Is OpenSim usage falling?

Today, Hamlet Au wrote a column suggesting that the OpenSim user base is shrinking — and used Hypergrid Business numbers to support his position.

The short answer to his question is: No, OpenSim usage is not falling, and the numbers do not support this. In fact, it is growing quite well.

The reason being — the numbers Au is citing aren’t the full numbers, not even for the top 40 largest grids. In particular, InWorldz has only released its active user numbers once, last month, when it was at 4,500 active users. And New World Grid, one of the largest grids, stopped reporting active user numbers this fall.

Assuming that both have been growing steadily, in line with the growth on other grids — and in line with their region growth — that would show a very different picture.

Here are the raw numbers, without InWorldz (except this past December), and without active user numbers from several other grids, as well.

Click for larger image. (Hypergrid Business data.)

We did not collect active user numbers prior to June 2010.

The spike in December is when InWorldz reported its active user totals for the first time — they did not report this data in January, and the total dropped again.

The big bulge in the spring of 2011, in the center of the graph, was due to a big marketing campaign by Avination. Many new users came to check out the grid as a result of the advertising, but only some stayed.

Here are their active user numbers, charted by month:

Active users on Avination grid. (Hypergrid Business data.)

But Avination’s performance is not an indication of OpenSim health overall, and neither is InWorldz reporting — or lack thereof. Once you account for these two factors, you can pretty much  draw a straight line from the June numbers to the December numbers, and see a more-or-less steady growth, with seasonal increases in the spring and fall when school is in session.

Again, the drop at the end isn’t a lack of users — it’s a lack of data from InWorldz, data which was included the previous month, and a lack of data from New World Grid.

Au also compares the number of Hippo viewer users in 2009, with the number of OpenSim users on OSGrid this month. But Hippo wasn’t just used to access OSGrid, but many OpenSim grids, including all the uncounted standalones. And Hippo wasn’t just used to access OpenSim, since it can be used to access Second Life as well. And many people — including myself — now use the standard Second Life viewer for OpenSim because it supports mesh and media-on-a-prim.

Finally, it’s not correct to use OSGrid as a proxy for all of OpenSim. OSGrid had around 2,500 active users at the start of 2009 — about a thousand less than it has now. But the other grids have grown substantially more in that time.

Part of the reason is that OSGrid is hypergrid-enabled, so people can enjoy OSGrid and all it offers, while basing their avatars on another, smaller grid — or even on their personal stand-alone. Another reason is that OSGrid tends not to focus overly on commercial activity. As a result, there’s no incentive for destination owners to try to beef up their traffic numbers with promotions or alternate accounts. In other words, while the numbers of some heavily commercialized grids may be slightly inflated, the numbers for OSGrid are actually lower than they should be.

But also, other grids are increasingly attractive to users. It’s not just experimental, run-your-own-region techies who are now coming to OpenSim. They dominated in 2009 and early 2010, and tended to favor OSGrid and other open, free-to-connect grids. Today’s OpenSim user base is much more diverse, and finding homes on regional grids based in Europe, on community grids like Gay Nations, on specialized role playing grids, and, of course, on commercial social grids of all sizes.

But these numbers are only half the story. Actually, not even that much. We are tracking around 100 active grids right now, while the monthly reports only show the 40 with the most regions.

Plus there is an uncountable number of university, business and personal grids. A couple of educational organizations — one in the U.S., one in Europe — tell me that they’ve got tens of thousands of users on their closed, secure school grids. Elementary schools, high schools and colleges are using OpenSim to teach classes in a broad variety of subjects. Non-profits are using OpenSim grids to provide substance counseling and other support services. Companies are using OpenSim for international collaboration, rapid prototyping, and marketing presentations.

Now, for virtual world merchants and event organizers, that doesn’t matter. They want to know the number of users on OpenSim’s social grids — in other words, the size of their potential customer base.

Which is fair, and the top-40 data would be most relevant for them.

