Timetable for Changes to In-World Search

This past Tuesday afternoon, Nya Linden of the Search Dev Team made a relatively quiet but monumental post on the Second Life Forums. Titled “Search Back-end Engine Update“, the details she laid out set a concrete timeline for changes to the In-World Search service that so many Merchants depend on. As of this writing, there have been no comments or replies to her post, I think partly because it’s posted in the SL Viewer Forum, but also because I’m not sure everyone understands what it means and how it will affect them and their businesses. In today’s post, I will be digging into the full meaning and ramifications of the (rapidly) upcoming changes.

The Date Is Set

Nya sets the date for the change in her very first sentence. She states “On July 27th, Search will be moving all web-based searching to the updated backend engine…”. Yes, that’s less than two weeks away. That’s not much time to get ready. But you’re probably wondering “Ready for what?”

What Is The Back-end Engine?

In computer lingo, the “Back-end Engine” is the program or software system that does the work or performs the service. For In-World Search, there are two Back-end Engines: One is the GSA6 that is used now by all 1.x Viewers and the other is the new SOLR/Lucene based Search System that is often referred to as “V2 Search”. These two search engines calculate and return “Relevant” results much differently from each other. I blogged about this new V2 Search in a previous post entitled “Yet Another Stab at In-World Search“.

You can read Linden Lab’s official announcement about the new Search on their Blog post “Test Out New Search, Delivering More Relevant, Faster Results“. If you want to compare the two Back-end Engines, you can use the two SL Search Pages hosted on our website:

The First Most Obvious Change

When July 27th rolls around and they complete the changeover to the new search engine, the above two links will return the exact same results; prior to that day they will return wildly different results. This is because on the 27th, Linden Lab will retarget all Search Queries that use the web-based services now employing the GSA6 to use the new SOLR/Lucene engine. The second link above uses a special “Bridge Service” the Search Dev Team created specifically to help people migrate and prepare for the new search engine. Unfortunately, it’s been rather underutilized.

If your Store or Parcel is currently optimized for (or even accidentally ranking well for) the GSA6 “V1” Search, on July 27th you can most likely expect your listing to disappear. The new search engine calculates relevancy using a lot of different parameters and thus returns results that are radically different. If you aren’t prepared for this change and your income is dependent on customers finding you using In-World Search, after July 27th you can expect your sales to drop drastically.

Welcome Back Groups and Avatars

During the “breaking in” phase of the GSA6 search engine last year, the Search Dev Team jiggered around the results returned by Search All so that Groups and Avatar Profiles were no where to be found. This was in response to a loud hew and cry from the Merchant Community that insisted that people using In-World Search were primarily trying to find a Place (and most often a store or shop). A side-effect result was that it made finding a particular Avatar Profile or Group rather difficult. If you didn’t get the spelling exactly right, you’d never find it.

The new V2 Search brings back Groups and Avatar Profiles to the Search All results. You can use the “Filter” buttons on the left-hand side of the full web-based search to restrict the results to just the type you wish to see, but by default every type will be returned. It remains to be seen if this will be a good thing or a bad thing. My personal opinion is it won’t be well received, but I also have to admit a bias here in that the real money spent on In-World Search is spent on promoting Places (parcels and stores) and little if any is spent on promoting Group or Avatar Profiles.

Open the new “V2” Web-based Search Page

Note that you may need to log into your Dashboard (on secondlife.com) before you can view anything other than G-Rated results.

Viewer 1.x Will Be Affected

Statements made in the various official posts about this new search system led a lot of people to believe that Search All within 1.x codebase Viewers would be pretty much disabled when they made the changeover. Thankfully they have refined the actual effects as Nya states in her post.

“Viewer 1 – All and Groups tabs will be moved to the new backend search engine.  They will look the same, but the results will be ranked differently. Other tabs will not be affected.”

This is because 1.x codebase Viewers use the web-based search service to retrieve their results. On July 27th, even though the Viewer will be making calls to the same URL, it will instead be “talking to” the new search engine thus it will receive the same results as Viewer 2 and all other V2 searches.

