Search Project Viewer released

Linden Lab have released a new Viewer Project to sit alongside their exiting Mesh-enabled Alternative Viewer. This is the Search Project Viewer, which is promising to deliver a new and better Search experience in Viewer 2.

Given that Search has long been a contention where Viewer 2 is concerned – where it initially started out as a massive step backwards in so many respects – the fact that LL have moved it to a dedicated Viewer should be welcome news, in that it gives people the opportunity to properly test the new features, provide feedback and for LL to finally ensure that Search is providing what the user community wants and expects.

I’m not going to go into a long review of the new engine – Ciaran Laval has already done that, and I see no reason to repeat the work he’s done. Certainly the new Search looks very promising, although some of the more irritating problems with the engine remain – such as the number of steps you have to go through simply to be able to see the information you want to get to, regardless of the fact that the Search engine can finally now locate it.

What is interesting to note is that Linden Lab state in the blog post that:

New search will soon be available to you in the official SL Viewer and we will not be implementing it for the 1.23 Viewer. To be clear, you can still use the 1.23 Viewer, but search functionality will be impaired once new search is released into general availability, after the test period. 

Specifically, searches using the ALL and GROUP tabs of the 1.23.x Search will be impaired. So, where does this leave existing 1.x-based Viewers? Again the blog post provides a part of the answer:

 (We cannot speak to which Third-Party Viewers will adopt the new search technology.) All of our development efforts are focused on making SL Viewer with Basic and Advanced modes exceptional for all Residents–new and seasoned. 

In other words, as far as the “official” version of Viewer 1, already frozen in development in many respects, this pretty much marks the end of the road, and it will by up to TPV developers themselves to overcome any functional impairments in search by adopting the new “search 2”. How easy / difficult this might be remains to be seen, but it would certainly seem to add to the burden 1.x TPV developers are having to carry in their attempts to keep things going.

Given that many are already producing Viewer 2 alternatives (Dolphin 2, Firestorm, Kokua, Kirstenlee’s S21, to name but four), this might push them towards making a full and final switch to Viewer 2-based development and allowing any 1.x Viewer offerings they have depreciate.  This many not be a popular move among the wider user community should it happen, but the fact is – and Oz Linden has pointed out – there is a lot coming down the tracks in terms of new functionality within the Viewer that trying to maintain two code bases, or simply trying to backport functionality into the older code, may simply reach a point where it is no longer viable.

If you wish to try out the Project Search alternative Viewer, you can fins the downloads on the Alternative Viewer wiki page.

Web Profiles – privacy leak?

Tateru Nino posts on a privacy issues surrounding SL web Profiles – or more particularly, the “old” profile API utilised by 1.x Viewers and the likes of Firestorm.

Although there is an issue here, I’m not entirely with her on her take on the situation, or in the options she provides as potential solutions.

Essentially, the problem lies in the fact that people seem to be under the impression that setting the privacy options on a web Profile via my.secondlife.com will “hide” the selected parts of the Profile from being viewed in-world. For example: if Groups to be viewed by Friends in my.secondlife.com, people take it to mean only Friends can view the Groups information when viewing the Profile in-world.

While this is the case for those people using the official Viewer 2, it is not true for anyone using 1.x-based Viewers or some TPVs based on Viewer 2. For these people, your entire Profile remains fully visible, regardless of the Privacy settings active on mt.secondlife.com.

This is because 1.x-based Viewers (and Viewers such as Firestorm) use the “old” 1.x Profile API, which has no privacy settings associated with it, and it simply doesn’t care what has been set via my.secondlife.com.

As such, and while acknowledging the situation, I’m hard-pressed to call it a “privacy” issue in its truest sense; the behaviour exhibited by the API is exactly what it has always been – no more, no less. In that regard, it’s certainly incorrect to describe the resultant situation as a bug with the 1.x Profile API.

Rather than being a matter of “privacy” with regards what is viewable on Profiles in-world, I’d actually suggest that this problem is actually an unfortunate outcome of another poorly worded communique from Linden Lab coupled with taking the “easiest” route to providing a solution.

Let’s put matters in perspective. The privacy settings on my.secondlife.com came about not to limit the viewability of Profiles in-world, but rather to address users’ concerns that my.secondlife.com initially made it far too easy for non-SL users casually browsing the web to see people’s avatar Profiles. Unfortunately, when LL moved to fix the matter (and very clumsily so, in the first pass), Q Linden issued a blog post that unintentionally linked the web aspects of privacy with the in-world viewing of Profiles; something that was possibly exacerbated by the clumsy manner in which “privacy” was first invoked.   As a result, some people have become confused.

Unless LL unequivocally state it is their intention to enable the blocking of certain parts of a person’s Profile from in-world viewing (and there are actually valid arguments for this), then I’d dispute Tateru’s view on how to resolve this matter.

Far from there only being two options open to LL (backport the privacy controls to the 1.x API or to shut down that API entirely), there is actually a third. It’s this: add the necessary clarification to the privacy settings page on my.secondlife.com. It’s around 10-15 minutes work at most. The wording itself is pretty simple:

“Please note: These privacy settings apply to how your profile is seen at my.secondlife.com or by residents using the official Viewer 2. Residents using older Viewers and third-party Viewers may be able to see your full profile in-world, regardless of the settings made here. Please ensure you only supply information you wish to be made “public” within Second Life, and ensure your profile remains within our Community Standards guidelines.”