InWorldz develops own scripting engine

InWorldz has taken a further step way from mainline OpenSim Tuesday with the announcement of a proprietary scripting engine, called Phlox, which is expected to enter beta testing this week.

The new scripting engine promises to support 99 percent of existing Second Life scripts, with increased speed and stability.

Scripts are used to add interactivity and functionality to three-dimensional objects. For example, scripts make doors open and shut, make virtual pets grow and breed, make vehicles move, and make virtual weapons cause damage. But too many scripts on a single region can quickly slow down performance — or cause regions to crash.

The news was met positively by InWorldz residents, but could also potentially create some long-terms problems both for InWorldz and their customers.

David Daeschler

Phlox was developed by InWorldz partner and software architect David Daeschler, also known as Tranquillity Dexler in-world.

“Phlox has been a long time coming — just ask any of our residents!” grid co-founder Beth Reischl told Hypergrid Business. Reischl is also known as Elenia Llewellyn on the InWorldz grid and on its forums. “It’s been a steady work in progress by the developers once Tranq fleshed out how he wanted it to work and many conversations we had based on the failings of the current engines.”

This isn’t the first time that InWorldz has made changes to the OpenSim software on which the grid operates. InWorldz originally started with the 0.6.5 version of the OpenSim code base, and modified it to make it more stable and resilient.

But that version of OpenSim dates back to May of 2009. Since then, the OpenSim developers have improved the code substantially, first with a significant stability improvement in 0.6.9 (currently used by ReactionGrid and their client grids) and, last summer, with 0.7, which included a complete rebuild of the OpenSim architecture to make it more stable. In addition, 0.7 supports Second Life viewer 2, media-on-a-prim, and the more secure Hypergrid 1.5 protocol for teleporting between grids. Later, experimental versions of OpenSim even offer Second Life-compatible mesh support.

By forking off from mainline OpenSim, InWorldz is now in a position to race to stay ahead of the army of open source developers working on improving OpenSim — and with each new custom developed feature, it becomes that much harder to switch back over to the standard distribution of the software. Meanwhile, other grids are able to take advantage of OpenSim improvements without having to pay for any of the development costs that InWorldz has to incur.

InWorldz has also invested substantially in grid services such as currency support and user and region management. But third-party vendors like PioneerX are now offering similar technology to mainstream OpenSim grid operators at low cost ($41 a month without in-world currency, $65 a month with). 3rd Rock Grid, for example, recently scrapped its own grid management system and switched over to the PioneerX platform in order to avoid the hassles — and the costs — of maintaining its own technology. By continuing to invest in its own proprietary technology, InWorldz will continue to increase its overhead costs in comparison to other grids.

(Image courtesy InWorldz.)

Another potential problem is hypergrid connectivity. Today, hypergrid allows users to take objects from one grid to another — something that many commercial grids, like InWorldz, Avination, SpotOn3D, and 3rd Rock Grid prefer not happen. However, future versions of hypergrid are expected to offer fine-grained controls that allow grid owners to keep content restricted to their grid, or allow it to travel only to approved, secure grids.

InWorldz residents may, at that point, start demanding hypergrid connectivity to be able to visit friends, events, or shopping destinations on other grids.

New scripts can add to switching costs

Residents of InWorldz currently face the same barriers to switching to other grids as do those of Second Life. Individual bjects can be exported, but only if the resident has created the object. To move a script from one grid to another, users have to open it up and copy-and-paste it. And full regions and inventories cannot be exported in the form of OAR and IAR file — a security measure designed to protect in-world content creators. OAR and IAR exports a common feature on open grids and with many OpenSim hosting providers.

The new Phlox scripting engine, however, may add additional barriers to moving.

“We will be able to add more to the LSL with Phlox as we see features and requests put in by our residents, as we tweak and fine tune the engine,” said Reischl.

What this means is that Phlox will eventually be able to execute commands that aren’t available on other OpenSim grids, requiring scripts to be rewritten.

Meanwhile, the likelihood of other grids offering Phlox support is low.

“We will not be releasing this as open source,” Reischl said. “We do have interested parties for licensing, however, we have not really discussed further if we wish to pursue that path yet.”

InWorldz growth steady

InWorldz region counts.

InWorldz is currently the third-largest OpenSim grid, having recently lost its second-place position to another commercial competitor, Avination. But it continues to show steady growth in both regions and new users.

More data about OpenSim growth rates is available on our statistics section.

Will the growth continue? Even though InWorldz prices are higher than average OpenSim region rental rates, it does offer a substantial savings over Second Life, with a high degree of security and intellectual property control.

