Linden Lab is working on improvements to Second Life to vastly improve Web integration, scalability, stability, and the beauty of the world, according to CTO Cory Ondrejka.
The changes, which include voice support coming this summer, will make Second Life a much different place in a year than it is today.
The company is near to releasing specifications of its next-generation architecture, designed to increase capacity tenfold. The current record peak concurrent number of people logged in to Second Life was 46,500 people logged in Monday. The new architecture will allow 400,000 simultaneous logins.
Linden Lab will release the spec to the public prior to beginning implementation, to allow for criticism and suggestions.
Ondrejka said he expects 400,000-user concurrency to be at least a year away. He said he predicted in January that Second Life would hit 150,000 concurrent users this year, but the rate of growth for Second Life is slightly lower than that. Implementation of voice in Second Life this summer will likely speed up adoption, he said.
Linden Lab is also working on improving connectivity between Second Life and the larger Internet.
For example, Linden Lab will open Second Life registration data to third parties, to enable users to log in to Web sites with their Second Life credentials. Linden Lab sees this as primarily useful for Second Life-related content on the Web, such as forums, wikis, and blogs for Second Life users. Second Life content now on the Web includes a photo-sharing service for screenshots taken in Second Life,, and stores where you can buy products on the Web and have them delivered in Second Life.. Linden Lab wants to encourage that kind of activity.
Linden Lab also plans to open its proprietary instant-messaging system to the Internet, so that users who aren't logged in to Second Life can still exchange text messages with each other. One option being considered: Connecting Second Life IM to an existing chat protocol, such as the open source Jabber.
Last week, Linden Lab announced acquisition of a five-person company that Ondrejka said will vastly improve the appearance of the virtual world. Windward Mark is currently best known for making realistic atmospheric effects, lighting and skies in virtual worlds. But their mission is broader than that.
"They do a few things," Ondrejka said. "Most broadly, their mission has been to make virtual worlds and rendered content beautiful."
Windward Mark demonstrated its seriousness about Second Life by hacking the open-source Second Life client to include Windward Mark technology, even before the acquisition, Ondrejka said.
Yesterday, Linden Lab introduced an experimental version of the Second Life client -- called a "First Look" version -- that includes the Windward Mark code. Users using the First Look version will see much prettier skies immediately.