Grid outages hurt traffic, slow growth

Recent outages at two of the biggest, most popular grids in the metaverse — Metropolis and AviWorlds — cut into this month’s active user numbers, but overall the OpenSim metaverse continued to expand.

The top 40 OpenSim grids by land area gained 1,173 regions this month, for a new total of 24,584 regions on these grids. The top 40 grids reported a total of 17,925 active users, up by 334 from last month, despite the loss of AviWorlds’ user base.

Total regions on OpenSim's 40 largest grids.

Total regions or standard region equivalents on OpenSim’s 40 largest grids. (Hypergrid Business data.)

A total of 223 grids reported some statistics this month, out of a total of 272 active grids. All these grids combined had 26,998 regions and 19,951 active users.

OSgrid was the single biggest gainer, with 682 new regions, easily keeping its place as the largest OpenSim grid. Kitely was in second place, with 251 new regions.

Virtual Highway was third with 103 new regions, almost doubling its land area to a new peak of 231 regions. Metropolis was in fourth place, with 44 new regions, and Avination gained 42 new regions.

OSgrid used to account for dominant share of OpenSim regions — around two-thirds in mid-2010 — but has seen its share drop to around one-third as the number of other grids has proliferated. But it continues to pull ahead in absolute region counts, due to a combination of unique advantages. OSgrid is a non-profit grid, a testbed for OpenSim development, allows anyone to connect home-based regions for free, is served by a number of third-party hosting providers competing on price and service, and, due to sheer size, is home to the most events, interesting builds, and freebie stores. This helps attract users, creators, and region owners.

OSgrid hasn’t had a major region cleanup since January, but announced in late March that region owners can now remove their own regions from the map through a self-serve region purge option on their website account profile.

OSgrid region counts have been a matter of some controversy after a management change early this year, especially after the grid cut off hypergrid access to the Metropolis grid and shut down its weekly town hall meetings. The meetings were replaced by weekly briefing reports, but there hasn’t been a new one issued since March.

Popularity

For company and school grids, relative popularity is not an issue — the grids are set up for a specific purpose, and if they meet that purpose, then they are successful. The same is true for grids run by niche communities or that serve a special purpose not found elsewhere.

But when it comes to general-purpose social grids, the rule of thumb is: the bigger and busier, the better. People looking to make new friends look for grids that already have the most users. Merchants looking to sell content will go to the grids with the most potential customers. Event organizers looking for the biggest audience… you get the idea.

With that in mind, here are the 10 most popular grids this month:

  1. InWorldz: 6,767 active users
  2. OSGrid: 3,383 active users
  3. Avination: 2,239 active users
  4. Island Oasis: 1,252 active users
  5. Metropolis: 859 active users
  6. Kitely: 633 active users
  7. Craft World: 522 active users
  8. 3rd Rock Grid: 373 active users
  9. German Grid: 307 active users
  10. Logicamp: 223 active users

FrancoGrid is not showing up in our top-ten most popular list this month because of a grid upgrade last week, which may have reset that particular stats counter.

InWorldz reported the biggest increase in active users this month, gaining 442 actives — a 7 percent increase over last month’s 386 users. Avination, another commercial grid, gained 401 new users.

Troubled AviWorlds down again

AviWorlds has had more than its share of ups and downs since the Brazil-based grid was first launched as AvWorlds two years ago.

The grid has experimented with business models. It’s first plan was to try to jump-start a land economy by charging higher-than-normal rates for regions, but this didn’t fare well.

The grid has also had problems finding good hosting, trying both commercial vendors and running its own servers.

Most recently, the grid has been hosted by Dreamland Metaverse, but about three weeks ago decided to try going on their own. The grid has been down ever since, citing problems with the database provided by the hosting company.

Alexsandro Pomposelli

Alexsandro Pomposelli

“We tried to restore our world for three weeks now,” grid owner Alexsandro Pomposelli said in a Facebook announcement. “We tried different programmers and hosts and all have told us it is impossible to restore due to a faulty inventory file provided to us by our previous hosting company Dreamland Metaverse. We do have the OARs from all the regions and that is the only thing that works.”

It’s gotten so bad that the grid is doing a Facebook survey of its users asking them whether they should just start over from scratch.