Last year, InWorldz became the first grid to officially register as a “safe harbor” for intellectual property with the U.S. Copyright Office. So far, the only other OpenSim grid to do so is SpotOn3D, though Avination does not need to register since it is based in the U.K. (Read full story about copyright protection on OpenSim grids here.)

But the main differentiator for InWorldz is its community.

In a survey conducted in November by Hypergrid Business, InWorldz ranked higher than the average OpenSim grid for its community, content, and support.

However, its ratings for technology were in line with other OpenSim grids — a sign that in November, at least, users didn’t see a substantial technology advantage in InWorldz.

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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.

  • Wayfinder

    BTW, as for Phlox and whether other grids will accept that language… I don't think that's an issue. Phlox is for use on Inworldz. Now myself, sure, I'd love to see a whole planet of cooperative grids all sharing excellent code and making Second Life irrelevant. But rose-colored-glasses off… that's just not happening is it? Phlox is intended to stabilize the Inworldz platform by providing a better scripting foundation. What other grids think of Phlox is, I believe, fairly irrelevant.

  • Wayfinder —

    I've been asking around about your list of items that InWorldz has that you haven't been able to find in other grids.

    Most hosting providers support groups, and many grids have convertible currency (including all 26 grids that use OMC).

    And here's info from Melanie Thiekler, who runs the Avination grid:

    "We have fully functional groups (excluding group voting, which doesn't exist in viewer 2, and group accounting and I doubt iwz have group accounting)."

    "We have fully functional profiles."

    "We have coalesced objects and also support inventory links (which iwz does not)."

    "We have a fully functional economy and our currency is traded on several independent exchanges, which theirs is not."

    "We have a fully tested and proven out improved performance, true microthreaded script engine, and had it since we started."

    "We have group roles working as expected from SL. Our estate tools work as in SL as well, that means the estate level settings will actually set the entire estate, not just one sim."

    Some grids prefer not to have currency, in-world land sales, and so on. These include many private grids (such as my company grid), many educational grids and non-profits such as OSGrid.

    And, again, I'm not saying any particular approach is better than any other. I'm just saying that there are risks to getting too far away from mainline OpenSim. Those risks may be worth it, but folks should be aware of what the are.

  • Tranquillity Dexler

    I wasn't going to post here, but I find what you just pasted out highly ironic.

    “We have coalesced objects and also support inventory links (which iwz does not).”

    Interesting.. As far as I was aware OpenSim trunk is still missing this feature. Why is an opensim core developer keeping changes from opensim?

    “We have a fully tested and proven out improved performance, true microthreaded script engine, and had it since we started.”

    Interesting. That's also not available in opensim trunk. Not sure how you're considering this a plus for them and a negative for us Maria, but it looks like you've got some more investigation to do as far as why opensim core developers are holding back changes from opensim.

    The above should also clarify and solidify why our major changes aren't being committed either. Our changes are being made fully independently and for the benefit of our customers.

    Apples to apples.

  • I personally don't see anything wrong with keeping code proprietary. And Avination has just as much right to develop custom stuff as InWorldz does, as PioneerX does, as ReactionGrid does.

    What I was saying is that if a grid gets too far away from mainline OpenSim code, it could cause problems in the future. The benefits of proprietary technology have to be balanced against potential risk of lock-in.

    It's like buying an iPad, versus waiting for the Android tablets to come out. With the iPad, you're locked into iTunes — but you get a very nice device, and you get it now. With the Android, you get a bigger choice of devices and more freedom to download apps, but the app selection isn't as great, and neither is the user interface.

    Personally? I'd prefer to get the iPad, and get it now, rather than waiting. I don't mind the lock-in risks because I like the Apple environment. But I can see why some companies would prefer to wait for the Android.

  • Tranquillity Dexler

    "I personally don’t see anything wrong with keeping code proprietary. And Avination has just as much right to develop custom stuff as InWorldz does, as PioneerX does, as ReactionGrid does."

    Good Im glad we agree there. I hope to see objective reporting on the pros and cons of everyone's proprietary technology in the future.

  • The graph showing the number of InWorldz regions is fascinating, because it looks like a classic technology-adoption curve, or "S curve." It starts out growing slowly, then it grows fast, then growth slows (like it is now), and eventually the market gets saturated. SL got there years ago; at around 31,500 regions. It looks like InWorldz is on track to plateau around 900 regions.

    Further reading: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diffusion_of_innovat

  • Wayfinder

    Maria, I respect that you’re tied in with Hypergrid (ie, the name of this blog) and I respect your right to your opinion– and your right to voice that opinion. But in all honesty, I see a whole lot of bias– and some rather non-factual information there that is obviously slanted toward hypergrid.

