OMC’s no good, very bad year

If 2014 was the year of the hypergrid — and it was — then it should also have been the year of the OMC.

After all, the OMC, or Open Metaverse Currency, is the only currency which works on the hypergrid and is backed by a trusted exchange, Austria’s Virwox. If your avatar has an OMC account, then any time you travel to an OMC-enabled region, your OMC balance will show up in the viewer and you will be able to buy stuff with your OMC.

According to Virwox, the OMC is accepted by 67 different grids.

On paper, the OMC looks great. And I, personally, had very high hopes for it when it first launched — and at the start of every year after that.

The whole picture

But if you take a closer look at the OMC, the picture changes dramatically.

First of all, the list of 53 grids that accept the OMC that are listed on the Virwox website is not accurate, and neither is the list of 67 grids available through its JSON API.

Once you subtract out the duplicate listings, the grids that are closed or have merged with other grids, or that never did open to the public in the first place, you’re left with just 21 grids — out of a total of more than 250 active public OpenSim grids.

Still, 21 grids is a lot better than any other currency, most of which are limited to just a single grid.

But of those 21 actice grids, not all actually accept OMC. Some experimented with the currency at some point in the past, then dropped it.

DreamNation, for example, launched its own currency last July after learning that Virwox was actually withdrawing money from unused accounts. Other active grids listed as accepting the OMC include Avination, Zandramas, and Island Oasis, which also all use their own, local currencies. OSgrid is also listed, though it’s been down since August.

Virwox does offer a few other ways to gauge the health of the currency, however, including active avatars, user-to-user transactions, and total OMC in circulation.

The red bars are the total OMC in circulation. The blue line is the avatar-to-avatar transactions. (Virwox API data.)

The red bars are the total OMC in circulation. The blue line is the total value of avatar-to-avatar transactions for previous 30 days. (Virwox API data.)

The amount of OMC in circulation dropped from an all-time peak of $5,262 last January to a new low of $2,837 a week ago. Meanwhile, as big-name grids continued to switch away from the OMC, the value of transactions declined dramatically over the course of the past year, as well.

Another way to look at the use of the OMC currrency is in terms of the active avatars using it.

Number of unique avatars using the OMC currency over the previous 30 days. (Virwox API data.)

Number of unique avatars using the OMC currency over the previous 30 days. (Virwox API data.)

Usage hit a lot of just 131 avatars in mid-September, and has grown since then to 420 avatars — but still a dramatic fall from its peak of around 1,700 active avatars in mid-2011.

Signs of a turnaround

A couple of new grids have jumped on the OMC bandwagon over the past few months, including Xmir and Your2Live.

“Virwox is the only company with OpenSim payments,” Your2Live grid founder Harrit van Beek told Hypergrid Business. “That, for us, was the main reason why we chose it.”

However, it wasn’t simple to set up, van Beek said, since the grid uses Windows instead of Linux.

“What we have done is compile OMC on a Linux Debian VPS running Virtubox, then take the DLL file and copy it over to Windows,” he said. “This is the most simple way. The only other solution is to compile on Windows yourself.”

The rest was straightforward, van Beek said, a matter of following the official OMEconomy module instructions. He also added that he exchanged about half a dozen emails with Virwox about how the currency works.

Xmir switched to the OMC last month,

Geir Nøklebye

Geir Nøklebye

“The stores are now equipped with vendors that let you purchase in OMC, or get the item from the Kitely Market,” Xmir founder Geir Nøklebye told Hypergrid Business.

However, The Great Canadian Grid, which was initially considering OMC, decided to go with their own currency, grid founder Roddie Macchi told Hypergrid Business because the OMC currency requires that users go to Virwox website to set up their currency, and go through an extra confirmation step each time they buy something.

“Its just too much to do for the customer,” he said. “People want things to be quick like in Second Life. And the best way is to just do it yourself for them and provide them a fast currency module within our own servers.”

Another problem often cited by grids and hosting vendors trying to deploy the OMC currency is the lack of support from Virwox itself. Virwox trades the currency, and provides the API — the application programming interface that allows other software to use the exchange. But it does not actually offer the software that grids have to install in order to enable OMC on their grids.

That software, known as the Open Metaverse Economy Module, is an open source project developed and maintained by the Graz University of Technology in Austria.

In the past, it was sometimes difficult to get help with the module since it was a free, open source project that didn’t belong to any company in particular.

Lukas Eberhard

Lukas Eberhard

Lukas Eberhard says he will change that.

