Following on from yesterday's post, and the comment on it (I have a reader? Wow!), I thought some more about how Basic Mode might have worked as intended.
The problem with it was, it was very much all-or-nothing - you either had Advanced Mode and full functionality, or you had Basic Mode and the restricted subset. If you wanted to do stuff that wasn't available in Basic Mode, you had to log out and change modes. (At first, changing modes from Basic to Advanced meant relogging twice, which made one more very sound reason to switch to Advanced as soon as possible and never look back.)
Inara's comment yesterday got me to thinking, though, about how they could have made the Basic Mode viewer the introduction to SL that it was meant to be. We all know, of course, that not every menu option is available by default - we are familiar with pressing Ctrl-Alt-D to get the Advanced menu up, and, if you're in V3, Ctrl-Alt-Q for the Develop menu. So, I said to myself, why not extend that concept?
You could start with a viewer that had the functionality of Basic Mode directly available, but which contained all the other features as "unlockable", just like the Advanced and Develop menus. So, say you realise that there are 5,271,009 other people running around in that stock vampire avi, and you want to look different from them - you find an information point or a more experienced resident somewhere (ideally, a welcome centre like NCI, Oxbridge, White Tiger, the Shelter, someplace civilized anyway) and instead of telling you to log out and log back in, they show you the keypress or whatever it takes to unlock the Appearance editor. You feel the urge to spray plywood cubes over the landscape, so you find someone who tells you how to unlock the Build editor. And so on.
Of course, you couldn't use a viewer like that as a thin client, like I was talking about yesterday - it'd need the full functionality set built in from the start. But, if you wanted a sort of "SL-with-training-wheels" approach, where you gradually grow into the full set of SL activities - or, if you like, stop at a level that makes you happy - then that is one approach you might go for.