It has come to my attention that Linden Lab has recently purchased controlling interests (FAQ, press release) in both "Xstreet" (formerly SLX, and likely to be known as such by Older Residents for quite some time) and "Shop OnRez" (formerly SLBoutique quite some time ago, and then owned by the Electric Sheep). These were the Premiere and in fact, practically, Only, Aethernet sites allowing the purchase of Second Life Content without being Upon The Grid. And now there is but one, and it is owned by the Laboratory. The verb "to GOM" is used once more.
What difference, really, does this make to Residents? Well, the immediate one I dare say is that I cannot use Shop OnRez any more, or at least will not be able to in a few weeks' time, which is a Dashed Shame given that it was by far the friendliest of the two. In fact, SLXstreet has at the moment an appalling last-century User Interface, almost completely unusable. In many cases I simply refuse to list my products there as the small financial gain that might result is outweighed by a factor of a Hundred by the Pain caused by navigating it.
Let me give you, dear reader, a glimpse of the Practice of Releasing A Product (when I ever do so): an important step is setting up a Plan, which involves steps such as
Once all of those steps are completed, I can tick the entire thing off as being completed. I have dozens of projects where all have been completed apart from the emphasised Last Step, because it is such a pain adding products to SLXstreet for little benefit to myself. Particularly as SLXstreet takes a commission from all sales. I note that Colossus Linden is reported as having said
We will be keeping the commission and most other features of Xstreet. We will also look at additional ways to help merchants sell their goods and services. I apologize that you'll be losing a free service, but I've seen evidence that Xstreet supplies well more value to the merchants than they pay back in fees. And those fees allow us to provide that service and value. For us to succeed, our merchants have to succeed, so we'll do what we can to provide you new services to help you in that endeavor at reasonable rates to support those services.
but I dare say that I have no personal evidence that SLXstreet "supplies well more value to the merchants than they pay back in fees" quite honestly. I value my nerves quite highly, and so apparently do many prominent Content Creators who just do not put things on SLXstreet, being perhaps put off by the Level Of Faff Involved.
But I digress into complaint. What will this mean? Well, in the initial stages, nothing whatsoever, as nothing will change apart from Shop OnRez - and their excellent free vendor system, might I add - disappearing which was always likely to happen in any case, given the Sheep's general withdrawal from Second Life. A shame, but there we are. All that is happening in the Short Term is that somebody else now owns SLXstreet.
In the Medium Term, what will happen will depend on exactly what level of Integration with (a) the Client and (b) the Search takes place. If none take place, nothing will change. As the SLXstreet site and listings become more visible, either through LL publicity, placement as a button in the browser, or inclusion in search results, this sort of outworld shopping will become more significant (particularly if search results are affected - this will make it effectively mandatory to place all of one's products on SLXstreet, just for the exposure). People who were not previously aware of this method of Buying Things will become so.
Is it a threat to Inworld Commerce? Not hugely. These sites have existed for a long time now, are well known to Serious Purchasers of Stuff, and while they are used, they have not at all killed off Inworld Commerce, and increased exposure will not either. The reason is that shopping is in itself an activity and, really, those who think that the purpose of a purchasing system within Second Life is to provide quick access to the desired product within the shortest possible time have Completely Missed The Point. One might as well say that the purpose of owning a Firearm in Second Life is to kill people - it is that degree of nonsense. It is true that there are some Other Worlds which use web-based purchasing systems solely, such as There and IMVU, but in those cases the sellers have no alternative and cannot build their own shops to anything like the degree to which one can on the Grid.
Is it a threat to anything? Well, it is a threat to other people wanting to start up sales sites - clearly there is no point now - but nobody really wanted to anyway, really. Dealing with currency accounts is an immense pain and whilst I have rarely met a PHP/MySQL script that I Did Not Like, even I would rather go nowhere near such a thing. Furthermore gathering a competitive customer base is very tricky, as Shop OnRez found out - even with a clearly superior system they had nowhere near the number of users that SLXstreet did.
If items on SLXstreet are incorporated into Search, that would, as I have said, really mandate that any serious Content Creator added their items there. This would just be another Pain In The Back Side for no real reward. Previously, the Creator only had to list items on these sites if they sought the slightly increased exposure that came with them - they did not have to do it simply to compete. With incorporated search, they would have to do it simply to compete. The number of people who buy directly from the page when inworld will be minimal; all that will be chased is search exposure. It will be just another drain on one's time and patience to keep up with the Joneses.
One thing that I do note, though, is the change in the relationship between advertiser and host here. And my congratulations for actually reaching the end of this entry.
It is well known that SLXstreet contains items which are Copyright Infringing, either directly or via Businesses In A Box. However, the "piratebay defence" was available previously, in other words, "we are not hosting infringing content, we are just providing links to it, please contact the host of the content i.e. Linden Lab".
Now, Linden Lab are both advertiser and host and can no longer say that. This is in many ways an improvement for those whose products are being improperly duplicated, but is an issue that I am not entirely sure that the Laboratory were fully aware of when acquiring SLXstreet.