When it was last up, the grid had 70 regions and 333 active users.

According to Dreamland Metaverse CEO Dierk Brunner, the initial transfer was missing some files.

Dierk Brunner

Dierk Brunner

“They got all database contents and all OARs, but we did miss the folder structure the SRAS [simple Ruby asset server] asset servers additionally uses to store assets,” he told Hypergrid Business. “Less than two hours after that was discovered Alex got a download link for these additional files. Unfortunately it took a while until they did discover that this was missing.”

Timothy Rogers, CEO of the newest — and fast-growing — Zetamex hosting company, is currently working with Dreamland’s Brunner to try to get the database working.

But Pomposelli says that he’s not giving up no matter what happens.

“I plan to re-open with or without the data base,” he told Hypergrid Business.

Dreamland Metaverse is currently the largest OpenSim hosting company, with two support staffers in addition to Brunner himself. The company hosts nearly 50 full-scale grids running separate centralized grid services, several larger than AviWorlds in terms of allocated server resources, Brunner said. The total number of grids the company is hosting, including single-server “mini-grids,” he previously told Hypergrid Business, is in the “hundreds.”

Brunner said that there are a couple of things that grid owners can do to improve their experience with OpenSim.

Whether the grid is hosted commercially or on private servers, grid performance goes up — and support calls go down — when there are fewer regions sharing each OpenSim process. He also recommends that grids run older, stable versions of OpenSim instead of the latest, greatest — and buggiest — releases.

“AviWorlds did have many support cases, because the latest OpenSim version was used, as requested, to have the newest features like Bullet,” said Brunner, referring to a new physics engine currently under development by Intel, and not quite finished yet. “Unfortunately, we did discover that these OpenSim versions still have some nasty bugs… All our other customers use an older, stable, OpenSim version.”

Kitely Market opens to merchants

The other big infastructure news this month was Kitely’s rollout of the merchant panel for the Kitely Market. Merchants can now upload products to the marketplace, which is expected to be open for business later on this summer.

Ilan Tochner

Ilan Tochner

“We’re currently offering a limited-time promotion for people who create their stores before Kitely Market opens to buyers,” Kitely CEO Ilan Tochner told Hypergrid Business. “And we’re seeing merchants who sell in closed grids taking advantage of this promotion to upload their content into Kitely Market.”

The market already supports the experimental “export” permission, which will let creators, if they wish, to allow content to leave the Kitely grid via OAR region downloads or hypergrid teleports.

There is a fee to add new products, which is waived for the first 20 listings, with the possibility of getting this expanded to more free listings. Another benefit for some early-bird merchants is free store space on Kitely Plaza and free featured merchant listing in the Kitely Market homepage.

Metropolis due back up this week

The Metropolis grid has been down for a few days now as a result of a difficult upgrade process, but should be up Thursday evening, a grid representative told Hypergrid Business.

A recent influx of new users — and new assets — put stress on the grid’s existing infrastructure. After a few week of problems and patches, the grid decided it was time to upgrade.

“Due to the high growth in population we wanted the services change at this time anyway and create a new, safe and faster grid structure,” the company said in an announcement. “Metropolis went offline and we started working. The errors caused by the damaged assets constantly triggered new errors. That did not make it easy for us to transfer the backup. At the same time a chain of unfortunate coincidences began…  All of this led to a prolonged offline time for the grid. Murphy’s Law at its finest.”

The grid now has a new hosting provider, with a new service infrastructure that includes backup replication with different providers.

“With this set-up we can avoid hardware problems or offline times of any particular provider in the future,” the company said

Transitions

We’re listing 60 grids as suspended this month, including Alethia Grid, Asia Fantasy Land, Aurora Sim, AviWorlds, AVWE, Canaria, Cottonwood Creek, Eden Cat, Equal, Fearless Mysteries, GorGrid, HeWo, Hogwarts, HRD, Icarus Realms, Ingen Lab, Insight Concepts, Kinc Grid, Koeberle, linkinulife, Model Center Demo, MondragonLingua, Night4 Life, Northwind Cove, NsG_Hypergrid, OMP World, Open Island, OpenSim World, OrionGrid, OSpain, Our SimLife, OurSimLife, Paramour, Proxima VIXEE, Qosmio, Role Play Worlds, Secondlife World, SecondLifeBook Grid, Simelation, Simudyne Microsoft, Sirius, SplitWorld, Startup World, Stone Grid, Texas, The Gyre, Thornehaven, Ul, Uzuri Virtual, V Life Online, Velus Universe, Virtual History, Virtual Marin, Virtualgoo, VWR, Wirejunkie, World District, Zachs, and Zairus Grid.

