Friday, November 26, 2010

Second Life in a Browser; or, the Unwanted Guest

I greeted with mixed emotions Linden Lab's announcement that they were beta testing a way of logging into Second Life through a browser. On the one hand, it's not always convenient or even possible to load the full Second Life client onto a computer, and it would be worthwhile at times to be in-world even in a limited way. On the other hand, a stripped-down version that allows users to interact but not create seems like another step along the journey away from "Your World" to "Our World," from fabulous user creations to just a chat room with avatars. Nonetheless, I decided to try it out.

Point your browser to, wait for an ad to play while some magic occurs in the background (and, in my case, while a Java program is installed). When it's done, the screen says "Second Life is waiting for you" and prompts one to enter an email address to create a "guest" session. If successful - and I don't know the criteria for success; is it the PC's horsepower, memory, graphic card, or something else? - you have a temporary account that lasts for an hour, an a user first name of letters and numbers and the last name "Guest." There are about thirty locations in which to start; you can't teleport from any of them, but you can walk or fly across sims. For example, Winterfell Anodyne is one of the possible choices, but not Caledon. If you can discover which direction is south (no easy feat, as there is no minimap), you can fly to Caledon Cape Wrath. You are given a default avatar, but can easily change it to one of the other choices; as far as I can tell, no other editing options are available.

I was given the avatar of a macho male, with rippling muscles, cropped hair, beater T-shirt, dog tags, and camouflage pants. Fair enough. From my initial location in some sort of swamp, I switched to Winterfell, and from there flew to Cape Wrath and walked to Brigadoon, whereupon I met sister Kathy.

We had a special surprise, because the village of Brigadoon had appeared!

Below, the rare White Stag, Kathy, and Miss Guest, i.e., me.

Here is one of the female avatars, a biker chick of sorts.

The grand experiment ended a few minutes later, victim of a browser crash.

This is clearly beta software, but it's an intriguing start for running Second Life in a browser. Still, Winterfell is now overrun with "Guests," many of whom seem to be closely related to someone already in the Steamlands. Mindful of the adage that guests, like fish, begin to stink after three days, Linden Lab have limited their stay to an hour.

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