Last Friday was the Third Party Developers User Group meeting. We often have a wealth of news coming from this UG meeting. This week we learn of a Market Place (MP) project that has been in progress via closed alpha/beta since January 2014. We don’t get much news about the Market Place and commerce.
Viewer Managed Market Place
Brooke Linden spoke at this meeting about how the market place will be changing. The Lab is going to move us from the current Direct Delivery system to Viewer Managed Market Place. I expect for customers little if anything will change. But, for merchants this will be a big change and involve migrating the current Market Place to a new backend system.
I did not hear anything about changes in how the Market Place will look to customers or how it will operate from the customers’ side of things.
The problems the Lab is seeing with Direct Delivery, a feature that starts in the SL Market Place and ends in the viewer in-world, is merchants are having problems managing their Market Place (MP) inventory. Also, the Market Place engineers have not been able to fully complete Direct Delivery. Magic Boxes are still used for selling items the merchant does not have COPY rights to.
For an instance of where this is a problem, if you have bred a breedable and want to sell it, you now use a Magic Box or sell it in world. The MP does not support sale of a merchant’s no-copy single item without using a flaky Magicbox.
A significant change is no more merchant outbox in the viewer, eventually. Our inventories will have a special (normally hidden) folder from which items are directly listed for display on the MP and from which items are delivered to customers. Initial, simple listings will be created from within the viewer.
Brooke thinks this new process is more stable. However, the viewer will have more interactions with the market place in the new system.
Later this month or early in November Brooke expects there to be a Project Viewer and a test project on ADITI, the preview grid. There will be new Knowledge Base documentation for the consumer and new developer documentation.
Baker Linden has been doing the AISv3 (Agent/Avatar Inventory System) modifications for Viewer Managed MP.
Brooke says they have been getting ‘some’ feedback from merchants and will be getting more. I’m sure they will get more feedback. But, work on this project started in January this year and there has been a private in-world-group used to work with merchants and the Linden engineers. Brooke says they’ll open it up some for TP Dev’s. If we can believe what we are hearing, the team has been getting user/merchant feedback since shortly after the project conception and its green lighting. Theoretically, it should be a decent design.
I expect I can tell you what we are going to hear in the SL Forum…
A question asked was whether changes to an item’s permissions AFTER it is listed in the MP would show up in the MP listing. Brooke’s answer is yes. Not much elaboration. I would expect either some significant delay in such updates as the MP data gets updated or for the MP to register the data when an item is looked at by a customer on the MP. I’ll have to wait to see how it works.
Next question was whether everything seen on the MP in connection with the item’s listing is placed in the new inventory folder? Brooke’s answer is no. The item will be moved to the special folder in our viewer’s inventory to create a simple listing, which we edit in the inventory panel. The merchant will finish the listing and add pictures on the MP web site just as we do today.
This suggests that most of this change is a viewer side replacement of a flaky Merchant Outbox system and little more. Don’t be mislead by LITTLE. This is a significant change and has required extensive changes to the backend systems. There is also the possibility for a faster and more reliable MP system.
Merov Linden is working on the viewer side of things. Inventory will get a new panel that is said to be within the inventory window… which seems s bit awkward. Brooke adds there will be some Debug Settings that affect how/when the panel is seen outside its planned normal operation. So, I suspect we can tweak how we use it to some extent.
Jessica Lyon asked about how it might affect 3rd party viewer features that now use the inventory, like RLV and Viewer Side Animation Overriders. Brooke says the folder will be like the Outbox and Received items folders are now. I think this is supposed to mean, it won’t be a problem.
Baker says the changes to system code that handles inventory has been enhanced more than it has been changed or added to. Most of the actual work is going to be handled by calls to the AIS’s API (Wiki AIS) and the MP side backend.
Baker explains that it is parts of this API that are changing to work with the new features in the viewer. So, while there will be some new additions to the API, as best I can tell, those will be within the current API calls. This is probably similar to adding features to LSL function calls. The function remains basically the same and all preexisting uses still function. But, there are new ways to use the function.
Merov Linden explained what is changing in the viewer. He says it is similar to what we do now with the Outbox. We will put stuff in a hidden folder that has a Debug Setting that can make the folder normally visible or hidden except when, I suppose, triggered in normal use.
Merov says a bunch more in Chatak Northspring’s video of the meeting see: TPV Meeting 10/10 @ 12:00 min. Between Merov’s accent and the poor audio it is hard to understand what he is talking about.
It does seem there is a version capability for the things we sell. So, you can slide updated versions of a product in without having to make a completely new listing. At least that is what I think they are saying.
There is some concern among TP Dev’s about how this will work with RLV. My take is the general TP Dev consensus is they can handle it.
Brooke says they will have the web developer for the MP API at the next TPV UG meeting (two weeks from Friday 10/10) and that the team will be at the next few TPV meetings while Viewer Managed MP is in development. …now that should prove interesting.
MP Inventory Migration
Brooke explains that in the current Direct Delivery system inventory items are moved from our inventory to a MP inventory and purchased items are delivered to people’s inventories in world. This seems a little odd to me. I would think it would all have been UUID pointers that get moved around. But, apparently not.
With the change it will all be pointers, information that tells which item rather than the actual item.
The migration from XStreet was rather painful for merchants. Brooke thinks the migration from the SL Magicbox era post Xstreet to Direct Deliver was less painful as merchants participated. This migration will be automated… but…
The team is figuring out how long the automated migration process will take. Brooke says they can work with merchants with large inventories to schedule their store’s migration. But, the basic plan is to close the MP to additions, changes, deletions, and sales until the migration completes.
Since she says they will schedule large merchants, I think that suggests the MP closing will be for just those merchants involved in a migration. So, one day a lot of small merchants (few MP listings) will be closed as the system transfers their listings. But, their listings are to remain viable, as in not have to be re-entered or edited post migration. Then their items/stores will go live and another group will close as their items migrate. I am not sure they have the migration details worked out completely.
The Lindens will also allow merchants manually migrate… sort of. There seems to be some concept of giving merchants some sense of control to avoid panic… Yeah… don’t worry about that sneeze, I haven’t been in Africa.
During the migration ‘era’ both the new and old merchant outbox will be available. The migration period is planned to a long one. We are talking Linden ‘long’ here, whatever that may mean. But, forced migration by March 2015 was mentioned.
If you have been creating things and putting them in the MP then DELETING them from your in-world inventory, the migration will give these items back to you inside special new market place folder.
I am glad to see something happening in the Market Place. Also, this hidden project explains why we have heard little from the web and commerce teams. But, again this project reminds us that Lindens still develop things without much public communication and only limited user input. Whether the commerce team has changed their habits to be more open as the viewer and server teams have, it is hard to say at this point. We can hope. The next few weeks will tell us how they have or haven’t changed.
Past experiences with the commerce team at the Lab have not been good. If they have been moved under Oz Linden’s wing and supervision, we are likely to see a shift in behavior. But, that may not be the case. After all, the MP is going to be a key part of SL2 also. So, they may be answering to SL2 management more than to SL1 management. We’ll have to wait and see how things go.
I am trying to hold my skepticism in check and hope for the best in the MP change. I plan to give the team the benefit of the doubt.