    You are probably aware that my group is on Inworldz. But my history on Second Life shows I’m not bias-slanted toward a board just because I’m there. Few have been as outspoken as I against Linden Lab and their policies. That my own blogs are highly complimentary toward Inworldz is not without reason. They’re doing a very good job.

    The statement that Inworldz users might be upset they can’t access Hypergrid is, I believe, a little rose-colored. To my memory, I’ve never heard any Inworldz member say they wanted Hypergrid. That doesn’t mean they don’t…. it just means that obviously this is not a pressing matter. While I don’t deny the potential value of Hypergrid, I also see immense (and at this time totally unaddressed) security issues that aren’t going to vanish any time soon.

    I also disagree with the statement that other grids are accomplishing what Inworldz has accomplished– or the concept that such supposed advances will be available to OpenSim as a whole. What I have seen of OpenSim is a whole bunch of drama, unprofessional project management, eliteism, and failure to progress.

    I have checked the other grids out there. I did so before joining Inworldz and I’ve done so since. Frankly, I’m not impressed. You say they are doing the same thing Inworldz is doing without the cost? Nonsense. Tell me, how many other grids out there have (and name them please):

    * Fully functional groups
    * Fully functional profiles
    * Complex inventory (ie the ability to store a multi-part build as one inventory object)
    * Fully functional economy with cash-out
    * An improved-performance scripting engine
    * Estate Manager Tools tied in to Group Roles

    I have seen a lot of jealousy and rivalry– as well as drama over the fact that Inworldz doesn’t make their code available to the rest of OpenSim. My answer to that: welcome to the business world people. Inworldz is a business, as is Second Life and most other grids out there (or at least, they’re supposed to be). To my understanding, they found little or no cooperation among OpenSim coders, a lot of rivalry and drama… and little or no cooperation with their needs as a business. To get what they needed they would have to code it themselves– at considerable cost. So does anyone out there really expect them to just give away their investment to the rest of OpenSim free of charge? Seriously?

    I think some people need a reality check. Inworldz isn’t in business for their health or for jollies. They’re in business to provide a good grid, at a reasonable price, and in the process make a bit of profit. They can’t do that by giving away heavy-investment code to freeloader companies. That’s how business works people. Live with it.

    I’ve looked at a lot of grids out there. At this time… I’ve seen none that are even close to Inworldz… nor do I ever expect OpenSim– in their current uncooperative / unprofessional state– to ever achieve what either Inworldz or Linden Lab has achieved. To do that, people have to put away their egos and drama and childishness… and start acting like professionals.

    Inworldz has done that. They’re making the necessary investments. They’re functioning like a business. It’s very easy for someone to say, “Other grids are doing the same thing.” But frankly, I don’t see that happening. If I’m wrong, someone please enlighten me. But as of this writing, the only grid I’ve seen that has impressed me at all… is Inworldz.

    (And no, I don’t make a dime from Inworldz. I’m a customer, not a founder. But I know professional when I see it…. and I know when it’s not present. Inworldz is professional. Other grids– from what I’ve seen– not so much.) So people can gripe and badmouth and complain all they want– but imo… Inworldz is doing what everyone else SHOULD be doing. If they don’t like that Inworldz is doing it separate from OpenSim… well… maybe OpenSim should have been more cooperative and professional in the first place. They maybe Inworldz wouldn’t have been forced to pursue their own course.

    Myself, I’m glad they did. From what I see at this time… Inworldz is giving Linden Lab a run for their money. It’s about time. Someone needs to.

    So like I said Maria, in all due respect, I respectfully disagree with a lot of this post. I think Inworldz is right where it needs to be, is accomplishing exactly what it’s needing to accomplish… and I don’t see anyone else that’s even close.

  • Wayfinder —

    I agree that hypergrid currently doesn’t offer the security and content protection that commercial grids require. I fully support the decisions made by InWorldz, SpotOn3D, and Avination to not have hypergrid enabled.

    But, eventually, security will improve and hypergrid will be a viable option even for the most security-conscious grid. It won’t come right away. And some grids may want to stay closed forever. There’s nothing wrong with that. There are plenty of software companies out there that aren’t delivering their services via a browser, for example, even though the Web’s been around for 20 years. Different businesses require different distribution strategies.