Meanwhile, we’ve added several new grids to our database, including Jilmer EstatesPixel PlanetSimGridAvaconVirtworldLaboratorio GIAAThe 10 KingsBess ResearchInsula AeternumPrudenceHexadecagon WorldLangalf’s DemesneWonda WorldzCOSIEGreekifourArt, andChatCafe3D.

If there’s a public grid we’re not tracking, please email us at [email protected] There’s no centralized way to find OpenSim grids, so if you don’t tell us about it, and Google doesn’t alert us, we won’t know about it.

The official OpenSim website – OpenSimulator.org – began tracking download numbers for the software in January. However, it currently only shows 150 downloads, which is several thousand less than expected. I’m waiting for a response from the developers, and will post updated figures when I get them.

The Diva Distro, a more user-friendly version of OpenSim, has been downloaded 821 times over the past month. The total number of Diva Distro downloads now stands at 21,463. This does not mean that there are twenty thousand mini-grids out there, however — someone might download the software but never use it, or download it once and use it to set up many grids.

And it doesn’t include the Diva Distros used as part of the New World Studio distribution of OpenSim, which had a new release out, including a new premium edition with additional management features. As of May 9, there were 505 private mini-grids running on the New World Studio.

Diva Distro is also part of Sim-on-a-Stick, a version of OpenSim packaged to run on a USB stick, which was downloaded a record 758  times since last month, for a new total of 20,485 downloads.

Meanwhile, according to data from The Hypergates, the number of hypergate jumps on their network this month increased by 365, to 2,783. The system now has 687 registered hypergates, up by 16 from last month, on 52 different grids.

This data is very limited, however. For example, not all hypergates are part of The Hypergates network — anyone can create their own hypergate by dropping a script on any object, such as our touch or walk-through single-destination hypergate script. In addition, many people do hypergrid jumps without using any gate at all, simply by typing a hypergrid address into Map-Search, or by using a hypergrid landmark created during a previous jump. There is currently no way of tracking that traffic.

Our own Hyperica directory now tracks 99 grids that are accessible via hypergrid. This past month also saw 59 unique visitors to the Hyperica in-world hypergate terminals, down from 96 the previous month.

Meanwhile, Second Life continued to lose land according to data from GridSurvey, with 153 fewer regions today than the same time last month. The Second Life grid now has 27,348 regions, down 2,620 regions from this time last year, and 4,537 fewer regions than its peak in June of 2010. According to GridSurvey, the last time the grid was this small was in June of 2009.

The big news on Second Life this month was the closure of third-party exchanges, which were the option option for many foreign users looking to buy and sell Linden Dollars.

“The loss of 50 regions this week is up on recent weeks but not outstanding enough to indicate any immediate TPE [third party exchange] closure impact,” said GridSurvey’s Tyche Shepherd in an posting on SLUniverse.

May Region Counts on the Top 40 Grids

The list below is a small subset of existing OpenSim grids. We are now tracking a total of 642 different publicly-accessible grids, 272 of which were active this month, and 223 of which published their statistics. There were a total of 26,998 regions, 309,959 registered users, and 19,951 active users on those 222 grids.

Many school, company or personal grids do not publish their numbers.

The raw data for this month’s report is here. A list of all active grids is here.

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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.

  • hi you have my grid V Life Online in the suspended list. Even though its still kinda in a pre alpha state because im setting it all up on my own with very little money its still online. I only ran into abit of a problem when the data center moved my stuff to a new vps server but the grid itself is back online.

  • Paul

    What really sows how strong a grid is, is its level of social interaction. A grid that has too little social interaction will have the users feeling isolated (at that point there is little difference between an offline grid and an online grid).

    Too few regions means there is not going to be enough variation in social interactions to hold the interests of users (not enough activity to bring them back).

