Apparently, Linden Lab® is introducing a new feature for Second Life® users, called “AvaLine” (I’m not sure if there should be an ®, a ™, or what after that word, so sorry, LL), which will allow people to dial a phone number and be connected to your avatar in-world. Tateru, over at Massively.com, wonders what it’s useful for. Quite frankly, so do I.
First of all, if you’re also a SL user and you need to get hold of another SL user that badly, the obvious way to do it is to fire up SL and make a voice call (or send an IM) that way. Minimum hassle, no charges incurred.
Well, maybe you’re at work, or somewhere else where you don’t have the SL viewer handy. You’re not out of options, though. You can use another application, like Skype, to make a voice call. You can send a message using another instant-messaging program, like Yahoo! IM, MSN, or GTalk. You can send an E-mail. You can even call the other person’s actual phone. (That’s the way I’d get a hold of Lexx, for instance, if I really needed to talk to her quickly. Likewise, she can call my cellphone, or send a text, if she needs me that quickly.) Of course, this depends on the other person having made their outside-SL contact info available to you…which not everyone will have done, for whatever reason.
Ah! So maybe now we have a target market for AvaLine! It would be SL Residents:
- Who want to be reachable by people outside of SL at any time;
- But, for whatever reason, don’t want to make any contact information available other than that linked to their SL avatar.
Aside from sounding slightly dodgy to me (and that’s just a matter of personal opinion), how big can this target market be? In a world full of free Skype accounts, free IM accounts, free E-mail available through Yahoo, Microsoft, or Google, and low-cost cellphones with prepaid minutes–none of which have to have any public link to your RL identity–can AvaLine, which LL has admitted they intend to charge for eventually, find a niche? And can you really do extensive business in SL without entrusting the people you work with, who might most have need to get hold of you urgently, with something more than an avatar name?
Also, of course, you have to use SL’s voice support to use AvaLine. Which lets me, and most of the people I deal with, off right there, as we all tend to disable SL’s voice support and use Skype amongst ourselves. It works well enough for us, as it has since before LL introduced the voice support in the first place, and it has the added advantage of staying operational and connected even if the SL viewer crashes, or if we decide, for instance, to exit SL and go to EVE Online. (EVE also has built-in voice support…which we also don’t use, and for pretty much the same reasons.) One could also use TeamSpeak or Ventrilo for the same purposes.
So AvaLine may be a great new “gosh-wow” feature for SL, but, really, it seems like a solution in search of a problem. One wonders why LL is devoting resources to this instead of, you know, fixing the goddamn bugs. (Not to beat a dead horse or anything…)