    OpenSim code is developed by volunteers. Some of them — maybe the ones you’re hearing from — can be unprofessional. But others are doing excellent work, and making steady progress in improving OpenSim. (Managing an open source project is a little like herding cats — and, like making sausage, or politics, you don’t want to see it as it’s being done!) But open source projects develop a momentum and, at some point, turn into an unstoppable force.

    I believe that OpenSim has hit that point — there are hundreds of schools, colleges and universities running private OpenSim projects, tinkering with the code, and, eventually, contributing back to the community.

    I don’t mind that InWorldz isn’t contributing code back. I’m all for private enterprise. OpenSim was originally created under a BSD license for the express purpose of allowing companies to build on top of OpenSim, and keep their creations private.

    But there’s a cost associated with bucking the open source trend. Some of the cost is being paid by InWorldz, in terms of higher development costs. They have to pay for technology that other grids are getting for free. If InWorldz does have a feature that other grids don’t, it’s likely to maintain that lead for only a few months, maybe a year, before the other grids catch up.

    Groups are available in many commercial grids today, and most have economies that allow the redemption of in-world currency. All the grids using OMC, for example, have that by default.

    Estate management is a part of the PioneerX grid management system, currently used on five grids — if it doesn’t support group-based roles yet, it probably will, soon.

    And the latest versions of OpenSim are extremely stable. It doesn’t mean that other grids are using the latest version of OpenSim, or allocating sufficient resources to their regions – but the option is there for them, and at very low cost.

    I think that with companies like PioneerX making this kind of technology more widely available, we’ll see more grids keeping their code up to date and offering the latest OpenSim features, because the upgrade management is automated.

    I don’t think Phlox will hurt InWorldz or its customers in the near term. I believe it will help InWorldz continue to differentiate itself from other grids, and will improve performance for its residents.

    And I don’t think Phlox will hurt mainline OpenSim at all — if there are particular features that become popular, the open source community will simply include them in their next upgrade. It took them just one day to roll out support for Second Life meshes.

    What I’m saying is that InWorldz may be painting itself into a corner. Now, if that corner is big and profitable, then there’s nothing wrong with that.

  • sseraph

    To imply Phlox is more of a departure from LSL or opensim script interoperability is a bit of a stretch. It is a faster script engine with several pluses but it still supports LSL as much if not more so than is the case in the OpenSim main source.

    As far as hypergrid goes, this inworldz resident does wish we could have it while still protecting IP sufficiently. Making that happen is a general OpenSim and even OpenSim – SL interoperability issue. Until we have this capability, grids that want to support an actual economy with reasonable IP guarantees have little choice but to close of or at least sharply limit hypergrid. Bit by bit the opensim community forges solutions. The closed to hypergrid grids with proprietary bits are where a lot of innovation in the opensim community occurs. It is also where a working virtual ecology on all levels as compelling as SL at its best is most likely to arise.

  • Wayfinder

    Maria, thank you for your respectful and interesting reply to my missives. Interestingly enough, I pretty much agree with most of what you replied in the post directly following my initial posts. Your observations there are balanced and show (in my personal perception) far less bias than the blog itself (and I mean no insult at all. We all tend to be biased at time. Comes with the blogging trade.)

    I do agree with Tranq in questioning the statements in the second post. While I totally agree with you that no one needs to take umbrage at Inworldz business method– I have to admit (at least in my observation) that I often see shades of such in these very posts (this one included). I’m not sure there is intent of negativity however. I most definitely see an attempt at *trying* to be unbiased and fair. But I posted here today because I all to often see Inworldz presented on numerous blogs– this one included– in what I believe a somewhat slanted light. I think Tranq was being most reserved and “politic” in his replies.

    As an example right on this very page:
    “The graph showing the number of InWorldz regions is fascinating, because it looks like a classic technology-adoption curve, or “S curve.” It starts out growing slowly, then it grows fast, then growth slows (like it is now), and eventually the market gets saturated. SL got there years ago; at around 31,500 regions. It looks like InWorldz is on track to plateau around 900 regions.”

    I respect the poster’s opinion and right to state it. He may even prove right, who knows? But I see no factual evidence to support to such a statement. Not enough time has passed to establish an accurate trend curve, much less claim of plateau at 900 regions. I therefore consider that statement biased by unknown factors. I don’t accuse the poster– I simply question the factual nature of his observation. It’s simply too early to make any predictions about the future performance of Inworldz; they are still very much in BETA stage. To compare them with a company that has been online for almost 8 years (and supposedly out of beta stage) is incorrect. Inworldz has been “open to the public” for not even one year yet. To even try to predict growth and plateau at this time would be severely premature.

    That’s what I mean by unwarranted negativity in people’s posts about Inworldz. It is so very often without any basis whatsoever. It’s just “opinions”.