    With low population density and there is not enough people to interact with (feelings of isolation).

    The more regions a grid has, the lower the population density. This means there needs to be a balance between the number of active users and the number of social regions (ie: regions used as social spaces rather than personal spaces).

    Although not explicitly stated in these statistics, we can use them to estimate what the social interactions of the various grids are. A simple model would be to divide the number of regions by the active users. This would give us a population density (higher density would be better).

    This is not a perfect model as there are many more factors that would apply (types of regions, total size of the grid, purpose of the grid, etc). Also, many grids have “hub” regions which are designed to concentrate social activity, while still allowing a relativity sparse population.

    Virtual worlds are a social media and the strength of a grid is mostly dependent on the amount of social interaction going on. the more and varied the interactions, the stronger the grid is (and the more stable it will be as a business venture).

    • Paul — it’s actually more complicated than that. A role playing grid can have a lot of land area for big campaigns, while still being a tight-knit social grid. And some education grids fit a lot of activity into a small land area, cycling multiple classes through the same setups.
      Then there are grids that are nothing more than a couple of regions that draw a lot of traffic — a freebie mall, say, or a hyperport. Or a museum or music venue.

      Finally, say a grid adds a huge nature park, just for the hell of it. The nature of the grid doesn’t change, but all that empty parkland, while pretty, will lower the density count. Same goes for open seas for sailing.

      There’s no one-siZe-fits-all formula. Each grid is unique and beautiful in its own way.

    • no isolation feelings from me! i think i had a lifetime’s worth of social stuff when i was inSL. now i relish working on the stick or on our private world in Kitely =)

      “Virtual worlds are a social media” that is true for many, but for me, the following is more true:

      Virtual worlds are a share-able creative media (emphasis being that share-able doesn’t have to mean simultaneous for us hermits) =D

      (i am also an only child that grew up in the Canadian countryside)

    • Well, imo, people can “make” their own social activities, and do, in many grids [even sl, actually].

      But in opensim it is more along the lines of helping friends to understand how cool it is and joining you and joining more off-world social sites in order to “get the word out”.

      Where in sl you can find things to do easily, opensim is more of a “DIY” thing.

      It is easy to find pockets of like-minded people if one just thinks outside the parochial mindset of using inworld tools only.

      Personally, I find it more interesting and focused and fun.

  • oops, SoaS wasn’t a record month (last month was) – now its returning back to a more average rate =)

  • Joe Builder

    Oh this is bad news, Guess I’ll pack up and leave Opensims and head back to SL being the 2 biggest grids have closed. Maria I have to say you are comical.

    • there are other grids you can go to other then AviWorlds and AviNation.

      • Joey — The two biggest grids have not closed. Metropolis and AviWorlds are in the top-ten list, so they’re OF the biggest, but not THE biggest. And they’re down temporarily, not closed permanently. Or are you making a joke? Hard to tell with online comments.

        • Joe Builder

          Recent outages at two of the biggest, most popular grids in the metaverse — Metropolis and AviWorlds – cut into this month’s active user numbers, but overall the OpenSim metaverse continued to expand. Outages, Closed not much difference, In opensims its either open or closed. Maybe we both read into it to much. And didn’t see top-ten in your above statement.

          • Lani Global

            Outage does not mean closing.

          • Joe Builder

            Google outage, it has many definitions in this context means Closed. Example AviWorlds has a corrupted DataBase, Metropolis has a corrupted Database. Both Grids NOW are closed. .

          • I’m not considering either grid closed. I’m considering them down temporarily due to technical difficulties. I will mark them closed when they actually close down.

            In fact, many of the grids in our list — especially small home-based grids or school grids — are only up part-time , while people are using them.

            I mark a grid as suspended when it hasn’t been up for a while, and closed if I haven’t seen it up for two or three months.

            But, each month, even some “closed” grids pop back up. So we have to check over 600 grids each month. We’ve only partly automated this process.

          • Joe Builder

            Fair enough

      • Joe Builder

        I was commenting the notion of 2 biggest grids 🙂 I own presently 136 regions, I makes things move in opensims, not that I need to go to other grids, other than to visit

  • AviWorlds

    I have edited this portion of this blog here. I want to remain professional. Thanks

    • Joe Builder

      Alex this should not be a surprise, Maria some months back said she was very Bias. You already know all the reasons why.

