In late 2007, Linden Lab had published their viewer roadmap for 2008, a way for us residents to take a look at what they were planning to release in future versions of the official Second Life® client. It all looks very promising, when you suddenly realise that this page has not been updated since August 2008; other Wiki pages linked from there are even older.
So, what happened? The drive to “increase stability” has been mostly understood internally to mean “more quality assurance testing” and also “collecting more statistics”, or so at least it seems. Put it bluntly, this means that every time a single line of code is added to the official SL viewer, it routinely goes through a series of exhaustive testing to make sure that line of code doesn’t “interfere” with the rest and pop up new hitherto unknown bugs into existing. LL has devised a complex and very lengthy procedure to run a series of tests for that.
The result? From the moment a bug is found and a patch is submitted by a developer to the Public JIRA can take days — sometimes even just a few hours, which happens when a volunteer developer (non-LL employee) suddenly gets inspired and patches the code. But it then takes months until that patch is approved. Typically it takes around 6-14 months until a bug gets fixed, although exceptions exist at both extremes — security issues can be patched much quicker (sometimes in hours!), and non-essential bugs or some new features can take 18 months… or, in some cases, like introducing Havok 4, it took four years.
M Linden is still keen in providing residents in 2009 with a new, light version of Second Life that will enhance the new user experience. The question is, is Linden Lab really up to it?