OpenSim grid growth moving to private grids

The world’s top public OpenSim-based grids slowed their growth rate this month, possibly due to the growing popularity of standalone grids. As of today, the top 40 grids totaled 11,240 regions, up 7.2 percent from 10,588 regions in mid-April.

2009-2010_opensim_region_counts

However, half of that growth was due to ongoing scalability testing on ScienceSim grid, which increased its region counts by 512 over the past month. Another big change from last month is that we’re no longer counting InWorldz as an OpenSim grid.

Meanwhile, private grids continued to gain, with the Diva Distro alone seeing 1,700 new downloads since the start of April, for up to 6,800 new regions.

One grid is bucking the trend, however, and leaving OpenSim entirely.

LEAVING OPENSIM

According to Elenia Llewellyn, cofounder and grid administrator at InWorldz, LLC, her company has decided to branch away from OpenSim, developing its server software in a new direction while also developing a new viewer.

While InWorldz is originally based off of OpenSim… we are no longer compatible to OpenSim,” Llewellyn told Hypergrid Business. InWorldz is not the first grid to drift away from the core OpenSim development path. Previously, OpenLifeGrid also cast off, and we stopped following it a few months ago.

By developing on their own, away from OpenSim, grids can offer their users better functionality, or specialized features custom-developed for the needs of particular niche audiences. The downside is higher development costs, since the grids will need to continue to stay ahead of mainline OpenSim in order to keep their customers. InWorldz regions, for example, start at $75 per month — three times the base price of ReactionGrid regions.

In addition, grids who split away from OpenSim and can no longer support access by standard OpenSim browsers will also not be able to support hypergrid teleports from the growing OpenSim-based metaverse.

For some users, this is a worthwhile trade-off. According to “Wayfinder Wishbringer,” of the Elf Clan Social Network, who does not give his (or her) real name, mainline OpenSim has failed to deliver some features that his organization requires, such as support for groups.

“Inworldz recognized OpenSim as a failing product and decided to start doing their own in-house dev work,” he said last week, announcing his group’s move from OpenSim-based ReactionGrid to InWorldz.

In addition to fully-functional groups, InWorldz also offers offline messages and inventory transfers and an in-world currency, he wrote, as well as fewer crashes.  “Elf Clan needs to go where progress is being made. That progress is obviously being made at InWorldz — and severely lacking at OpenSim.”

Accounting for these two changes lowers the effective growth rate of the top 40 public OpenSim grids to just 3.5 percent — the second lowest growth rate of this past year, and significantly lower than the 9 percent average growth rate. By comparison, Second Life grew just 0.4 percent during the past month, according to data from Grid Survey, and 8 percent since last August. OpenSim public grids grew 134 percent since August, when we first started tracking the numbers.

THE REST OF THE STORY

But growth in the public OpenSim grids is only a small part of the OpenSim growth story.

There are a number of private deployments underway, inside corporations and educational institutions, where the grids are only accessible from behind the enterprise firewall, or only to registered community members. There is no way to count how many of these grids there are, though OpenSimulator.org shows a total of 88,000 downloads of the OpenSim installer. This does not mean that there are 88,000 OpenSim grids — some people may download the installer, try it out, and then never use it. Others may download it once and then use it to run several different grids, or download a new installer to update their old version of OpenSim.

Trend numbers for OpenSim downloads are not currently being recorded, OpenSim core developer Justin Clark-Casey told Hypergrid Business. “It would certainly be nice to have these. It’s something that’s been at the back of my mind for a while but gets regularly buried under all the other high priority items.”

There are also several other installers for OpenSim, including pre-packaged installers provided by individual grids, and third-party OpenSim vendors have their own installers configured with options popular with their customers.

One of the newest, and most popular, installers for private grids is the Diva Distro, created by University of Irvine at California professor Crista Lopes, who also invented the hypergrid. Her version of OpenSim, which is a fully-configured four-region mini-grid with hypergrid access enabled, was downloaded around 1,700 times since the start of April. In addition, 800 grids have run the built-in upgrade utility since mid-March, she added.

By running a private grid rather than joining an existing, public one, organizations can control their own terms of service, user accounts, content, and limit or open access to any degree they wish. Organizations also control their own upgrade cycles and schedule their own maintenance downtime. Organizations can do the maintenance on their own if they have in-house staff with OpenSim expertise, or outsource the hosting or management to any of the growing number of OpenSim service providers.

WHERE THE GROWTH WAS

When it comes to the top public OpenSim grids, the non-profit OSGrid continued to lead this month’s growth numbers, gaining 206 regions compared to the same time last month. OSGrid allows anyone to connect a region for free, and also offers an automated region launcher, making it even easier for home-based users to set up their own worlds at no cost. It also has the biggest social community of any OpenSim grid, and counts many OpenSim core developers as members.

We’re also continuing to add new grids to our list. For example, the newly-launched PMGrid already has 56 regions, with houses and shops available for rental. Land is relatively inexpensive in OpenSim — even professionally hosted regions are a tenth the cost of those on Second Life, and we expect to see more themed grids in the future rolling out with large numbers of landscaped and built-up regions from the very start.