But judging OpenSim as a platform requires that all the other uses be considered — and there, OpenSim is clearly a growing phenomenon.

Meanwhile, we’re looking at getting better data for all the grids. InWorldz has promised us that that they will begin reporting more details soon, and we’ve reached out to New World Grid to get updated numbers.

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.

  • Hi Maria,

    I can only speak for us, but we have not seen a dip in active users overall. Our peak concurrency is up the past few months and pretty much on target with our projections.

    I think the thing to look at is: What made such a difference between November and January?

    • David —

      The raw data for the two months is here:

      http://www.hypergridbusiness.com/statistics/november-2011-opensim-growth-statistics/ 

      and

      http://www.hypergridbusiness.com/statistics/january-2012-opensim-growth-statistics/ 

      One big difference is that the active users on AlphaTowne fell by around 1,000. That’s a huge drop — and probably due to the way they count their users than anything else, since the regions are still up.

      ReactionGrid dropped 150 users. And SpotOn3D reported over 450 users in November — but hasn’t reported anything new to us since. 

      So that’s around 1,500 users dropping for reasons that are probably not related to actual usage. 

      So if you take the 9,700 users that we counted, add in the 6,000 or so users that are missing, we’d be at around 15,700 active users — a pretty decent number.

      • Ah ok. That’s the problem then. The sample size is currently small and any changes in the sample make for huge looking drops or peaks.

        Pretty clear to me, but unlike some I have no reason to be sensationalist. People will work with numbers to try and support any conclusion they want, but to me this still looks like healthy slow growth.

        If you consider what happened with opensim’s numbers when just one grid did any real advertising, it becomes pretty clear the potential interest that is out there. I have no doubt as advertising increases for opensim based worlds so will these statistics.

        I “predict” we will see more advertising in 2012.

        • I look forward to seeing that prediction come true! 🙂

          • “the total number of registered OpenSim users has grown from 117,979 on September 15, 2010 to 217,614 this month on the top 40 grids”
            Maria, what percent of this 218K have logged in during the last month?

  • Hi Maria
    Question plz: Is the 4500 number an avarage number for the month of december or how is the number calculated ?

    • Lady —

      Sometime shortly before December 15, InWorldz tech guy David Daeschler (Tranquility) said that InWorldz had 4,500 active users over the previous month.

      OpenSim grid owners can pull these statistics from their OpenSim database. Some choose to report it on their websites; others don’t. InWorldz currently doesn’t show these numbers — they only show region counts, total registered users, and users currently logged in.

      • Another data point: the total number of registered OpenSim users has grown from 117,979 on September 15, 2010 to 217,614 this month on the top 40 grids. We saw, on average, 7,500 new users registering on these grids every month. 

        Now, not all these users stay, and some are alts, but it’s a sign that new interest in OpenSim remains steady on these grids.

        • thanks Maria
          We talked briefly about this well in regards to  IW the other day  on IDI when we were testing the  voice (Tranq  had gone to bed  by  this time)
          It made me think:
          Now Second Life is the legacy grid and they  show a very  high number of  accounts and online people. Second Life is commercial meaning  you can  do every thing there  build, socialise, sell, buy create, play etc etc
          As I see it VWs has two basic types of people:
          The  Creator 
          The Consumer
          Now  some are both (like me)
          When you start a grid  (Like InWorldz) you need to determin if your grid should be a multiegrid which would automaticly make it a commercial grid or if you want to host a “play” grid  

          I see OSgrid as a “play” grid. Its evolutionary, groundbreaking, tech oriented. It will  not atrackt the consumers that are  (generally speaking) non tech minded. Consumers just want to play and they want a lot to play  with and OSGrid by  its nature do not really  offer this  on the same scale as a commercial grid.

          With the numbers you  provide I see the new users sign up as very  positiv for the OS.

