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Next Steps: Second Life

Houses First we had the hype, then we had the anti-hype, then reality set in somewhere in the middle.  Second Life is growing at a snails pace compared to the hype.  The reality is, there are few if any true overnight revolutions in digital media.  Everything, even the glorious iPod took a while to reach mass market adoption.  Cell phones, computers, mp3 players, all of these game changers took time to take off.  The press loves sensationalism as it drives traffic and viewership of their content.  They live in a world of hype, not reality.  With this in mind, what steps do you believe are essential to building a more compelling Second Life experience creating a stronger adoption and retention/usage rate?  What measures would fuel stronger growth over the next 6-12 months?

Five Steps for Improving Second Life

  1. Featured destinations - In World Portals
    • I would be willing to bet that most newbies go in world, enjoy flying around and playing dress up with their Avatars - but rarely return because there is nothing to do (other than adult content).  This situation is very similar to the early days of the web.  This gave rise to the world of the portal.  We need TV guide for SL, we need free tours, we need visitor's centers and access points to everything there is to do in world.  We need Second Life delivered on a silver platter.
  2. Improved Initial Setup (Interface)
    • Anyone who has ever played console sports video games over the past few years knows how easy and simple it is to set up an Avatar.  While WiiMii setup is simple to a fault, there is a happy medium.  Newbie clothes mark you as a newbie, why not allow users to customize from the get go with a simple 3 minute avatar builder tool? 
    • Also, can't we give users a fun and engaging tutorial rather than the walk around self guided tour?  Nobody likes to read instruction manuals, why can't we come up with anything better than walking around to browse through a tutorial?  It's the equivalent of a video game  that makes you go through a 20 minute tutorial before you play.  Nobody likes to read a manual.
  3. Social Connectivity
    • Second Life is a 3D chatroom/social network.  Why not include LinkedIn type social mapping and cross pollination with other social networks - like Facebook and AIM via a widget or even and import/export buddy list option?  As arguably the most engaging digital social property, shouldn't it live beyond the prohibitive walls of Second Life?
  4. Tear Down Those Walls!
    • Second Life is not yet for everyone, why not extend the Second Life experience to the masses?  All Second Life events should be simulcast onto a LindenTube site as well as property owner sites. 
    • Additionally, there should be a number of "in the can" Avatars available for one off Second Life experiences.  These Avatars should have a limited functionality while allowing newbies to experience specified in world experiences - think NBC Concerts or IBM Meetings - without having to go through the arduous enrollment and setup process.
    • Second Life is all about communication and ultimately the communicative community.  As I said before, Second Life shouldn't live in a vacuum, but as an integrated piece of our digital social networks.  Think SL widgets, SIM links on MySpace pages and an interactive 2D/3D component much like Super Paper Mario.
  5. Interface Improvement
    • 3D navigation is never easy, and the SL interface makes it that much more challenging.  Avatar clothes and physical attributes are often stored under multiple files.  Navigation frequently requires two hands and multiple clicks.  It's time we see both some software/interface streamlining and some 3D capable hardware.  Think - a mouse with a tri-directional scroll wheel.  By scrolling up-down, right-left and mousing in those directions, we should be able to adequately control a 3D environment with only one hand.  I don't know that I would buy a specialized piece of hardware for SL, but I do know that a better, stronger, more intuitive interface is needed for mainstream adoption of the 3D web.  I don't know if hardware will drive awareness/adoption of the 3D web, or if the 3D web will drive hardware adoption (probably more likely), but at the end of the day we will have both the chicken and the egg.

note: I didn't address the obvious issue - the grey goo.  Load times and other technical issues will be resolved with the proliferation of user side ultra-high end broadband and technical server side improvements.  To me, this is more of a technical issue, and not as much a marketer issue.

Any thoughts?  Where would you like to see Second Life go over the next 6-12 months and what improvements do you believe will fuel this movement?