Not 50/50 – More Like 0/100

Quite a few folks have been pegging their hopes to the fact that the Second Life user base is firmly welded to their 1.x Viewers. The reasoning being that if people aren’t switching over to LL’s Viewer 2 then they will still be okay … after all a large number of shoppers will be using V1 Search. Well, hate to dash your hopes folks but … just ain’t so.

The Search All tab in 1.x Viewers will begin returning the same V2 Search results on July 27th including the reappearance of Group and Avatar Profiles. The Relevancy will be V2 style and not the GSA6 based relevancy we have now. Furthermore the newest releases of the various TPV Viewers (Firestorm for example) have V2 Search on by default.

This is important to note, so I’m going to say it again clearly:

As of July 27th, virtually every single access to In-World Search will return results based on the new SOLR/Lucene Search Engine … the GSA6 ranking and results will virtually vanish overnight.

Are you starting to panic yet?

Getting Ready For July 27th

We’ve done our best to get the tools ready for you to survive the change. As we mentioned in our previous post “In-World Search – V2 Search Bot Released” we have created and released a version of Search Bot that will let you track your ranking using the new V2 SOLR/Lucene search engine in addition to* the existing V1 Search. We hope to have the V2 Spider Catcher and V2 Spim Prammer ready by this weekend.

If you depend on income from your In-World business or you have in any way optimized your parcel or store to rank better in the existing GSA6 based search, you should take the time now to investigate how this change will affect you and take action now. Time is short folks, and those that don’t pay attention to this monumental change will be left on the starting line wondering why their sales are suddenly in the dumper.


* – You must use both the Search Bot v2.8 and Search Bot V2 on the same parcel to track Search Results for both GSA6 and the new SOLR/Lucene Search Engines.


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Comments

5 Comments on Timetable for Changes to In-World Search

  1. Ferenc on Thu, 14th Jul 2011 12:57 PM
  2. Wow What happened to the 60 days notice? Was That unofficial?

    I realy hoped they would lift it over the summer and give THE new search à good testing and Some major finetuning.

    V2 search is so messy still with all THE groups, regions and even lands of 16m2 appearing in results i just didnt want to spend too much time on yet.. Hmmm well Thx for THE update darius

  3. Darrius Gothly on Thu, 14th Jul 2011 1:05 PM
  4. @Ferenc – The 60 days notice applies only to the termination of the existing web-based API. Because 1.x Viewers (like the original LL Viewer, Phoenix, etc.) use that interface, the 60 days notice will give users of those viewers time to switch to a newer V2 codebase viewer. However the actual results will be switched over to the new SOLR/Lucene Engine on July 27th.

  5. Cindy Bolero on Tue, 19th Jul 2011 11:45 AM
  6. What does this mean? Do I need to buy a thing called Search Bot for my parcel? Can someone briefly explain?

    * – You must use both the Search Bot v2.8 and Search Bot V2 on the same parcel to track Search Results for both GSA6 and the new SOLR/Lucene Search Engines.

  7. Darrius Gothly on Tue, 19th Jul 2011 3:25 PM
  8. @Cindy – The Search Results you see in v1.x Viewers now (that would be LL’s Viewer 1, Phoenix and the like) are derived using the GSA6 (Google Search Appliance). That’s the In-World Search that’s been active since early 2010. As of the 27th of this month, all Viewers … v1.x, V2, Phoenix, Firestorm, etc. … will get their Search Results only from the new SOLR/Lucene search engine. Search Bot v2.8 only tracks results from the GSA6, but as of July 27th that will no longer be the case. Search Bot V2 only tracks the SOLR/Lucene search results, and those will be the only results returned after the 27th.

    I recommend that IF you are going to purchase a Search Bot .. and you only need to do that IF you want to track Search Results for your Parcel .. purchase the Search Bot V2. Keep in mind it is NOT mandatory to purchase anything .. the Search Bot is only needed if you want it to track your rank in Search for you. You can do everything it does manually, it just takes more work is all.

  9. Sam on Tue, 19th Jul 2011 4:39 PM
  10. My partner and I have already run into the difference in result sorting. Already understanding that we needed to alter our description to ensure a better position in the V2 search, the news is just a little worse that on the 27th we will lose our placement to all viewers.

    Our problem is in understanding exactly how the results are fetched, how the relevance is determined. We’ve been jockeying our description around quite a bit with few results. Any pointers would be greatly appreciated!