Is SecondLife an alternative for OpenSim users?

These last couple of weeks have been problematic for many of us using OpenSim. The OSGrid, in particular, has had more than its share of downtime as a result of ongoing software upgrades, and links between regions break frequently because of incompatible software versions.

So in planning the location of an upcoming event, I started thinking: could SecondLife be an alternative to OpenSim? Sure, I’ve been to Second Life for occasional events, but I’ve never considered it as a serious platform for business.

So this week, I took a second look, and here is my quick feature comparison:

Access

My company grid in OpenSim is for staff meetings, and meetings with interns. Some of my interns are students. If they’re under 18, I can’t bring them to a location in Second Life. And, of course, if I set up a second location on the Second Life teen grid, neither I nor my other staffers would be able to join them there.

So okay, I can’t move my company region over.

How about my two home regions? I currently use them to practice my building skills, and to allow my kids — here in Boston with me — to interact with their dad, who is currently in Shanghai, by building stuff together.

I don’t pay any money for this — these two regions run on a formerly unused old family computer.

If I were to move them to Second Life, it would cost me money. Which I don’t like spending.

Also, my kids wouldn’t be able to play on the same region as their dad and their grandfather, a retired aerospace engineer.

And, finally, they’re playing at building a space ship — and Second Life doesn’t allow prims as big as OpenSim does.

Teleportation

This week, we’re holding a meeting of the Hypergrid Entrepreneur Group. Many of the members run their own grids — either large social worlds, educational communities, or small company grids like mine.

These guys all have avatars already — OpenSim avatars. Normally, we hold meetings someplace accessible by hypergrid teleportation. OSGrid, for example.

We could all meet on ReactionGrid, which has some nice conference facilities. Or at any of our standalone business grids, if one of us wants to host the event one week.  Or at EnterpriseHypergrid, where one of our members is building a conference facility.

Some of us have invested quite a bit of time into our avatars. For example, the face on my avatar comes from CyberExtruder, based on a business headshot. It took about an hour to tweak it so it looked okay. And I spent time picking out my clothes.

I don’t want to have to go through all every time I visit another grid. As a result, I tend to stick to grids that are hypergrid-enabled, and I can just teleport in.

Is SecondLife on the hypergrid? Hold on, I’ll check — no, it’s not.

I'm standing in front of a hypergrid teleportation gate at the OSGrid's Business Center. This gate goes to my company's private grid. Can it go to Second Life? Nooooo.

I'm standing in front of a hypergrid teleportation gate at the OSGrid's Business Center. This gate goes to my company's private grid. Can it go to Second Life? Nooooo.

Scalability

Say I want to hold a really big conference, and I need several regions, but only for a few hours. With OpenSim, I can load up the regions from a backup OAR file to my server — or to an Amazon server (with Sim-OnDemand)  — just for the hours that I need it. Then shut it down and save it for when I need it again.

Can I run a Second Life region in the cloud? I didn’t think so.

Behind the firewall

Say I was a school or company and needed a virtual world for internal use only. No hypergridding, nothing fancy, just running it on my own internal servers for my own internal staff and students. No outsiders, no weird sex stuff, no people with animal shapes.

With OpenSim, I can do this now. In fact, I can buy a preconfigured appliance from ReactionGrid with OpenSim already preconfigured, my choice of regions (historic sites? conference centers? school rooms?) loaded up, and with support and upgrades included to boot.

An enterprise version of Second Life isn’t expected to be released publically until later this year, and pricing still hasn’t been announced.

But I’m willing to bet that the OpenSim product — which is based on modular, open-source software, will be more configurable and less expensive.

Scripting

OpenSim allows grid operators to write code in a variety of languages, and include it into their OpenSim deployments as modules.  In-world scripts can run commands from those modules, as well as the standard LSL scripts (over 95% of all LSL functions are already supported) and special OS scripts, such as hypergrid teleport commands.

If I was building a virtual world, I would need the flexibility this offers to build my own in-game functions.

But, of course, if I was building my own virtual world, I would probably be in competition with Second Life. Not using Second Life as a platform.

Some of my colleagues are in the proces of building such virtual worlds, or have already built them. OpenSim allows them to do this in a cost-effective and flexible way.

Moving to Second Life is certainly not an option for them.

Conclusion

For these reasons, and many more, Second Life just isn’t ready for enterprise use. Maybe once they release the enterprise version of their platform, lift the age restrictions, and allow teleportation to other grids, I’ll take another look.

maria@hypergridbusiness.com'

Maria Korolov

Maria Korolov is editor and publisher of Hypergrid Business. She has been a journalist for more than twenty years and has worked for the Chicago Tribune, Reuters, and Computerworld and has reported from over a dozen countries, including Russia and China.

  • John Montgomery

    Aren't you using the client supplied by Second Life to access your Opensim? So essential you are using Second life for Enterprise use, right?