          A lot of the new commercial grids  has  looked and learned  from LL mistakes  hence why  they   bide their time and  will do  things right. ….

          I better get off the soapbox before this post  gets thrown into a blog catagory LOL

          Anyway point is  that  grids cater to  different users 🙂

          • I think you might be surprised how much role play is taking place on OSgrid, Lady Sakai. It’s true that OSgrid is the OS developers test platform and is not run as a walled garden commercial grid but the level of activity and actual role play is growing. Lani Global’s Sci-fi world based on Dune is a good example with associating sims forming an RP zone cluster of it’s own. They have a combat meter, working spacecraft and regular RP meeting times. There is a Gor area developing as well and other new builds for RP under development – take a look at Darkrose (a dark vampire theme) newly arrived from SL. The build is still in construction but from what I saw it looks like it’s going to be a fine work of gothic art. But there is so much more on OSgrid than any other grid simply because its 10 times the size of any other grid. That is 10,000 sims one way or another ranging across many themes including well constructed hosting estates, mega regions for sailing, car racing, railways, art & fashion shows, exhibitions and numerous other offerings and attractions.

            Moreover, because OSgrid serves pretty much as a HUB for the hypergrid there is a lot of in/out traffic un-accounted for. So OSgrid dose actually cater to many different users and a lot of the HG satellite sims are quite active at times. I recommend new users go to Lbsa Plaza where there always seems to be people willing to help and advise.

          • You should visit InWorldz more as well. I think you’d also be surprised.

          • You should visit InWorldz more as well. I think you’d also be surprised.

          • Oh yes, Tranq! I do visit InWorldz often and I like it there. I would prefer to travel there via Hypergrid but perhaps one day. Anyway, I have seen the Elven realms in Inworldz and Steampunk although the Steampunk venues had no people when I visited none the less they were interesting builds. One sim I really liked was the replica Titanic which is in fact a big mall with many shops. I loved it!

            There are many new grids opening and I suspect even more will climb on the bandwagon during this year so a lot can still happen. It’s an exciting time to be a Metaverse traveler!

          • It sure is.. And I think that’s the most important part of the big picture. This space is so young. It has a lot of mistakes to be made, and a lot of successes to be won. It’s going to crawl, one day it’ll walk, and before you know it it will be ready for more general consumption.

            I think the younger generations are ready to accept it isn’t so strange to exist digitally after all.

          • I think you might be surprised how much role play is taking place on OSgrid, Lady Sakai. It’s true that OSgrid is the OS developers test platform and is not run as a walled garden commercial grid but the level of activity and actual role play is growing. Lani Global’s Sci-fi world based on Dune is a good example with associating sims forming an RP zone cluster of it’s own. They have a combat meter, working spacecraft and regular RP meeting times. There is a Gor area developing as well and other new builds for RP under development – take a look at Darkrose (a dark vampire theme) newly arrived from SL. The build is still in construction but from what I saw it looks like it’s going to be a fine work of gothic art. But there is so much more on OSgrid than any other grid simply because its 10 times the size of any other grid. That is 10,000 sims one way or another ranging across many themes including well constructed hosting estates, mega regions for sailing, car racing, railways, art & fashion shows, exhibitions and numerous other offerings and attractions.

            Moreover, because OSgrid serves pretty much as a HUB for the hypergrid there is a lot of in/out traffic un-accounted for. So OSgrid dose actually cater to many different users and a lot of the HG satellite sims are quite active at times. I recommend new users go to Lbsa Plaza where there always seems to be people willing to help and advise.

          • Osgrid may be a “play” grid to you, but you sure cant beat FREE v/s paying $150 for a sim in IW + $75/mo or $40/$60 per month in Avination, or $1000 +$295/mo in SL.
            As Gaga pointed out below,  there’s a lot going on.

    • The number given to Maria takes a count of unique avatars that have log in dates within a given 30 day period. So while you might see 150 – 250 peak avatars on a grid at any given time, those are not the same 150 – 250 people, they are different people logging in and out throughout the day.