    Inworldz is a grid that is undeniably succeeding. Apparently they’re doing things right (at least their customers seem to think so). So when folks post regular negatives (or more accurately, “suppositions”)… I have to question where those suppositions come from. It’s one thing to say “I think this” (and that’s fine). It’s another thing for evidence / documentation to bear that out as factual (or even warranted / probable / likely / anywhere near the reality).

    I do see throughout OpenSim significant negative bias against Inworldz by their competition– and by OpenSim members. That bothers me because it’s an unprofessional way to conduct business. One doesn’t badmouth the competition unless they’re doing something wrong. I don’t see Inworldz doing anything wrong or even borderline unethical. From what I can see both ethically and operationally– they’re spot on (and for almost 30 years I was a corporate consultant– a critical one when warranted). In my observations, there is no reason for negativity against Inworldz. As you have accurately stated, the OpenSim license allows for total freedom of anyone to use the code– including for-profit companies. You also agree that other grids are following Inworldz’ model and withholding investment-based proprietary code. So I have to wonder at people singling out Inworldz. Seems to me a serious case of green envy because Inworldz did it right first and carved the path through the mountain.

    As Tranq mentioned… while I don’t question your research itself (you did seem to go to the source and ask directly)… I do believe further research is warranted. Why? Because I have valid reason to question claims by different grids. I’ve seen quite a bit of “grid propaganda” come out of some grids…claims that once a person checks the fine print (or alas, actually invests) turns out to either severely exaggerate or hide vital information.

    As an example: I visited one website advertising a grid that was obviously and directly poised against Inworldz. That’s fine– it’s a competitive business. We all expect that. But this site claimed to offer a better deal– “only $29 for a sim” (or some such, I forget). However I was immediately cautious because I could not find anywhere information on how many prims were allowed. So I started asking around… and found out it was 3,500. Now compared to SL that’s still a fairly good deal– Linden Lab charges $125 for the same thing. BUT… it is nowhere near the value and power of Inworldz.

    Now, if they wanted to offer 3500 prims to those who only need that, that’s fine. NO PROBLEM. Openly advertise that fact. Anything otherwise is highly questionable business conduct. Why would they hide their prim count? The evident reason is to try to sucker people into investing in their grid rather than being up front (those setup fees are nice, aren’t they?).

    Now, why did I suspect them from the start? Because people from their company had been regularly visiting Inworldz and trying to poach their customers, claiming a “better deal”. I was one of those they tried to poach. So I checked them out… and found the expected results.

    Now I’m not saying that all grids are doing this. I make no claim of even being acquainted with all grids out there at this time. But I do know this: I see grid owners and OpenSim supporters regularly badmouthing Inworldz both in person and on their blogs. I see people trying to poach Inworldz customers. I think those people need to clean up their acts. I don’t see Inworldz doing the same (a company defending itself against slander is certainly acceptable and will happen.) I don’t see Inworldz poaching other Grid’s members. I don’t see them blogging about their competition. (Unless Elenia and Tranq work secretly from their evil dungeon, conspiring against startup grids, wringing their hands in delight.) ;D

    I see blogs that are habitually biased against Inworldz… from what I can tell without factual reason. I see people post blatant lies about Inworldz (they don’t like it when I expose such… and I do). Such are the methods of dishonorable people, not professionals.

    As I’ve stated in other blogsites: if a company can’t succeed and gain members on their own merit, if they can’t grow without poaching or badmouthing Inworldz… they’ve got no business being in the business. They’re amateurs trying to cash in on other people’s work.

    There is no need for any grid out here to badmouth any other grid (well except LL & SL… for obvious reasons. I call it “consequences for actions”). As Elenia and Tranq have both said: this is a very big pie. There’s room enough for everyone. All a grid needs is 500 to 1000 sims to be profitable enough to make several people comfy. It’s not like any grid has to pull a Linden Lab and grab for the greed (well, unless they ARE greedy). It’s simply not necessary. There is room for cooperation– and even mutual encouragement. Sharing proprietary software or individual business policy has nothing to do with it. We’re all working for a better situation than a highly-expensive, user-abusive walled garden. Folks should realize that– and simply get along better, no matter what grid they personally prefer.

    Okay, that’s my two-cents worth and both feet up to the ankles. ;D I hope I offended no one. These are just my personal observations, no more, no less.

    (I am curious Maria, you mentioned people can have the latest version of OpenSim at a very low cost. What does that mean exactly? Who authorized anyone at OpenSim to charge anything… and where does that fee come in? I’m admittedly ignorant in that area. Or did I misunderstand entirely?)

