Jibe vs. OpenSim

Jibe is a new, Unity 3D-based virtual environment created by ReactionGrid, one of the leading OpenSim hosting vendors.

Many people confuse the two platforms, but they are very different environments.

In fact, Jibe has very little in common with OpenSim, and quite a bit in common with other browser-based virtual meeting environments like VenueGen, Avaya’s Web.alive, Assemblive and 3DXplorer.

Both OpenSim and the others have their purposes, but they serve different functions, for different audiences. At, least, for now. Over time, some of these differences are likely to disappear but, in the short term, can be very significant.

Virtual world vs. 3D scenes

OpenSim Jibe, VenueGen, Web.alive, Assemblive & 3DXplorer
OpenSim grids, like Second Life, are designed as large, flat worlds. Avatars can walk or fly from region to region. Here, you don’t have large worlds made up of regions. You have individual scenes — also known, depending on the vendor, as rooms, worlds, and venues. A scene is usually loaded up by pulling up its URL in a browser. Users can teleport from one scene to another by basically clicking on an in-world hyperlink, or using an object that triggers a hyperlink.
OpenSim is built to help grid owners create communities. Instant messaging, groups, friends lists and other similar mechanisms bring people together. These platforms are designed to be enterprise-friendly, and many functions that take place in-world in OpenSim are handled by APIs. For example, most allow companies to automatically create user accounts for employees based on integration with corporate directories.
OpenSim comes with an inventory system. Users can give objects to one another, buy objects at in-world stores, or pick up freebies. Users can also import objects they download from Websites. Users have limited or no inventories for 3D objects. Avatar appearance is typically limited to the choices offered by the company running the scene. Users can’t get new clothes at a freebie store, or go shopping at an in-world market.
With hypergrid enabled, users can teleport their avatars from a world hosted by one service to a world run by someone else. User avatars cannot be shared between different platforms. In addition, they are sometimes limited to the organizations where they work, or even to individual scenes.

Open source vs. proprietary

OpenSim Jibe, VenueGen, Web.alive, Assemblive & 3DXplorer
More than 55 different vendors rent land on individual grids or as standalone regions, mini-grids, or run full grids for customers — ┬ánot counting in-world developers who subdivide and resell land in individual commercial grids. Jibe is only available from ReactionGrid. Web.alive is only available from Avaya. Assemblive is only available from A World for Us SAS. 3DXplorer is only available from Altadyn.
In addition, companies that don’t want to rely on any particular vendor can download the software and run it themselves at no cost — except for staffing and hardware. If the vendor goes out of business, or decides to longer support the platform, customers are out of luck.
An OpenSim region — or even entire grid — can easily be moved from one hosting company to another, or from a locally-hosted to a third-party environment and back again. A Jibe scene cannot be moved to VenueGen or any of the other vendors, although the individual mesh objects that were uploaded to create the scene can be uploaded into the other environments.
Prices improve quickly as customers can easily move between vendors. In addition, since the platform itself is open source, individual vendors don’t have to invest in fundamental technology, but in value-added features like user interfaces and management panels. However, key features emerge slowly since they are created by volunteers working by consensus. Prices improve slowly, since customers are locked into the vendors’ platforms. However, features improve quickly since the vendors have the revenue flow to fund development — and can make quick, unilateral decisions about core functionality.

Individual creativity vs. corporate functionality

OpenSim Jibe, VenueGen, Web.alive, Assemblive & 3DXplorer
Individuals can easily learn to use in-world tools to create clothing, 3D objects, furniture, buildings, and scripts. The objects inside the virtual environment — everything from avatar choices to clothing to furniture building and landscaping — is created either by the enterprise customer or the vendor. Most platforms allow corporate clients to import mesh objects. VenueGen only offers a choice of pre-built environments.
Importing documents such as text files, videos, presentations, or images is limited and difficult. Currently, the best option is to host documents on the Web, and use media-on-a-prim to display them. Employees can usually easily import work-related documents such as spreadsheets, PDFs and presentations for collaboration and training. Some environments have built-in integration with Microsoft Sharepoint and other corporate document repositories.
Technically proficient users can set up their own free or low-cost grids and create micro worlds dedicated to role playing, nice communities, or simply residential areas for themselves and their friends. Prices start at around $50 a month for all these platforms and rise quickly as the number of users increases.
Inexperienced users have a hard time logging into these environments for the first time. However, once they are in, there are few limits to what they can do. These vendors go out of their way to make the new user experience as easily as possible, with VenueGen in the lead in making setup of new scenes quick and easy. Navigation and gestures are typically simplified to just the ones needed in a particular setting.
Currently, full OpenSim functionality is only available through downloadable, stand-alone software, which has a steep learning curve. Full functionality is available in a browser — however, fewer in-world options are available to users. Learning curve is much faster as a result.

Typical use cases

OpenSim Jibe, VenueGen, Web.alive, Assemblive & 3DXplorer
A school uses OpenSim to create an interactive learning environment for students in which they can create objects and scripts, build theater sets, play with mathematical constructs, create dynamic ecosystems, and carry out other projects that require a large amount of interaction with the virtual environment. A school uses ready-made VenueGen environments for instructor-led training in which a teacher presents material on an in-world screen, or role playing exercises, or other training that depends on documents or on interactions between avatars.
A startup company creates a grid for social interaction, and invites merchants to sell virtual goods in-world to the grid’s residents. An existing company creates virtual scenes using Jibe or Web.alive to market real-world products or services in a web-based, immersive environment.
A role playing group or nice social community creates an OpenSim grid for its members. A company creates interactive virtual training environments in Jibe, Web.alive or 3DXplorer for its employees, business partners, or customers.
Individuals use free self-hosted regions or low-cost commercially hosted regions for virtual homes, or as places to create virtual content. Independent professionals use VenueGen to hold quick virtual meetings with clients or colleagues.
Companies set up virtual offices on popular grids, or on hypergrid-enabled private grids, for internal collaboration and client meetings — as long as staff and clients are familiar with OpenSim. Companies embed virtual offices into their website, for easy access by staff and clients.
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.

  • Pathfinder

    If you look at our recently posted Jibe Roadmap (http://reactiongrid.blogspot.com/2011/06/jibe-roadmap.html), you'll see we're working on adding live building tools and object persistence.

    This will allow users to create things on the fly with colleagues in Jibe.

    We're also planning to add live object import and persistence, allowing users to create external models that can be imported and saved in a live Jibe world.

  • I do believe, that, over time, the various platforms will converge (either that, or spin off into niche applications).

    OpenSim community is working on meshes, Web-viewers, easier launching — enterprise, mesh-based worlds will add more collaborative building, etc… I believe Teleplace is working on this as well (and they expect to have a Web-based version of their viewer in the next release).