In the world of Second Life, the viewer has to be considered critical infrastructure. It allows us to access the world, and it's the method through which we control our experience. Without it we don't get in. And if the viewer has problems or doesn't work well, our experience and quality of life suffers. Yep, definitely critical.
Currently Second Life provides an official viewer along with a Beta version. When we all first join, we are most likely downloading and using the official Second Life viewer. But once we spend some time in world, some of us eventually realize not everyone is using the official viewer. We realize there are other viewers available – these are referred to as Third Party Viewers (TPV). Some people try out these other viewers and never go back to the one provided by Second Life. Others regularly switch between viewers. And there are many who never use anything but the Second Life viewer. In May of this year, the New World Notes blog posted a story with some user statistics indicating 65-75% of people in Second Life were using the Phoenix/Firestorm viewers with Phoenix being number one, Firestorm number two, and the official viewer being the third most used viewer. The story generated many comments – another indication of how important the viewer is to users.
Over the years there's been a lot of changes to the official viewer and even more were recently announced. Many blogs have been posting articles about the changes. So I'm listing some articles here that capture the conversation because they are an indication of what Second Life members need and envision for this critical piece of infrastructure – the viewer. As I find more, I'll continue to add them to this post:
For General Viewer Information:
Second Life Forum – Viewer Topic (note it's one of the topics with the most posts which is another sign indicating its importance)
Reactions to recent viewer changes:
Raising the Walls – from the Telling: Like it Is blog
Linden Lab cuts viewer link to OpenSim – from the Hypergrid Business site (while the focus of the article is on OpenSim, a portion of the article and some of the comments specifically express opinions about how this affects Second Life)