  • Wayfinder

    (Follow up, as an example… just so I’m not seeming to rant):

    “In a survey conducted in November by Hypergrid Business, InWorldz ranked higher than the average OpenSim grid for its community, content, and support. However, its ratings for technology were in line with other OpenSim grids — a sign that in November, at least, users didn’t see a substantial technology advantage in InWorldz.”

    Now I’d agree with the first statement, that Inworldz is ranked high for community, content and support. However the second statement… let’s question that.

    Inworldz technology is in line with other OpenSim grids? How many of those grids? One? Two? How many grids are there out there?

    See, to me that rating seems biased. My belief would be that Inworldz would be heads and tails above MOST other grids out there… significantly above the average. IF other grids equal Inworldz in technological advances (and I would need significant evidence of such claim)… they would seem in my experience to be in a severe minority.

    The point: the second statement seems to paint Inworldz as “no better technically than other grids”… which is to me is a non-factual statement– thus biased. You mentioned that finding coming from Hypergrid Business. I don’t know offhand who that is exactly or who runs it, but my message to them is that it’s easy to slant stats or findings. It’s another thing entirely to step back and be objective so as to ascertain the reality of the situation. And that reality is that Inworldz is on the upper plateau of technological advancement. If there is one or two other grids up there with them… that in no way lessens their accomplishment over OpenSim in general or their current superiority to OpenSim product. (As you point out though Maria, that all can predictably change with time. If it does… I would respectfully submit it is likely due to Inworldz setting the bar and others finding it necessary to meet that to survive. And no, I don’t believe that statement is biased at all; I think it most realistic.)

  • I have found your articles to be very informative and helpful in the past. So I was rather shocked to see such a FUD article about InWorldz that so totally missed the mark, and was written with such a bias towards preconceived assumptions and trade-offs that few InWorldz residents would consider important.

    If you want to know what InWorldz residents think of this fabulous new script engine, look at the comments on the announcement here: http://inworldztech.com/techblog/?p=12

    Or check the twitter feedback and comments I received for my detailed response to this… article, here: http://jimrantsnraves.blogspot.com/2011/03/inworldz-and-other-alternative-grids.html

    Can you state for the record that you have no direct involvement with other grids such as Avination? You and none of your avatar identities are a mentor, support person, spokesperson for any other grids? I find it incredible that you could write such a negative article about such a great breakthrough.

  • Wayfinder —

    I, too, dislike misleading pricing practices. In our vendor directory, we try to compare apples to apples whenever possible — we use 15,000 prims as a standard. And vendors do complain about this!

    http://www.hypergridbusiness.com/opensim-hosting-providers/

    OpenSim by itself is free, and there are several free OpenSim distributions, such as the OSGrid distribution, and the Diva Distro.

    But companies can also create their own distributions and charge for it — for example, ReactionGrid and IBM both sell versions of OpenSim with extra stuff added on. More control features, for example, or intergration with back-end corporate systems.

    But the more stuff you add on, the harder it is for you to untangle it and upgrade to the next version of OpenSim. ReactionGrid, for example, has been stuck with 0.6.9 since last summer, while all the other commercial grids have long since upgraded.

    PioneerX doesn’t charge for the distribution of OpenSim itself, it charges for the grid control panel, and for the hosting. That’s typically the way that most OpenSim hosting providers work.

    And no, Jim, I’m not personally associated with any consumer grids, am not a mentor anywhere, and our company grid is a private mini-grid (though we occasionally have regions on OSGrid — we have one now, because standalone teleports were broken for a while, but will probably move it out again).

    I do have a bias though, and that is in favor of enterprise users of virtual worlds.

    So, with InWorldz, enterprise users have significant advantages — namely, the content protections, the support, and the community on the grid.

    But it also has disadvantages — you can’t export your regions and inventories. And, if InWorldz uses Phlox to add new scripting commands and companies start using them, then it might also become more difficult to export scripts.

    Which is better? It totally depends on your company needs. If you’re looking for a safe, controlled market for your virtual products, then InWorldz is a fantastic place to have a business.

    If you’re looking for a place where you and your employees can build products, and you can make backups of all your stuff at any time, and your company owns all the rights, then you might want to do a standalone.

    And, in fact, there’s no reason not to do both — use a closed, private standalone mini-grid as your factory, then import your objects up to Second Life and InWorldz and Avination and other closed commercial grid for sale.

    I understand that many content creators are now doing just that, and I think it’s a great business model and a good way to hedge your bets and not get too dependent on any one grid.

