Applications and Tools, Second Life

SLim is Thin: And Is it a Client or an Appliance?

SLim was launched today with a press release, blog post, and demo at the Virtual Worlds conference here in Los Angeles. And. Well. It’s underwhelming.

Tateru at Massively has comprehensive coverage of what the Lab calls a “client”. Tateru gives a description of the cumbersome process used to download it, install it, sign up for it, and try to synch it.

Let’s assume for a bit though, like the comments on Massively, that it was launched so that they had something to demo at the booth at VW and talk up at SLCC. A few things to iron out maybe.

At the booth it worked beautifully. And I have to say - when I saw they were demoing it, I went up and looked at the screen and said “Hey, I want to see SLim”, and the response was “You’re looking at it” because I missed the fact that the tiny little window up in the corner, which I thought was a Skype window at first, was….well, that was it. And unlike Skype I mean, well, that was IT. There were no tabs or sorting choices, no tags, no alternate communication streams….it was a friends list and you click and chat, only there’s no cumbersome world around your friends list to worry about, it’s just what you get IN SL, only outside, and not much more (oh, voice mail).

Image: Tateru, Massively

Which leaves the question: does it bring something to the Grid that’s currently missing? Does it substantially change the experience of Second Life or add something to users who are otherwise hesitant to invest time in world?

And I’d say - well, yeah, kind of. But this isn’t game changing. It will be attractive as a sort of add-on module for people who want to communicate with their friends list when they can’t log on….but then, there are other ways to do that, and they don’t require a new sign-up, they don’t require a new download, and sure, they don’t include the ability to leave voice mail to an avatar but do I really want another voice mail system?

This is an appliance not a client. And it’s barely even a product of Linden Lab - it’s a product of Vivox, who were also the folks giving the demo at the Virtual World conference - the Lindens were all hidden in the back of the booth sitting in sleek white chairs um, sitting. Or something.

To call SLim a client is….well….it’s NOT a client. It’s a chat appliance. A client for a virtual world is something that somehow interacts with the world. This is a CHAT client that happens to connect to your Second Life friends list. And the best I could tell, it doesn’t even allow you to sort your friends or tag them in anyway, and it has zero integration with group functions.

SLim is thin. It will come in handy for quick messaging when you can’t make it in world, but little more, and there’s no integration with all the OTHER chat clients I have.

If Linden Lab wanted to add a chat client without restructuring anything about groups, friend list organization, and all the things that REALLY bug us about connecting people to people, they would have been better off releasing a social API, or doing a deal with Skype or someone and integrate to stuff that people already use instead of adding yet another social widget that doesn’t actually significantly improve socializing.

Having said all that - there’s no particular harm done. There will be people who want this, who want to download it for all the business collaboration they’re doing, or for teachers to keep in touch with their students, whatever. Here’s a nice thin chat appliance that might help out, but it doesn’t particularly change the social networking functions of the Grid.


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