Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Why A Purely Web Feature Based Viewer 2 Will Always Fail

Reposted from LindenWatch
by Cummere Mayo, Mythoes Llewellyn, Bitterly Sweet

It would be awesome if this post could start out with "It came upon a dark and dismal night" however the truth is none of us really remember what kind of day/night it was when the first web based features crept into v1. There they were implemented with care, but still had a high fail rate. This would be a powerful potent of things to come...

When Viewer 2 was introduced to the community it certainly felt like a dark day had come upon us. The viewer 2 was built with the look and feel of a third rate web-site. (Some people argue a web browser, but browsers have far more customization, and tend to follow basic industry standards like having file and edit menus.) Integrated (unknown to most) were the first generation web profiles. These were clearly usable and editable from within the viewer with little or no wait, and no real loss of function if the website hosting the profiles went down other then display of the information that the user put in, and the user pictures.

Most people never knew that these profiles were web based because Linden Lab never advertised that fact and because they were extremely well integrated into the system with the ability to edit the information without the use of a browser (whether built in or external.) Furthermore, this system didn't seem to rely on cookie caching, nor were critical functions like pay, teleport, online status, etc. mapped through the web page but instead were directly embedded in the viewer and worked regardless of the profile.

Other web technologies that were put in either from the start or very early on were a "enhanced" web mapping and teleport system (it should be noted the 1.x viewers also had a web based system for mapping and teleport), a web based search system, web based classified system, and a few other "behind the hood" odds and ends.
Of these, the only one that reliably worked was the mapping/teleport system.

Search routinely fails to load for many users, and then--because of the Search team's opinion they obviously pulled out of their asses that most people that use search don't need it to visit more then one place--would close AND reset annoying the vast majority of users. It should be noted that the jira on that was closed out despite unanimous request for that behavior to change, based on the on an opinion that the Search team was never able to back up, and in fact that public stats another department published decently contradicted. This along with bugs in the coding of the search itself has left this a permanently broken feature and a massive failure on LL's part.

The web based classified also simply don't work, as anyone that has ever bought one can tell you. This is true for both the ones in search and the ones in marketplace. In both cases even if they do actually show up (most times they don't) its usually not in any context relevant enough to actually do the person buying the classified any good. And good luck getting a refund...

Now, the web profiles have been changed again, and group and object profiles are due to follow. In the new profiles, not only are there privacy concerns that have been addressed on this and other blogs that still aren't resolved, but the system is bulky and slow when it does load, and fails to load at all for many users.
If it does load, the layout is filled with useless white space that social team insists is critical, has share and like buttons that you cannot get rid of whether they are on your profile or someone else's, and may have ads displayed that are to a direct competitor of the profile you are looking at (which seems to violate a lot of unfair business practice laws). Another Fail.

If they don't load and you don't have that person on your list, in a group you're in, or otherwise near you, attempting to pay them, teleport them, add them as a friend, or send them an IM is all but impossible and can only be done if they are in search (Assuming search loads). These options are no longer in the UI otherwise, not even as a backup. Again another fail.

If you dare turn off cookies to protect your privacy, then you are shit out of luck. There is no option in the V2 browser to only allow cookies from LL owned sites or even from trusted sites and turning off cookies causes profiles, and often search to fail badly.

By this time frustration for new users is through the roof and many simply quit by this point. For older residents this becomes yet another massive source of seething anger, frustration, and resentment directed at Linden Lab as a whole and at various Lindens specifically, even when often those lindens had no say. And both Search and Social the teams in charge of search and web profiles collectively continue to mostly ignore the users with the attitude they know our needs better then we do! Epic Fail!

Even the Linden housing has had issues with its web based controls not properly triggering the in world houses, further furstrating users both new and old!

And LL has plans to make this situation worse!

Group profiles which have also been web based are about to be revamped with all of their tools also going into a web site. Most of these tools don't even have redundancy within the viewer; things like Notices, group invites, roles, permissions, ejection tools and just about everything else that you currently do in the floater do not have redundancy anywhere.

Can you imagine the mess that will make when you cannot create, join, manage, or possibly even leave a group if you cannot get to the group page? What new user is going to stick around in this case? And what are the existing users supposed to do? Especially the business owners for which groups are a huge part of their ability to connect with their customers?

Furthermore, the more of these features pushed through websites, even if LL owned, the less secure the system is. Each is one more connection that can be spoofed, hacked, monitored, or hijacked. In case you have missed the message, across SL users are lashing back at things they feel invade their privacy, whether things like web profiles that LL is directly responsible for, things like Redzone that are run by other users.

Because someone will invariably ask what about features like social network integration, web inventory management (a much requested feature), the desire for web profiles by many people etc. The thing is that none of those features needs or should be implemented in a way that precludes easy access from the ui with the sole exception of the web management which is simply meant to be an additional tool to manage inventory and NOT a replacement for any of the inworld tools.

LL cannot afford to keep investing in moving the viewer to purely web feature based. It is too unreliable, too insecure, and relies on too many factors to work to ever be tenable.


Hitomi Tiponi said...

there is actually nothing wrong with putting these items on the web, many other apps/games do the same. The trouble is that the 'Social' team cannot design, code or work well with other parts of LL. A good web team wouldn't have messed it all up so badly!

Cincia said...

Gotta love "the sky is falling" rants.

~CM~ said...

This is not a "sky is falling" rant. No where do we say these issues will end SL. We are saying the viewer won't work and cannot ever work when they continue to use web services this badly. The proof is in the jiras web forums, abd blogs with all the people that can reliably repo the failures of these services to work and the failure of LL to provide backups. Something even many Lindens are acknowledging.