Second Life Buys XstreetSl – Some Thoughts.
It’s been a little while now since Linden Labs bought XstreelSl.com and OnRez.com, and mostly all the fuss that the news created has died down somewhat. So maybe now is the time for a few considered thoughts about the takeover.
First of all I have to say that I think it is generally a good thing, both for merchants, customers, and for Second Life itself. But only if certain things are done – and done well. I was in SL for months before I ever heard of SLExchange as it was known then, and it’s probably the same for a lot of people – and bringing it within Second Life and available from there has to be better for both creators and customers.
But first the bad news….
It’s bad news for content creators who had their products only on OnRez and hadn’t duplicated them on Xstreet. It means a lot of work for them to move the stuff over, and I’m sure there’s a lot of people who just won’t bother. They have my commiserations.
Then there’s the currency conversion. Both Linden Labs and XstreetSl are in the business of converting Linden dollars to real US dollars. And of the two, XstreetSl is the more efficient. L$ transferred from your XsteetSl account to your PayPal account happens almost instantly. Doing the same thing through the LL currency exchange takes from several days upwards (or so I read on the forums, never having used the LL exchange myself, for exactly this reason.)
Now when the news of the takeover was released, the Lindens were keeping very quiet about the future of the currency exchange, despite it seemingly the one thing that was causing the most fuss on the forums. From which I can only draw this conclusion…..
It’s not going to stay the same, otherwise it would have been mentioned and a lot of fuss would have died down instantly.
From my position, and from that of most of the people that use XstreetSl, the preferred option would be that all currency conversion would go over to the Xstreet version. Instantaneous conversion is better for the customer than one that takes days to complete. However the silence from LL on this would be odd, because this would be an improvement of service, and that is something that surely deserves shouting about.
You might think that the only alternative to this is that the LL exchange would be carrying on and the Xstreet exchange would be closing, which would be bad news to be buried. But I actually think that there may be another thing going on here.
I’ve always preferred the cockup theory of history to the conspiracy theory. And I think that when they bought Xstreet, LL hadn’t given the currency exchange thing a lot of thought or maybe no thought at all, and were probably surprised at the amount of fuss it generated. The previous history of LL announcements shows there is sometimes little idea of what the consequences of some of its decisions will be – the recent about turn on openspace sims comes to mind. I suspect that these days very few of the decision makers at LL are people that came into Second Life as customers and used the services of Xstreet.
Now on to the good news (mostly)…..
As I’ve already said, I think the takeover will be a good thing for content creators – so I meet it with guarded optimism. God is in the details on this, so it might be an idea to have a look at how it already is, and maybe extrapolate from there.
I was logged in to Second Life when I started this, and I decided to see how easy it is to actually buy something from Xstreet. I typed the Xstreet url into chat, opened up my chat history, and clicked the url. Now in an ideal world there should be a SHOP button on the search popup that takes you straight to the Xstreet front page, and we can hope that that’s in the pipeline for the future, although it’ll mean a new version of the client.
I don’t know what your SL experience is like, but for me and my aging computer, opening a web browser while SL is running is a fools errand. The SL client is so memory intensive that opening up any other program while it’s running cause SL to freeze, and there’s such a wait for the browser to get started that I can make a cup of coffee, drink it, and go for a walk before everything is working again – so I always try to use SLs built in browser.
And the good news is that the SL browser popped up almost instantly and the Xstreet front page appeared quickly. And the front page bears some examination. There’s the paid for adverts on there, and one link that goes to the marketplace. Note there are no links to the categories pages and no search box. Which is not a great start as it’s almost impossible to find something specific.
And it then it gets worse. When you click through to a page that you want to buy something from, there’s a message that says “To Purchase Click “Open” above – but there’s no open button to click on (I’m using the Nicholaz viewer, and I’m assuming that it’s the same for the latest SL browser).
The only way to buy something is to open up your normal browser (no thanks, for the reason above) but there’s no instructions and no indications of how to do it. Confusing for all of us, let alone for noobs. This leads me to wonder how many sales Xstreet (and all the merchants) are losing through this. If I was a noob I’d have given up at this point, and gone shopping at an in-world mall.
Also, you can’t click on the “View more images” link, because this opens in a new window in a browser, so doesn’t open at all in the SL browser. Again, at this point I would have given up and gone elsewhere.
Of course, all these problems go away if you’re using a normal browser, but the potential shopper who’s opened up the page within SL doesn’t know this, and it’ll be the shopper who goes away.
The XstreetSL website is best described as functional rather than a thing of beauty, but it works well enough in a normal browser. I’m sure it’s going to get a redesign for the integration within SL but I should strongly recommend whoever is doing it to make sure they try it out in the SL browser before going live.
Then comes the matter of how XstreetSL appears in the search engines. I’m pretty sure that just before they changed the name from SLExchange to XstreetSl the website allowed the search engines to crawl the pages for the first time – there’s a lot more pages for Xstreet than for SLX ( 445k/217k in Yahoo, 268k/46k in Google – which filters duplicates) .
So I made a Google search for a word that is common within SL but rarer outside it. And that word was “Skybox”.
I got to page 5 before I gave up looking for any mention of XstreetSl, let alone Second Life. So I changed the search term to “Skybox Second Life” – without the quotes.
This time – success! An XtreetSl page popped up on page 4 of the results. Of course, most people won’t click through that many pages, so the listing will be wasted. And this is important, both for the creators and for Linden Labs.
As a creator, I want my stuff seen as much as possible. I want as many people as possible to see my stuff, andI want people finding my stuff through Google searches because that is where most people search from.
And this is important for Linden Labs too, and I don’t know if they’ve thought about this (cockup theory again), but by buying XstreetSl LL have bought a potential quarter of a million new ways for people to find out about Second Life. Every page on the Xstreet site is a potential gateway page into Second Life for a new user. From my own experience with this blog, I get a certain amount of hits from people looking for real life garden lights. How many of them will be intrigued enough to look at SL I have no idea, probably a pretty low figure (less than 1%), but with a quarter million pages to lead people in with, the figure should at least be countable.
But this isn’t going to happen until XstreetSl gets a redesign.
Most of the pages that show up in a search are useless to real people.
Nobody is going to click on any of these pages because the listings don’t give you any useful information. LL really needs to employ someone who understands search engine optimisation before a redesign.
And then there’s the potential in-world vendors.
Xstreet were working on their own vendor system before the buyout, but the strong money is that they’re going to use the the OnRez vending system, which are said to be very good. This is very good news. One of the pains about putting things for sale in SL is that I have to make a web entry for all my information at XstreetSl, then I have to duplicate the work to put much the same info into Apez.com, whose vendors I use. The Apez vendors have been very good, but having to duplicate the work is a pain to do, and if Xstreet can introduce vendors that work from their magic boxes, I’ll be happy to switch over – Sorry Apez, you’ve been good, but the end is in sight (but only if LL get everything right).
Some people have been complaining that the commissions from their sales will now be going to Linden Labs rather than XstreetSl. And this is true, but I don’t mind. I was happy to pay to one, and I shall be happy to pay to the another, especially if they do things right and the shopping experience is improved.
And then there’s the monopoly question – LL taking over the two biggest marketplaces. I really don’t have a problem with this. If they make a cockup with this, then everybody will go somewhere else, and somebody will make something better, and we’ll all use that until LL buys that out too, or Fox buys us all out.
So in conclusion, I think the takeover is a chance to increase user satisfaction for most of us, and I welcome it because it’s got the potential to improve things for me, for shoppers, and for Linden Lab. Just don’t forget – God is in the details, but so is the Devil.