In less than a month from now, 2009 will officially be history and the New Year will be upon us. So let's look at Second Life in 2009 and see if we can divine where we will be going in the New Year:
Snowglobe and Third Party Viewers:
2009 seen a prominence in third-party viewers, even Linden Lab's Snowglobe viewer joining the mix. However, the newfound popularity of these viewers has also brought controversy. Where will this lead us in 2010?
I predict that the Viewer Registry will see the light of day, with the Hippo, Imprudence and Meerkat viewers easily making the cut. Emerald will be included in the registry, much to the anger of a "certain comrade", but only after certain controversial features are removed or changed. Put quite simply, I see a bright future ahead for third-party viewers.
This year we've seen the introduction of OpenSim archives, inventory archives, megaregions, the Diva distribution, Hypergrid and a highly experimental in-world currency module using PayPal. This has been the year that OpenSim has finally become a halfway decent alternative to buying a sim in SL.
In the New Year expect to see the stabilisation and maturation of Hypergrid, megaregions and the possible inclusion of an in-world currency system to finally push OpenSim as a marketable alternative to SL.
Never have I seen something go from one of SL's greatest innovations to the biggest example of corporate greed and favoritism. It all started when the Lab bought out XStreetSL and OnRez. They shut down OnRez, horribly redesigned the XStreetSL site, and replaced the forums with a P.O.S. "blogorum". But the coup de grace came last month when the Lab announced higher commission fees and introduced unconscionable listing taxes on freebies. This prompted myself and many others to de-list our items from XStreetSL, trash our magic boxes, and sell our items on competing sites. This has caused a significant loss of business for XStreetSL, leaving merchants and customers alike to question the future of SL's once favourite online marketplace.
Where will XStreetSL go in 2010? Judging from this year's failures, unless the Lab realizes just how much damage they've caused themselves, XStreetSL may get shut down due to sheer lack of business. This, however, will be a boon for third-party e-commerce sites who stand to gain the most from it.
We've seen overall greater grid stability and growth, Zindra, a bottoming out of land prices in line with the RL economy, Second Life Enterprise, Philip Rosedale leaving, and the forced disbandment of the Mentors group on the same day as the XStreetSL listing taxes announcement. It's been a mixed year for the grid.
Where will Second Life go next year? I predict there will be new features to the official viewer borrowed from third-party viewers, but that's where the good stuff ends. I am sadly predicting a return of the "prim tax"(or an in-world sales tax), caused by the failure of XStreetSL to extort more profit for the Lab. There will be revolts and protests like the last time, but the Lab will not buckle and this will force people to completely jump ship and set up on OpenSim or an OpenSim-based world. It will be a harsh year in SL, for both residents and the Lab. 2010 may be the year SL completely loses its' mojo.
*Update: Looks like the Lindens have given new Premium residents a nice Christmas present: Linden Homes. It's essentially a new incarnation of the previous "First Land" program. It won't change my predictions, though. It's all just to get more Premium memberships to offset the cancellations that resulted from the XStreet fiasco.
**Update 2: As quite a few people expected, Prok responds to the Linden Homes announcement with the kind of tl;dr outrage that screams BS. She thinks these un-terraformable, un-joinable, un-sellable plots with an un-removable small home, only available to Premium residents are a threat to her mainland rental business. I'll write up a post later on why she's really just shoveling manure on the subject.