert user to figure out with all the main stuff on handy tabs on the right side and bottom of the screen. If you are trying to organize a mixed-reality conference or teach a class to non-SL residents, much of your prep time is typically devoted to getting your constituents oriented to the new tools and interface. Having a more user-friendly viewer makes adoption that much quicker by everyone.
- Viewer as a 3D Browser: One of the best improvements is the big browser bar at the top. The web browser has become an overarching paradigm for how people are used to navigating through multimedia content. So interfacing with the virtual world via a browser interface just makes so much sense to most people.
- Enhanced Search: Google had completely changed how most people think about and navigate the internet. Being able to type text into a search bar and find places, people, events and items is essential for groups trying to build a virtual presence.
- The Same Powerful Toolset: While much of the work on the viewer was designed to improve the experience for the first hour for a newbie, there's still a lot of power right there for the experienced user. It looks like all the build tools, the view options, the media controls are all still there, just moved around a bit. So if you are building your virtual HQ, shooting machinima, or preparing for an online conference, you can use the same software that your less experienced user base is running.
There's probably other affordances of the new viewer that will reveal themselves over time, as well as bugs and problems. But for your average public sector institution, being able to bring in your existing web content, get your users in-world more smoothly, find what you need fast, and access all the power tools, pushes Second Life way ahead of the other virtual world platforms. Nonprofits, educators and government agencies are encouraged to download the new viewer and check it out for themselves.