“I’m working at Graz University of Technology in Austria and I’m now supporting the OMC,” he told Hypergrid Business. “Currently, there is only one issue with the Great Canadian Grid since they upgraded their servers. But we are still working on a solution to solve the problem.”

Other grids have been able to roll out the OMC smoothly, he added.

“As you can see, the Xmir grid started new with OMC and the installation and also the support was fine,” he said. “I hope the reports you heard did not put a wrong complexion on OMC and its support.”

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.

  • Geir Nøklebye

    Apart from a couple of small issues, installing the module on mono was reasonably straightforward given you are comfortable compiling it yourself. XMIR is running it with mono 3.10 on OS X, but installation on Linux should be identical. As for installation on Windows, I’d have to refer you to the module maintainer.

    Lukas has responded to questions and issues within a few hours at most, and always provided helpful solutions. If anyone has got questions or I can assist, please shot me a message.

  • Adam Time

    Let me get this right. Maria your the same person that said Island Oasis had almost the same amount of active users as metropolis. And that Zetamax was the best host from your readers. Even after it suffered from a breach of forgetfulness. The only good was he was man enough to say so. that’s why i would look at zetamax. Honesty. really you may want to get some of your trust back. before you start looking for new sponsors. And spounting absolute nonsense. Let me look at the daya mmmmmmmmmmmmm. Ok blah blah.

    • Not quite following you, Adam… Are you saying there was an error in the last stats report? (It happens — it’s still mostly a manual process and I do make typos!)

      I’m not sure what you mean about Zetamex… according to our last reader survey it scored second in most categories after Dreamland Metaverse. And am not sure what you mean by “breach of forgetfulness.” Would you like to try this comment thing again?

      • Adam Time

        well I had to edit it sorry i ca’nt see for crap and and to hard to type the older I get. ILook I go to these places everyday and you are far from right from the data IW is so dead my alts over there have not talked to a new person in months. that said my alts in IO have done better but one in 2 weeks. I do not understand how you gather your data but if I was a grid owner i would post what ever i wanted to make it look good. I talk to these grid owners everyday the ones out there doing things and working hard. Yet stay out of the peoples way. And they really do not get your numbers. I talked to Lost paradise and they may become my favorite place to explore but he was as surprised as me to see he was on the top 10 list. why because his system is 100 down 6 up . your really think he could sustain that growth. OK lets say he did. what would happen. do the math.

        • I get the active grid numbers directly from what the grids themselves post. Usually, the active user numbers correlate to other activities — new user registrations, event announcements, forum activity, etc…

          If the two aren’t in sync, or my readers drop me a note that something fishy is going on (which they do), I follow up with the grid owners, and, if I can, with the hosting companies. If there’s an unusual spike or drop in numbers, there’s typically an explanation.

          Finally, I do surveys throughout the year, where readers report not just on the grids where they’re based, but on what other grids they’ve visited. Now, some grids do a better get-out-the-vote campaign than others but, in general, the numbers are inline.

          Stopping by a grid once in a while isn’t particularly useful because active user numbers are very much event-driven. So a school might have a class for one hour a week, or a fashion design house might have a grand store opening and invite all its group members, and if you don’t happen to show up at the right time, you’re not going to see the activity.

          Does it do a grid any good to fake the active user numbers? Maybe — if it has everything else in place and working. Otherwise, readers might see the stats, think that a grid is a hopping place, teleport in, see that nothing is going on, and never come back again. But if a grid has mentors waiting to greet them, an events board at the welcome region highlighting what’s going on, packaged landmarks, groups, and tours and other stuff for people to do — then maybe showing fake stats could work. But then again, if you’ve got all that in place you don’t need the fake stats, and the risks of being exposed are greater than the benefits.

          • Geir Nøklebye

            This is just a comment to the numbers based on an observation, and is not substantiated by any objective measurements like Maria has in her stats, so take it for what it is:

            The numbers of regions reported – public or private, visible or dark – whatever you call it seems to be inflated.

            Judging factors like availability of content (animations is probably a good gauge), downloads of “pure” opensim viewers, TPV interests in adding features specific to opensim, or even interest in submitting viewer feature requests that needs changes in the opensim server, the very small number of active opensim developers, scripts taking advantage of OSSL, general forum and internet buzz for opensim, images posted on Instagram, flickr, Pinterest, tweets… – I mean if the number of regions are even close to accurate, they must probably sit very idle out there.

            The number of active users is probably more on the ball, even if there is some double counting going on at the moment after the OSGrid crash.

