The latest Big Thing is the rollout of Direct Delivery, which is set to supersede the old Marketplace magic boxes - indeed, to supersede them entirely within the next couple of months. Like a good little Resident, I have already got my free commemorative Linden Bear, which appears toasting marshmallows over a fire made of burning magic boxes. (Some people - particularly, those whose business models involved renting out storage space for magic boxes - might consider that tactless. Never mind.)
The whole Direct Delivery thing has been rolled out with the grace, clarity and efficiency we've come to expect of LL (the spec will be such-and-such! It's too late to change now! There are bugs! We're changing the spec! In response to user demand! No, for technical reasons! No, because we always meant to do it this way!); however, on balance, it's a positive change in the operation of the Marketplace. Magic boxes date from the days when Marketplace was the independent XStreet, before LL bought it out; they're a workable but untidy bridge between the outside web and the world of the grid, and it makes much more sense, really, to have the whole process handled internally. There are teething troubles, of course. There are always teething troubles.
However... are there wider implications? It's one step further along the road of divorcing SL shopping from the inworld environment, and that is changing the character of the grid. XStreet made it much easier to find specific things than looking through stores and shopping malls inworld, and LL's promotion of Marketplace as a tool has seen quite a number of stores moving content outworld; I can think of several who have much reduced their inworld holdings, and some who've moved their operations entirely onto Marketplace.
Now, you can argue that SL is not made any less beautiful by the disappearance of shopping malls... but there are implications. For some of us, shopping is a social activity - we will happily wander around stores and call out to our friends to come and see something neat; with fewer stores, there are fewer chances to do that. More importantly, though, people with inworld stores are paying LL (either directly, or through a landlord) for the prims they use.... Are LL shooting themselves in the foot by promoting a shopping model that directly affects their own revenue stream? Possibly, possibly not; LL takes a cut of Marketplace transactions, and if those go up, that might offset their loss in revenue from sim rental. But that still leaves one problem - with one fewer reason to own land, fewer people will bother. So... will stores inworld be replaced by beautiful new builds, personal art projects and the like? Or just by more swathes of abandoned land?
It's by no means an unimportant issue, this; it affects the nature of the land rental market, too. Spaces which might be desirable, for a small-to-medium shop, aren't going to be nearly as appealling as a private home or an art build or a club.... A shift in land usage is already apparent, and streamlining the outworld buying process is only going to make the shift faster. I really hope LL have thought through all the implications of their policies, here - and I wish I could feel more sanguine about that.