    • Because I didn’t know when — or if — or in what form — you guys were going to come back.

      You were also down for quite a while.

      Finally, your active user numbers would have been meaningless.

      But I didn’t forget about you and am looking forward to seeing you guys back up.

  • Alicia Stone

    This is an interesting article. As some of you may know I have been evolving my own Grid into now what it is as Project COSIE. I think the hypergrid itself is seeing a metamorphasis from what had been goodwill open source model (donation based), to being more consumer (commercial) based.

    One effort I was kinda sad to see fall by the wayside was the FreeOpenSim grid. I mean I was honestly looking forward to an open grid that I could park some regions on. I would have been willing to donate to something like that as I have done in the past for OSGrid before the management change.

    I may look into metropolis if it is back up. Hard telling what I’ll wind up doing, but rest assured that Alicia is not out of the game for getting open source (yes source included) textures and freebie builds out on the net.

    In all honesty I may be the last unicorn in a world of dragons, LOL – well that is more poetic then saying simply, “I wish people would put politics to the side and focus on what we do best, and that is to create and build this thing we call the hypergrid.”

    • Metropolis has been back up, and running even better, for a few days now…maybe a week, I can’t keep track of time as well as I used to be able to…lol

      The politics issues is not Metropolis’s and you will find if you simply wish to have access to good asset structures and enjoy the free Metaverse, Metro is a cool place to be.

      http://www.hypergrid.org/metropolis/wiki/en/index.php/Downloads is the Metro configured version of os and you will note they speak to some other differences integrated into it.

      As to your opinion that commercial grids are somehow doing well “I think the hypergrid itself is seeing a metamorphasis from what had been goodwill open source model (donation based), to being more consumer (commercial) based.” I would strongly disagree with that.

      Commercial grids being for-profit enterprises usually run by 1 or a handful of people, it behooves them to show good numbers, when a reality check and a more in-depth look often shows something is amiss. Not for all of them, of course-))

      I am actually seeing more and more free grids coming up. You can see some of this activity in the google+ community of Opensim Virtual.

      You do not have to even join it to read what is happening, and it is quite a lot.

      https://plus.google.com/u/0/b/113904954583860050633/communities/116284417302234467612

      be well-))

      • Alicia Stone

        OH I agree that Free Grids are needed – I was just commenting that many open effort grids have gone the way of McGrid’s. I can also agree that many newcoming grids are springing up as a result.

        This is the natural effect since most of the metaverse as a whole is into the open source aspect of things, and the idea of Grid’s for profit can be somewhat disheartening.

        You have to remember there are those who view it as a job, then there are those of us who are like the Atari employees of old more or less doing the work with only the hopes that occasionally a keg party springs up on the back docks.

        • -)) yes, and lots of work is being doing in free grids. I think it is wonderful. I do a photo blog for Metropolis here:

          http://minethere.blogspot.com/2013/04/metropolis-grid.html

          just to showcase some of what is done in the free Metaverse all of the time-))

          As you point out, using other words, it is a lot of building and testing…only natural some grids will come and go. I prefer creating regions myself, something that I could not do near as well in commercial grids and I certainly couldn’t save my oars and iars or any of the other things I can easily do in opensim.

          But Metro has a lot to offer for most any needs one wants. Quite a few well-known regions have come there from osg and quite a few ppl are coming from all over. Lots of quality free content around.

          I personally think the sl clone model that commercial grids use will go away, or, possibly, some will see the trends and do some kind of blend of both. Kitely is doing that and has some cool and innovative ideas…which is why I like it a lot.

          I expect some of these commercial grids, all of which have all sorts of issues relating to the continual vying for sl content, and other issues, will disappear over time, tho some will hang on and squeeze everything they can out of their residents until they close the doors.

          This has happened.

          People should keep in mind that anything they put in a commercial grid then belongs to the grid owners also. It is pure naivete to not consider the fact that grids backup regions, ostensibly for their residents, but of course that means they have them also. In fact, it is more owned by commercial grid owners than it is by residents since residents can’t even do their own backups to their own computers.

          Seems a waste of time to me.