  • John —

    Actually, I'm using the Hippo client (download here: http://forge.opensimulator.org/gf/project/opensim….

    The Hippo client is pre-configured to access multiple grids, and to view the larger prims that are possible in OpenSim. Also, the next version of the client is expected to do away with the annoying 4096-region jump limit.

    So the Hippo browser is better for enterprise use. 🙂

    But you're right in pointing out that there's more to Second Life than just the server platform — there's also the browser, and some people do use that browser (by tweaking the file path) to access other grids. My technical skills weren't up to that, however — it was easier for me to just download Hippo.

    – Maria

  • While I'm not sure either OS or SL is really well suited to business (we can talk when transactions are transactional), it's good to see people standing up for OS!

    The important thing though, in my opinion, is that we need to not just have one monolithic virtual world. SL's greatest weakness is that it has a single point of failure; LL's policies. Don't like LL's policies, SL just doesn't work for you. With OS, set up your own grid if you want to, run it how you want. On the other hand, the fact that SL is a relatively known and fully featured platform (well, unless you want to get anything in or out of it) is a major win.

  • For the kind of enterprise use that is hot right now (whether in SL or OS) — that's meetings, training and conferences — transactions are a non-issue. If you do charge for a conference, it will be in the registration process — usually on your website. And, of course, you can always accept PayPal or credit card payments on your grid by simply hooking into the Web API.

    But aside from that, I see Second Life as being where AOL was at that dawn of the World Wide Web. AOL provided that there was a large potential audience for the Internet. Companies that wanted to reach had audience had to be on AOL, and get those "AOL Keywords."

    Today, AOL is nothing more than one of many portals and online content providers, though many of its ideas have become ubiquitous — email, instant messaging, a graphical interface.

    Second Life is doing the same for virtual worlds — proving that there's a market out for the the average user, not just for the fantasy WOW player, in virtual worlds.

    But the fact that SL is a big, fully-featured platform is actually part of its problem. There's too much stuff there. Specifically, too much stuff I don't want to see. If I run my own grid, I don't get the PR baggage that comes with Second Life, and I can set my own codes of behavior. For example: real names for avatars. Business casual dress code — and suits for client meetings. I can create my own, friendly log-in process for employees and clients new to OSGrid — and make it easy for them to teleport in if they already have a business-friendly avatar.

    I am jumping the gun a little bit — mass adoption won't come for another five years or so, and it might be to OpenSim, or it might be to another platform. But I really believe that the future 3D internet will look more like OpenSim than like Second Life.

    Meanwhile, for anyone looking to build a Web 3D business, they've got to get in now before all the competitors rush in. We already have two venture capitalists as members of our Hypergrid Entrepreneur Group. The funding is there. And with the down economy, this is a great time to get fantastic employees, good deals from vendors, and operated unnoticed by the big guys — until you yourself are too big to catch up with.

    — Maira

  • john montgomery

    Maria,

    The hippo client is using the Second Life Open Source client as is the RealXTend client. So you are still using the client supplied by Second life to access your OpenSim. So again you are using Second life for Enterprise use.

  • Great article! 🙂 I think the main point that will prevent Second Life from succeeding is that it's centrally administered. BITNET lost the battle with Arpanet not because it was technologically inferior (it was not), or because it was using a propietary protocol (NJE: this could have been standarized), but because it was centrally administered. People want freedom, not centrally administered, inefficient, bureauchratic behemoths. The very same idea that there would be a single, big, all-encompassing web site in which you'd have to place your web pages, subjected to arbitrary TOS, and paying hundreds of dollars, seems today simply ludicrous. The same is true of a metaverse controlled by LL.

    Indeed I think that the Lindens are well aware of that. They have no strategy, their platform is technologically stagnant, and they seem to be spending all their money in issuing press releases void of significant content but full of spin and in bragging about how great immersion is for the enterprise — but they are offering zilch to the enterprise. Webex, for example, is infinitely superior to Second Life for meetings, and it's much much cheaper — oh, and it offers what people need for meetings: desktop and application sharing, an interactive blackboard, simultaneous sharing and video… When Second Life offers all that AND immersion, I'll reconsider it as a platform for meetings. Till then, I'll continue to believe that having to exchange "immersion" for all these features is simply not an option. Oh, and at the moment most people are simply not interested in "immersion". I am, but then I am 1) a PLAYER, and 2) a technically-oriented person.

    Of course in some years all that might have changed. Or not. At the moment, and for businesses, the Lindens are selling nothing more than vapour — incredibly expensive vapour at that. Understandable. If I were an early backer, I would also like to get some ROI back for my dollars 🙂

  • Thanks for the comment, Zonja!

    I think the great thing about OpenSim is whatever feature it doesn't have — desktop and application sharing, for example — anyone can write a module for.

    And once we HAVE desktop and application sharing, I think we'll see a big take-off in using this for training environments — especially if the screens are "live" — you can point and click on them…

    — Maria