Many people think the Lindens are still using traffic metrics in Search, and that while lessening its role, are still somehow including it in their Google Search Appliance relevance in Viewer 2.x
You can still see it working in the old Viewer 1.23, and third-party viewers based on the old 1.23 viewer -- if you search under "search/places" the parcels sort by traffic.
But in fact, what has happened is that the Lindens have completely killed off traffic, stealthily, without telling anyone, to avoid a huge outcry among the user and particularly the merchant population.
Just now, the Search Times (whoever that is now) has appeared and shut a JIRA entry that had a huge amount of involvement for years:
I remember what a fight we had trying to get this "meta issue," framed tendentiously by Torley to include "keep it" not just "get rid of it" and had to settle for "supplement it" or "change it".
The way to deal with gaming of traffic was not to heed a minority of people who were tired of being in an arms race with other clubs or furniture stores and thought other metrics would reward them in search; the way was to enforce the TOS and JIRA solutions that developed after much effort to get the Lindens to enforce action against the gaming of traffic.
They couldn't do this persuasively, however, not because they didn't have manpower, or the problem was too great (it really wasn't -- there are 32,000 islands, there are a dozen Lindens to work Governance, and the overwhelming number of islands have no stores on them, and the overwhelming number of stores did not game traffic with bots, camp chairs, etc.)
They couldn't do this because if they went after certain businesses, their own income would decrease, and their own favouritism system would start collapsing. They had to exempt some people from the rules (and I suspect even game their ranking through their own coding, as FlipperPAY used to do for his lovely wife Jenny-fur, who was coded to show up first on the old SL Boutique.
The Lindens spun a line for a while that traffic wasn't removed, but was less important. Now they are coming clean and simply closing the JIRA:
This is an old issue, but we wanted to close it appropriately.
In the past, we promoted and listed places according to their perceived traffic. This created an huge incentive to falsify traffic. Many systems for camping and fake "bots" were created that made systems report and boost an incorrect population. Having residents show up in places they think have people, but are actually empty is a poor experience and reflects badly on Second Life. Therefore, we have deemphasized traffic and do not plan on return to the previous system. We are continually evaluating better ways of helping people discover new places in Second Life and have ongoing projects in this area.
Let the record show that this isn't closed appropriately. It's closed by executive fiat. It is misrepresented entirely.
I can't even be sure that the new CEO, Rod Humble, even understands these issues yet.
To be sure, writing that they "de-emphasize" traffic doesn't sound like "removal," but I think we can conclude this is a euphemism if they are no longer willing to keep only a JIRA to discuss this issue.
The reality is that a lot of traffic is merited and useful and this idea that people go to empty sims that are gamed is not the norm. It does happen, but to claim this is only the experience newbies have, and a reason to remove traffic is completely tendentious and manipulative. Everyone knows there are authentically trafficked popular hangouts, and people can sort by interest and word and rating and see some that really have a marker for being authentically popular with their traffic.
It's not as if gaming of search in a 100 other ways won't occur anyway.
In a funny way, "1776" seems like a perfect number for this issue because it signals the independence of the merchant and user class from the game gods. Traffic, by being visible, is democratic and transparent. People rapidly begin to tell what is likely gamed and skip it. And what is deserved is there as a marker of attractiveness.
By having that marker that is resident-produced and resident-read, the game gods can't skew the search their way -- the way Google does for all of us, rewarding ideological brethren like Wikipedia and using secret algorithms that only they can ultimately make bank on.
Traffic is a system that enables people instantly to see something about a place -- information that was valuable even in a setting where it is gamed.
When you can't use traffic for a marker, and the ranking is based on all kinds of crazy shit like how many prims you put on your lot or how big your lot is, people feel they are manipulated and powerless. To be sure, there are those who have figured out this game and gamed it or worked within its rules legitimately and aren't bothered by it.
I've often thought, ever since the Lindens promised to remove traffic as an ideological matter, that what we needed to do is restore it as residents. To create kiosks that measured visitors and websites that posted leadership information from trusted sites that live inspections and reporting could prove were not gamed. This seems like a system that might be a bit difficult to set up at first but once set up could be an incredible boon for independent marketing without the Lindens. So I hope someone will do this. I'd be happy to work with anyone doing this and have ideas for it.
The problem is that any such system would rely on traffic numbers still rendering on parcels, even if no longer used in search. And the Lindens and their fanz who hate traffic might lobby to have this democratic marker removed from the parcel info, defeating any creative replacement of the system.
In that case, some other kind of visitor trackers and voters could be devised, and I hope this will happen.
Traffic is a great sweetener for people's day in SL, and a great boon. It lets them know if they have made/done the right thing that people like. When you see traffic fall off somewhere, it can be a signal that something is wrong on that parcel, some blockage or problem. Too much traffic can also be a sign of squatters or griefers. It's an important signal in any rental management operation, and I think probably there will be systems that spring up that help people track this, but it will be costly and burdensome -- right now it's right in the viewer and easily seen in 1.23; it's much harder to see but still there in 2.x; soon it may be deleted altogether.
Second Life has gotten so much less fun than it used to be.