      The unique number Maria is referring to is the count of different people that have logged in in 30 days.

      • aha..so if I understand it correctly: the number is the total of  accounts / avatars/people that has loged in   in a given  period? It will only  count  that person once .. like me.. If I log in  100 or 1 times to a grid (IW) it will only  count me once in those stats?

        • Correct. They have to be unique users to be counted as all of your log in and log out times are not tracked. Only when you last logged in or out.

  • i fell once – it was an invisible prim i tripped over  =D

    i still view land as the telling stat because it takes effort to have land, both in OpenSim and Second Life

    a million users doing nothing and spending nothing means, well nothing! =)

  • I can draw a straight line as well, Maria, but that doesn’t mean that data supports my straight line. Assumption is not what statistics are about, so assuming the steady decline is only because inWorldz isn’t reporting is bogus statistics. If anything, it shows that – statistically – OpenSim usage is falling drastically across the board, propped up by steady numbers within only a tiny segment of the whole.

    Au is more correct with his interpretation, and you have only confirmed it through your attempt to discredit. A few high performing grids do not speak for the whole, except to say that the majority of the whole is in decline by comparison.

    • I really dont think the fate of an entire technology can be judged by such a tiny sample size. Do you? You’re not saying it outright, but most people can make the offhanded and implied connection between decline and “dying”.

      The fact is comparing opensim to SL at this point is silly.  SL has a large advertising budget, is an established business with venture backed operations, and has been around longer than any opensim based project.

      I concede that this whole thing started because of the “opensim sim count surpassing SL” article. That seems to have sent some people into a tizzy. However, I think that it is a bit premature to be counting sims or users for opensim.

      More importantly, why people feel the need to draw a line in the sand when it comes to opensim and related projects and SL is beyond me. Both can coexist and even evolve along different paths. I still have friends and old business associates in SL. I have friends on OSgrid. Is it really that important to try and put nails into coffins?

  • Numbers-wise, I don’t think we can tell if the number of OpenSim users is rising or falling: We don’t have enough data. All we can say is that it isn’t rising or decreasing at a terribly fast rate, because that would have been noticed. What change there is, is gradual.

    Regarding the connection between # of regions and # of users, the fact is that it’s getting cheaper and easier to add regions, both because hardware costs are decreasing, and because “region” can mean nothing more than a file in a database which is loaded and run on demand on Amazon EC2. Land becoming cheaper means that given the same amount of users, we would expect to see more land, because those users can play around with more land for the same cost. For that reason, I don’t think a rising amount of OpenSim regions implies more users. Which brings us back to that we just can’t tell how many OpenSim users there are.

  • also the quality of the user is, to me, an important consideration

    a teacher doing a local grid (like OpenBlackboard networking sim-on-a-stick for a small class) is a different caliber user than someone doing whatever (or doing each other!) o_O

    and don’t forget, one Ener Hax is worth 1,000 others, right?  =p

  • I still don’t buy the million user number for SL, it’s a heavily commercialized grid with  a big stake at making sure the numbers always looks great, no matter what they have to do to make it look that way.
    They used to post the numbers on the main login page then it mysteriously vanished.
    I remember a time when there was a big db issue and they turned off logins and everyone was logged out and you couldn’t log in for quite a while, yet, the main login page where at the time it showed how many were logged in- showed 50,000 still logged in LOL
    So, supposedly since logins were disabled and people were logged out by the system, the number should have been zero not 50,000.
    My guess is instead of starting with “0” they actually started with 50,000 to represent “0” to make the numbers look good, so that when there were actually 50,000 logged in it would show 100,000 on the main page.
    But since the whole thing vanished, I could only conclude the reason was the concurrent numbers were dropping rapidly, and they wanted to hide that fact, which jives right along with what a heavily commercialized business would DO in the real world- pad the numbers and hide those that looked bad.