  • Maria, thanks for that update. It is much more representative of the balanced reporting I have come to expect from you and I fully agree with everything in it.

    "InWorldz has taken a further step way from mainline OpenSim…"

    I believe my concern here was the overall negative feel to the original article. It starts in that first sentence above, setting the tone, as if such a step is a bad thing. If there was any question in that interpretation, it was made clear by the rest of the article, which was a list of reasons why Phlox is a Bad Thing. This is what has set many off. Fortunately, your reply has clarified things.

    In one way I do agree with both the opening sentence and the article, and that is that OpenSim (and particularly HyperGrid) users may see Phlox and InWorldz as a threat to that so-called "mainstream". As the dominant non-OpenSim grid, InWorldz is further differentiating itself, as SL does. That step, away from OpenSim, is just one more step in a walk that began two years ago and continues weekly. This is nothing new for InWorldz. It's just a bigger step than usual this time, as was the assets rework, and the physics work to come.

    But the view from the InWorldz residents is very different. They typically just don't care what happens in the OpenSim world. They want their regions to be stable and perform well and their inventories to function properly. In InWorldz, not in OpenSim. They want the plethora for commercial products and stores and clubs and events that have now established InWorldz. They could care less about HyperGrid, or even feel negatively towards it if it puts their InWorldz stores at risk.

    That step away from "mainstream" is exactly what InWorldz residents want. It is called technological lead, in most circles.

    InWorldz stands on it's own merits. Within, there isn't any need to compare it to Open Sim. If there is a comparison, it is to Second Life, and there we have definitely plans to kick some serious butt. But it will take some more time. The 50% growth *per month* of 2010 is back to a more manageable level now, which is why it's letting the team get some work done again. Hopefully InWorldz will exit the beta this summer and begin the actual growth period, start actually trying to attract new users, maybe even do some advertising by year-end, etc. (You'll find that currently there is no attempt to attract new users because the growth rate has been difficult enough to keep up with.) Once the major work completes, however, this will be the one to watch.

  • In addition to my previous general comment, I do want to make a couple of comments on some of your specific points:

    "So, with InWorldz, enterprise users have significant advantages — namely, the content protections, the support, and the community on the grid."

    That nails it very accurately. InWorldz is an excellent choice for enterprise users of virtual worlds.

    "But it also has disadvantages — you can’t export your regions and inventories."

    You do have to choose. Do you want a complete lack of content control that comes from user backups and restores to their own grids, do you want the "wholesale permission exploits" of HyperGrid, or do you want those content protections that InWorldz provides? Which of those three things is most important? To InWorldz residents, clearly content protections outweigh the advantages of the wild west.

    "And, if InWorldz uses Phlox to add new scripting commands and companies start using them, then it might also become more difficult to export scripts."

    Open Sim has more non-standard functions than InWorldz does. There are many OpenSim-specific functions that break from standard LSL. This means there are many Open Sim scripts that have no hope at all of running on Second Life (or InWorldz). Are you willing to publish an article slamming Open Sim's non-standard scripting features that

    "lock-in" residents to that technology?

    The InWorldz-specific functions are very few, and well-defined with an "iw" prefix on the function names. They are much sought-after features demanded in SL but ignored by Linden Lab. In InWorldz, there are only 3 such functions: http://inworldz.com/wiki/index.php/Category:IWSL_

    The ability to create a notecard or to convert an avatar name to the corresponding ID are long desired in SL. The third operation has also been requested in SL and is just one function that missing from the "matrix" of operations you can perform on an linked prim.

    InWorldz strives for maximum compatibility with the SL implementation. Part of the Phlox effort required numerous logins to SL to compare behaviors. We still have work to be fully compatible, but it is improving over time. In fact one of the non-standard InWorldz-specific functions discussed was an iwSetCompatibility() function that might tell the engine to behave exactly like SL in several areas (e.g. sit offsets) we have differences (inherited from OpenSim which clearly did not have the same compatibility goals). This is to allow easy migration of SL scripts while avoiding breaking compatibility of existing InWorldz content.

    I hope this clarifies the extent to which InWorldz takes SL compatibility yet will not let it shackle capabilities going forward. I would love to see OpenSim take the same approach, however that would be a distinct departure from previous choices.

  • Wayfinder

    Thank you for your reply Maria… especially explaining how folks are charging for aspects involved with OpenSim. They of course have every right to do so; that's how free enterprise works.