A region on the newly-launched PMGrid.

A region on the newly-launched PMGrid.

We’ve been asked to begin tracking user counts as well. Unfortunately, not all grids release those counts. There is also no way to independently verify user counts, while region numbers are simple to confirm.

Of those who do report the statistics, OSGrid gained 2,218 new users, for a grand total of 39,630 registered users, 5,010 of whom were active during the previous month. New World Grid reported the next largest number of users, with 7,133, and a gain of 342 over the previous month. ReactionGrid reported 5,012 users, with a gain of 238. The single bigger gainer last month was the Meta 7 grid, which attracted 507 new users, bringing its total user count to 2,720. For the complete set of the latest data on the grids that report their user statistics, see our chart here.

For the 32 public grids that release their data, there were a total of 69,354 users this month, up 4,063 from the previous month, an increase of 6.2 percent. By comparison, Second Life currently reports 19,182,210 registered users, up 1.5 percent from the previous month.

These numbers do not reflect hypergrid visitor counts. According to Wilder Westen grid manager Kai Ludwig, hypergrid visitors currently account for 50 percent of the visitors to his grid. We will begin tracking these statistics as soon as the OpenSim grids start collecting and reporting them.

May Region Counts

[Update: You can browse all hypergrid-enabled public OpenSim grids with Hyperica, the directory of hypergrid destinations. Directory indexes more than 100 shopping and freebie store locations. Updated hypergrid travel directions here.]

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.

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  • An excellent and balanced article. I would like to point out one correction for the sake of Inworldz: they are no more expensive than any other grid. While Reaction Grid does commendably offer $25 sims (the "Golden Price" of VR future imo)… those sims only support about 6,000 prims. The $75 sims of Inworldz (a common pricing level among grids) offers 35,000 prims– clearly a significant difference. Reaction Grid's similarly-primed sims also cost $75.

    I'm not attempting to "market" Inworldz (I'm a customer not an owner)… just setting matters straight. But in addition to the thought that groups separating from OpenSim bear higher costs (which in truth, is correct), those costs are not necessarily passed on to customers. Inworldz almost uniquely does not charge a setup fee for their sims… making those $75 sims far more obtainable and affordable than elsewhere.

    While I do wish that Inworldz could offer $25 low-prim sims, it is their decision that a single product is easier to support and better overall for the grid. I cannot fault that logic… since $25 sims would definitely require cutting corners somewhere. Perhaps in the future $25 sims will be common and totally viable… but that day is not yet here.

    That Inworldz is "more expensive" than Reaction Grid was the only obvious factual glitch I found in the article. Other than that concept, I found it most informative and an enjoyable read.

  • This is a great article, good stats, It is very important to note, that OpenSimulator is very much an alpha product still, its got a long way to go before its at version 1.0 or is even beta testing. While many people are attempting to use OpenSimulator as a commercial product, It is important to remember this product has not even been beta tested yet, The OpenSimulator team has always preferred that if Individuals or companies are going to use OpenSimulator for commercial ventures that they support the code themselves and not rely on the core developers to make their business a success. I am glad to see these private grids taking responsibility for the code themselves, because in my honest opinion the software as it is in the OpenSimulator core still has a long way to go before It is a truly viable commercial product. Thanks for the great stats reporting and thanks to all the testers who help make OpenSimulator what it is.

    [WORDPRESS HASHCASH] The poster sent us '0 which is not a hashcash value.

  • Nice article, Maria. Just to clarify, OpenSim has had a working groups implementation for quite some time from the excellent mcortez at http://code.google.com/p/flotsam/wiki/XmlRpcGroup

    It isn't always so obvious since it isn't bundled with core OpenSim, but I've been using it myself with few issues for quite some time. It should be compatible with OpenSim 0.6.9.

    As for other people taking OpenSim and doing their own private development, that's their prerogative and perfectly permissible under OpenSim's BSD license.

    However, as I've written before, I think that this is a short-sighted attitude when it comes to core code. As the codebases drift apart these offshoots will lose intellectual input from OpenSim's open source developers and from the wider OpenSim and open-source virtual worlds community. Contributions of stability fixes (rather than private features) would benefit everybody and be a great way of giving back some of the enormous benefit that these grids derive from OpenSim.

  • Justin —

    I completely agree with you. In addition, branching off from mainline OpenSim code creates two problems for grid managers themselves:

    * Over time, OpenSim developers will roll out new features. Grid managers who've moved off the main code base will need to roll out their own versions of all these features, or their users will start complaining — or leave. As the OpenSim project continues to gain steam — and it seems to be doing that — it will get more and more expensive to keep up. And, since OpenSim is undergoing some major under-the-cover structural changes, it will be increasingly more difficult to switch back over.

    * Meanwhile, more and more grids are turning on hypergrid teleports (we're indexing 48 hypergrid-enabled public grids right now, and are adding more steadily). With Hypergrid 1.5's added security features, the growth rate will increase — and jump again with Hypergrid 2.0. As a grid gets further and further away from mainline OpenSim, especially if it also rolls out an incompatible viewer, it will become difficult to enable hypergrid teleports, cutting the grid off from the rest of the metaverse.