          • Considering that most people are passive users of technology, rather than active, the fact that there are over 1,000 members of, say, the OpenSim Virtual Google Plus community is a pretty good sign of the growth of the public OpenSim at least. On the private side, I’ve spoken to vendors rolling out extremely large projects in industry or education or government where, for the most part, the users wouldn’t even know that the technology they were using was “OpenSim”.

            I think one problem is that people got burned from the hype of SL, and are now keeping much more quiet about their internal uses of virtual world technologies.

          • Geir Nøklebye

            Hmm, ok. The opensim server does not scale to extremely large projects. I have yet to see any grid having concurrency over 1000, or even a couple hundreds. But these projects must use them in clever ways I don’t have any knowledge of.

            Back to content again – What is so surprising, if there is such a large number of regions in use – SecondLife which peaked at around 35k sims have an amazing catalog of items – both for free and for sale. The marketplace right now list 3349653 items, not counting in-world only creations. While at the same time we are kind-off saying there are 200000+ opensim regions sitting there hosting virtually nothing but LK’s limited catalog? – Why this enormous discrepancy in (visible) creativity?

          • OpenSim hasn’t had a multi-grid marketplace until very recently, with the Kitely Market. And its taking time for merchants to upload and post their content.

            However, there is no shortage of creativity on the OpenSim grids. In fact, i’d argue that because of the low cost of land, there is currently as much if not MORE creativity going on in OpenSim, than in Second Life. FrancoGrid and Craft, in particular, are home to some very artistic works, and I recommend following the travels of Virtual Christine as she explores this.

            I personally haven’t been paying much attention to this — hopefully, the Corran Journal will help fill in some of the gaps in coverage here!

          • Geir Nøklebye

            I hope you are right about creativity.

            Maybe I did not try hard enough, but I think I visited most of the locations listed for the best freebe poll, and almost everywhere the free stuff, and even to the extent it was paid-for content, originated in LK’s catalog. Same textures, same animations, same sculpts, same prims. – Mostly.

            A multi-grid marketplace is a convenience for both merchants and consumers, but I don’t think it is an enabler of creativity as such. In the case of SL I think it has actively contributed to the non-growth and detraction of the landmass, but that is a different discussion altogether.

          • i dont think it is an enabler so much as an outlet. The creativity was always there.

            Also, SL marketplace has been there a loooong time. now. I would actually be really interested to see the listing rate for SLMP these days. I dont think that data is easily obtainable.

            On your last comment about the MP contributing to a smaller landmass – price is a FAR bigger issue. I have an inworld store in Kitely but not SL, because in Kitely its affordable. SL is not. If SL land was a reasonable price, I would have an inworld store and I know many others who would too.

          • Geir Nøklebye

            For opensim I think a marketplace is a “hygiene factor” for creators with compatible content elsewhere to participate. More participation is good.

            On the SLM listing rate, I know I commented on the number of listed items 6-7 months ago in the SL forums (after LL kicked out the products of inactive accounts), and at that time there were some 2.3 million items. Yesterday the result was 3.3 million which is a surprisingly high number. Of that about 3.0 million is listed with a price higher than L$10 (not free.)

            There is reasonable consensus amongst SL merchant that they have reduced or totally eliminated in-world commercial space for their stores after the unified marketplace emerged. Merchants often rented a full sim. Personally I have 1/2 sim in SL and it has paid for itself + some since 2010. I believe the last L$ purchase I made from Lindex or VirWoX must have been sometime in 2010.

          • That is interesting though perhaps a little skewed. I imagine LL definition of “inactive” accounts probably lead to a surge of re-listing. I was under the impression it was round 2.5-3m items for quite some time now.

            I do agree the online MP does make it easy to not have an in-world store, but I still think if LL prices were more reasonable more stores would exist in SL. People dont like buying things sight unseen and most would like to see in-world before purchase if its possible in my experience. Topic No1 these days for my SL IMs is “can I see xxxx in-world somewhere?”

            Dealing in landscaping means I need a lot of room do display stuff, so I needed a homestead at minimum. I do reasonably well in SL but I am by no means a big merchant and during the summer dip, it was often a case of breaking barely even or sometimes even having to pay a bit out of pocket here and there. Its just no fun. Then someday you realize it might be nicer to just keep the money instead of stressing about covering all that tier.

            But if tier was cheaper, I would have a store for sure. You definitely get more sales with an in-world presence. Its just the extra revenue from in-world sales (in my experience) doesnt cover the cost of the land to host it, and I think that combination of easy and free MP + expensive land is what makes things particularly toxic for in-world stores.

