Yesterday at Robin Linden’s office hour she asked at some point if we are ok with the following idea: On signup to Second Life you will get asked if you want to find your friends from Real Life who might already have a Second Life account without you knowing. The idea how to do that was by matching email addresses from your contacts with those of Second Life accounts. These people would then get notified about one of their friends being in SL now, too.
The idea behind this is that many people don’t know who of their friends do have a Second Life account already and might be able to help you. Having a friend already in Second Life when you signup might mean a better retention rate. We all know that one of the problems still is that you don’t know where to go or what to do when you sign up to Second Life. This might be better by directly having somebody who might help you.
Of course there are issues involved and people might not want to have their email address to be matched. The big question then is again though if this should be opt-in or opt-out. If it’s opt-in not many people will have this enabled in the beginning (for new accounts though the checkbox could be enabled by default and they can uncheck it if they do not want it. They at least see it directly and have to go through such a screen while people already in Second Life will not see such a screen if they not actively search for it). Opt-out of course will eventually be opposed by many people not wanting their email addresses to be used. Here I wonder though how many people actually have setup a separate email address for their account and thus would not be matchable anyway.
Now one option would be to not let the new user see who actually got matched. That way only the recipient sees it (via IM or so) and can decide to react or not. Then it might also be opt-in.
How to retrieve the list of email addresses?
The big question I have though is how the email addresses are obtained. Some very bad practice which unfortunately emerged on many sites is to ask for e.g. GMails username and password to retrieve the addressbook and match email addresses that way. But this is a big social hack. First of all with that username/password you might have access to a lot more, not just GMail but any Google service you might use (think Adsense) and it also trains people that it is ok to give out their username/password. But this is the number one thing every security expert (not even expert) will teach anybody: Never give out your password!
So in this light I wonder how this matching is supposed to work. There was also some talk about OpenID but the problem here is also that first there needs to be a) more widespreach use of OpenID and b) some defined process of how this should work.
So what do you think about that? (It’s not a plan afaik, it’s more a thought on how to get better retention). I would definitely like to know how they want to retrieve the email addresses. Besides this I like the approach and would hope it wouldn’t only be possible for new signups but also for existing accounts. Who knows I might find in SL.