    — Maria

  • A thought on the valid point that grids separating from OpenSim dilutes productivity: I agree. I'm sure than Elenia and Inworldz agrees too. It would be great if all the coders could get together and progress mutually toward a common goal. However we don't really see that happening. I've spoken with grid owners and extensively with Inworldz (my practice before deciding on a home for my large group)… and the issue is multi-fold. First, there appears to be so much in-fighting, disrespectful attitude, insulting and drama in the OpenSim project that it's literally driving away talented devs who would otherwise work with the project. Secondly, we see large grids who are using the OpenSim product, but contributing nothing back to it. They're not doing their own dev work and are in effect leeching off the work of others and turning a profit in the process. In the words of one dev, "Why should I do work so that people who aren't contributing to OpenSim can use my work to make money?" That is a very valid question.

    The difficulty is one of licensing, and it's a double-edged sword. On the one hand, we want OpenSim code to be as open-source and openly available as possible. On the other hand, the idea of grids pulling considerable profit while contributing nothing to the project does indeed gall. It almost seems as if we need a special license on OpenSim that states, "This project is fully open to all on a non-profit basis. Those using this code on a for-profit basis must enter into a special licensing agreement which will require contributing to the project on either a monetary or code basis." And of course, that's really not going to fly, is it? Who wants to have to administer such a license.

    So, serious companies who intend to do a good job are branching off and doing their own work. I can't blame them. As Justin states, the OpenSim license gives them full permission to do so. And as Nebadon states, "in my honest opinion the software as it is in the OpenSimulator core still has a long way to go before It is a truly viable commercial product". A more accurate statement I've not heard. I'd go into details of the things that are totally messed up on OpenSim, but that would be a very lengthy list (one I've already covered on the Elf Clan blog site). Frankly, at this time OpenSim is system design, coding and security nightmare that needs completely re-written from the ground up. It's biggest mistake was to try to do things the Linden Lab way– and it got worse from there. They tried to clone when they should have improved… and they're failing to reach the needed goals.

    That's why we went with Inworldz. They're not sitting on their tails and letting others do the work. They're not foisting core OpenSim coding on their customers. They're working night and day to totally re-write the package module by module. I think that is not only sensible– but commendable. At least they're working to give customers an alternative to $295 a month sims and self-serving corporate attitude. Where OpenSim is failing– Inworldz is succeeding. Personally, I think the entire project could take a few hints from that company.

  • BTW, one minor response to the original blog: "“Wayfinder Wishbringer,” of the Elf Clan Social Network, who does not give his (or her) real name…"

    Are you aware or unaware that these are VIRTUAL worlds… and on those worlds Wayfinder Wishbringer IS my "real name"? ; )

    Or are you trying to mix real life and virtual life? I learned long ago that's like trying to mix oil and water and is a task best left untried. There is too much drama, harassment, griefing and problems on not only VR, but the Internet itself, for someone to be foolish enough to mix real life with virtual life.

    We establish "real" identities on these worlds, and our quote "real names" unquote have absolutely nothing to do with that. My virtual name IS my "real name"… one that everyone who knows me recognizes and responds to. So I don't know what point the writer was trying to make, but I think it an irrelevant one to say the least. ; )

  • @Wayfinder – I'm really not sure what drama you're referring to – I haven't seen any evidence of this at all and I've been a core developer in OpenSim for more than 2 years now. Of course, there are sometimes disagreements to work out and difficulties to negotiate – but this is part and parcel of any healthy open-source project.

    I would not say that people who use OpenSim but don't directly contribute code are 'leeching' at all. Indeed, I would say that such people are immensely valuable in any number of ways, whether through writing tutorials, revealing bugs or building community. Indeed, just the fact that they are using OpenSim and being open about it ultimately promotes the project and encourages more people to the community.

    However, I do think that those who are producing core fixes are far better served contributing them back, both for pragmatic reasons (they no longer have to maintain them and they get to participate directly in the wider evolution of the metaverse) and as a thankyou to the community whose code they are using.

    Another thing I'd like to point out is that virtual world grids (such as InWorldz) and OpenSim itself are really very different things. OpenSim's ultimate aim is to provide a base 'server' on top of which different types of virtual environment can be run. One could use it standalone to run individual applications (e.g. serious games, architecture, classroom environments, etc.) or to create a large single grid. These are rather distinct configurations (though a future hypergrid could allow you to navigate between them just as one navigates between a website running from somebody's closet and Facebook today).

    As such, OpenSim is not configured to provide a turn-key large grid solution – I think that's always going to require extra work. I see a very direct comparison today with large websites (e.g. Facebook, Google, Twitter). These aren't hewn from some single mega-website project, but rather are put together with any number of open-source (and proprietary) components, such as Apache, MySQL and Ruby on Rails. And the developers who do this construction contribute back (and run) open-source projects because they recognize the value in being part of an ecosystem larger than themselves.

  • Myself i don’t see any drastic changes in InWorldz it’s still compatible i can log in using hippo so for me it basicly still is OpenSim…