What’s the fun of teleporting to other grids and meeting new friends, if you can’t keep in touch with them afterwards?
That’s not going to be a problem for long, hypergrid inventor Crista Lopes, professor of informatics at the University of California, Irvine in an announcement Friday.
The new functionality is currently scheduled to be available in OpenSim 0.7.2. We’re currently on 0.7.1, while 0.7 came out last summer, and 0.6.9 came out last spring. There is likely to be at least one more minor release between now and when 0.7.2 comes out, Lopes told Hypergrid Business.
Friendships can start when you are visiting a friend’s world, or when they visit yours. Lopes recommends that, for security reasons, you avoid starting friendships when you’re both on an untrusted, third-party grid.
To deal with spammy friend requests from unscrupulous grid owners, there is a second friendship confirmation step when you return to your home grid after your travels, or when you next log in.
And you will be able to send instant messages to your hypergrid friends regardless of what grid you — or your friend — are currently on.
In addition, when you are on your home grid, you will be able to see which of your hypergrid friends are currently online.
This is a big development that could have radical impact on the future growth of OpenSim grids.
More personal grids
Today, many people join a big public grid like OSGrid, or a closed, social grid like InWorldz or Avination — and pay higher land prices — because they want to be a part of a community of friends.
If you and your friends both have standalone regions or mini-grid, you have no way of knowing if your friends are online without teleporting over to their land and seeing if they are there. You also cannot invite them to come over and join you if you are doing something interesting.
With the new functionality, you can set up a mini-grid (for example, by using the Diva Distro or Sim-on-a-stick) for free on a home computer, or get low-cost professional hosting from any of 20 multi-grid OpenSim hosting vendors.
Your friend could do the same, and you can communicate easily across hyperspace with each other, and with friends on other hypergrid-enabled grids.
Today, most grids are hypergrid-enabled, including several large social grids like OSGrid, New World Grid, FrancoGrid, Craft, AlphaTowne and GermanGrid.
The advantage to being on your own is that when you own the grid, you can set your own terms of service. It’s like having your own website, as opposed to a page on a friend’s site, or on Facebook. You can put anything on your own grid that your country’s laws allow, and do anything you want with that content once it’s there.
You can save backups of your entire grid, move it from one hosting provider to another, even rent out parcels or store space. However, it also means that — just as with a website — you are personally liable for copyright violations, so this is not an excuse to distribute illegal content.
Another advantage of being on your own is that you don’t have to deal with the personalities of the grid owners.
In addition, you can upgrade your software or schedule downtime when it’s convenient to you, not someone else.
Schools and companies benefit in one other way, as well — they can turn hypergrid on and off at will. Schools and companies that rent land on existing grids don’t have the choice — they are either on the hypergrid, or not. If they’re on the hypergrid, strangers can teleport in, and students or employees can teleport out and visit gambling or sex worlds. If they’re not on the hypergrid, then potential customers or students can’t teleport in for tours, and builders and designers can’t teleport in to work on construction projects.
By having their own grids, schools and companies can turn on hypergrid for special events, open houses, and during construction — and turn it off while school or work is in session.
More cross-grid events and merchants
The new functionality will also help event organizers and merchants market to a wider audience. Today, the hypergrid user base is fragmented among dozens of public grids and hundreds — possibly thousands — of private ones.
With hypergrid friends and messages, a merchant could put out an announcement of, say, a big Memorial Day sale, and ask customers to forward it on to their friends across the hypergrid. Event organizers could invite popular people to their events, and ask them to bring all their friends.
Special interest groups could stay in touch with their members regardless of what grid they’re on.
Tour groups could travel the hypergrid, from one world to another, without worrying about losing people along the way.
However, pressure on closed grids will start to build. Today, many commercial grids have turned hypergrid off, to protect in-world content — and, possibly, to protect land values. After all, if their users can buy $10 sims elsewhere — or run it at home for free — and teleport in for events and to shop, why would they pay more for land in-world?
But the newest releases of OpenSim have content-protection measures built in — grid owners can flick on a setting that prohibits any in-world content from leaving. Outsiders can teleport in and wander around, but they can’t take anything home with them. (And local residents, if they try to teleport out, will show up naked because their clothes won’t travel.) In the future, these content controls will become more fine-grained.
Today, many OpenSim users have multiple avatars in different grids, and spend more time in the grids with the most stuff going on. However, with the new hypergrid friend features, they will soon only need to have one avatar for the hypergrid-enabled grids, and multiple avatars for the closed commercial grids.
That one hypergrid-enabled avatar will be able to stay in touch with more people, and more events than their avatars on the closed grids — even if, individually, the commercial grids are busier and more popular than any of the open grids.
Will closed commercial grids be able to survive?
Some, like Avination, are already planning for the future, waiting for hypergrid security to get robust enough to allow hypergrid teleports.
But other grids, like InWorldz and, possibly, SpotOn3D, have invested a great deal in building incompatible technology. To survive they may have to adopt the hypergrid after all, or double down on their technology investments to stay far enough ahead of other grids to remain attractive to users.