I find the discussion very interesting, but my opinions probably differ some. I don’t think that’s bad, we all have our own ideas and that’s part of being in a community! As far as the filter itself, I think the filter in search is very useful. For some gigs it might be much more critical to get fast service and for others it might mean very little. As a seller, my buyers definitely choose me for quality and effort and not speed. I never deliver late, but my delivery times are usually not set for high speed since it doesn’t work with my other daily commitments.
As a buyer, I’ve been in a rush when ordering something related to my own deadlines (book covers) and otherwise I rarely care if the seller answers immediately. I like the fact that if someone is looking for a seller who is on right now and might be able to answer questions or deliver fast, that buyer can tick the online filter and those sellers get priority. That’s awesome for new sellers, full timers, or people who deliver speedy gigs as a sales technique. From what I can tell, if you untick the online box and only filter by level and category, the ranking shifts and is more likely to display popular gigs, gigs with lots of reviews and/or gigs that are very active with lots of hits and routine deliveries. It still puts “online” sellers up high too but only if they fit the other criteria. If you untick all the filters, popular, featured, or promoted gigs seem to rank up top with offline and online mixed in.
If I need more money, I may use buyer requests and promote my gigs off-Fiverr to generate interest and I like knowing that the online option is there if I wanted to boost myself in some other way. Usually I’m not a storefront with business hours, I’m more like an “Amazon” where you can order anytime you want and I’ll deliver when my gig says I will. My reviews reflect my consistency.
Many of my friends are in the USA and are writers of one kind or another. Very few of my friends keep to an 8-6 office schedule like a retail business. I know that you stressed that in your subcategory, active sellers should be online for quite a while at a time. Since I sell in multiple areas, I don’t even really have a defined category. I’m a “doer” who lives on a free schedule as a freelancer. I wouldn’t want to be forced to be online a set number of hours to know that I’ll be ranked in search when no filters are applied. If I were automatically unlisted in search or ranked super low because I choose not to use the online filter, I would complain to Fiverr. This is just one point of view for debate, and not personal in any way.