    I do question the amount PioneerX is charging. While it is VERY reasonable for grids… have they made allowances so that their software is available to individuals (non-enterprise) at a lower fee (ie, perhaps annual instead of monthly?). I have no knowledge of this area; I figure you can save me some research. 😀

    I would like to state I *do* understand how difficult it is to write a blog that everyone understands– and especially to write one that is read as it is intended. There are several things working against us all: subconscious bias and opinion is a human trait. Further, sometimes what we type simply does not come across correctly and we don't realize that. Even the best of bloggers / writers are often misconstrued, even in the best of circumstances. It's an inherent problem with written language. Perhaps all of this was involved in the original blog, because I've found every one of your replies to our missives to be quite friendly and balanced.

    That said, regarding one statement:

    "But it also has disadvantages — you can’t export your regions and inventories. And, if InWorldz uses Phlox to add new scripting commands and companies start using them, then it might also become more difficult to export scripts. "

    Partly true… partly not imo. Yes, in a closed-wall (ie, private enterprise) grid, we can't export entire regions. In this, Inworldz is certainly not alone. No grid that is cognizant of the need for copyright security can allow customers to export entire regions.

    However, Inworldz (as with all OpenSim grids to my knowledge) does allow exporting of personal builds and allows exporting of sim terrain designs (raw files). That really is as much as anyone could expect. Anything beyond that could only come from a privately-owned mini grid (ie, non-enterprise) or a totally-open, non-secure OpenSim grid in which personal copyright and ownership has no meaning. As Jim points out, can't have it both ways.

    As for Phlox becoming a bottleneck when it comes to exporting scripts, I would make three points there:

    1) As Jim points out, the OpenSim script engine is far more incompatible with SL than the Inworldz script engine. Imo (and no offense intended to anyone), the OpenSim script engine is a royal mess (thus… the reason Inworldz invested heavily in a re-write)

    2) As has been previously pointed out… the language hasn't changed (yet). It's still the LsL language… with greatly improved performance. Yes, there will likely be some changes as time passes (hopefully a LOT of them), but…

    3) Why would an Inworldz merchant / builder / scripter need to export scripts for use elsewhere? Again, this has to do with what's important to members of Inworldz. It is highly unlikely I think, that someone vested and happy with Inworldz will be trying to move their builidng / scripting elsewhere. I may be wrong, but I know I personally have no desire to do so, nor do I foresee such. If such was ever required… well, we had to port scripts from Second Life to OpenSim and Inworldz didn't we? We made the needed changes. The same can happen the other way around.

    So just a few observations there. Myself– I see no positives involved with Phlox. Considering the poor status of the OpenSim scripting language… its impact on OpenSim grids (lag, drag, bad performance)… and the severe bugs within… I have to believe Phlox will be a very, very welcome relief to Inworldz members. I know the members themselves think so… as is evident by their very vocal public support of this move. My opinion: WAY TO ROCK, TRANQ! 😀

  • Wayfinder

    Ooops typo: "Myself– I see no NEGATIVES involved with Phlox".

    (I actually meant to say "I see ONLY positives involved with Phlox". It's been a very long day. :D)

  • Wayfinder —

    I'm not sure why an individual would need heavy-duty grid management software like the PioneerX stuff, with the in-world economy, land rental systems, new user registration, currency transaction histories… unless the individual is planning on running a commercial grid, having an in-world economy, and renting out land. In which case, they'll either have to create the grid management systems themselves, get them from PioneerX, ReactionGrid, or SimHost, or wait for the open source folks to catch up.

    Individuals looking for private grids would probably be happy with a mini-grid, like what you get with a Diva Distro — up to 16 regions, no border crossings, hypergrid an option to teleport to other grids, you can make all your own OAR and IAR exports, and invite anyone to teleport in to visit, or to create their own accounts on your grid — the Diva Distro comes with a Wifi interface that handles all that. And if you want shopping, you can accept the OMC currency, which is hypergrid-enabled.

    Most hosting providers will set up a Diva Distro or similar style mini grid at no additional cost. If you're expecting low traffic, New Voice will do it for less than $10 a month per region. Dreamland Metaverse and SimHost and PioneerX as well offer high-end regions for high traffic and high script loads, but expect to pay for that. In general, a moderate region will be between $25 and $50 a month, a high-end region will be around $70 to $100 a month.

    Now, a mini grid can only get as big as what will fit on a single server. Any larger than that, you have to have grid management software.

    However, one alternative is to have two mini grids, and connect them to each other with hypergrid gates or link regions (or both). In fact, you can string together any number of mini grids this way.

    And the technically inclined can get their own servers, and download all the software for free. There is open source grid management software, called Robust — it handles asset servers and user registrations — but it does require some technical skill to run.