I was ready to be underwhelmed by Project Skylight, Second Life's new browser client beta. Just about every other "advancement" Linden Lab rolled out over the past few years has been mediocre or worse. But to my surprise, the new client user experience was exceptionally good from start to finish. First click to first rez took maybe a minute. The graphics quality and speed was as good or better than the traditional client I was running alongside. Although the current beta has limited functionality, basic capabilities such as movement, camera control, avatar selection and text chat were dead on.
The experience was so fast, easy and fun that I jumped to the astounding conclusion that Second Life could leap to mass market with one small addition: integration with Facebook. Just imagine that you could coax someone into Second Life as easily as an invitation to Mob Wars or Farmville and that they could be rezzed as an avatar using Facebook authentication in less than a minute. You could invite someone to a live music performance, an art opening or a birthday party and they could attend without a registration process or massive client download. Now that's a killer app!
I realize that this idea will likely cause shudders, nausea and murderous thoughts for many of my fellow veterans. Me too. If Second Life becomes filled with everyone's moms, high-school sweethearts and church buddies it is bound to radically alter the pseudonymous-friendly, freewheeling, tolerant culture we know and love. But in spite of that probability, I think that the long term interest of bringing the avatarian experience to the mainstream eclipses any short-time personal losses we may experience.