          • Geir Nøklebye

            Remember, since the SLM inherited a large number of items served out of xboxes or what they were called, when they stopped doing that this summer they effectively delisted these items. Some of them may have been re-listed, but there was a real reduction in items from such boxes sitting around in various places in-world where the original owner was long gone.

            I agree with you on the advantage of having an in-world store – which is why I have xmir grid for starters, and two stores in Concinna (SL). I have seen more sales in world lately in SL, and I fully understand the problem with the high cost of sims for landscaping products people want to see. The way they calculate LI significantly penalize that type of creators.

            I agree that the cost of land in SL is ridiculously high, but the bulk of LL’s income comes from it and it would simply eradicate SL as we know it if they substantially lowered the prices. The influx of new customers would not offset the lost revenue + the additional data center and support cost. SL has the same type scalability issues as opensim, although they are not entirely identical, and SL does not scale much more above a concurrency of 75k. The only way they could significantly scale it would be implementing hypergrid for horizontal scaling. They seem to have landed on rewriting SL is a better option.

            – Rewriting SL gives opensim the biggest opportunity in the short to medium horizon in my view, but we will not see much impact till the first public SL2 preview is around.

          • Dont get me started on LI/PE 🙂

            I concur regards cost. LL are between a rock and a hard place with that one. Its going to be an absolutely crucial issue of SL2 as well and I do wonder how they are going to go about it next time round.

          • Bryan French

            Our grid has 0 LK content available. If you want something LK made you have to go to another grid to get it. We have also made finding things easy by zoning three malls and having a functional inworld search. If you want something you either use search and TP to that mall or you just go to one of the three malls. One of our malls is exclusively for resident created items where any of our residents can maintain a shop for free. I think the thing with so much LK locations is that it is easier for some of these grid owners to upload an LK OAR than to actually build and plan something. When I see a grid where the “shopping” is LK I see a grid with an owner who either can’t build or is too lazy to invest time and effort creating something original.

          • That’s Exo-Life, yes? http://wduq.fm/Exo-Life/

            Don’t knock Linda Kellie content too much, though!

            Given the choice between putting up a freebie mall full of “donated” content with no provenance (some of it EXTREMELY iffy!) and a Linda Kellie mall, the Linda Kellie alternative is at least fully legal! And completely licensed for any use anywhere. (Thank you, Linda!)

            Plus, some grids prefer to save their unique, proprietary content for commercial stores instead of devaluing it by giving it away. But those users who want freebies are going to be able to get the Linda Kellie items anyway, by downloading them directly, so why not make it easier for them? Plus, you don’t up with a thousand versions of the same content in the asset database.

            Finally, there are grids that aren’t all about the content — or about different kinds of content. For example, a school grid or company grid may be focusing on classes, meetings, custom training environments, etc… — and be perfectly fine with, say, Linda Kellie clothes and furniture.

          • Bryan French

            Yes, Linda Kellie content does have a place but when you search for “mall” on say a large grid and there are 50 LK malls all the same or a commercial grid where there is 3 versions of the same LK content arranged differently with nothing else I have to question that grid owners creativity and devotion to their grid. There was once a time in OpenSim that there was no Linda Kellie and the grid owners or their residents had to create everything, now it seems like instead of building something unique, or planning a grid, every grid starts out plopping down LK regions and then wonders why no one signs up for that grid or the grid goes away in 6 months.

          • Well, there’s certainly no reason to upload the same content more than once!

            However, the kinds of grid owners who simply put up Linda Kellie content were *also* the kind of grid owners who put up freebie stores based on content “collected” on OpenSim grids or “donated” by users. The reason for all these Linda Kellie stores was because grid owners discovered — and I’m sure they were shocked, SHOCKED! to find this out — that not all content that was “collected” or “donated” was properly licensed for use in OpenSim.

            Would I like to see more original content? Yes, I would. And my way of supporting that is to highlight destinations that have original content. I did a poll a couple of weeks back about this that, unfortunately, very few people responded to.

            And those who did voted for, basically, one different destination each — so I couldn’t use the results! Arrrgh.

            Another way to do this is to put together a panel of judges who, in return for being quoted in the article (and getting a link to their personal sites) would have to go out and look at stores and evaluate them.

            Hmmmm…. that might work….

  • Cloneu Inglewood

    Adam.. the users last 30 days reflects both local users and HG visitors. The stat is pulled from the GridUser table… In actuality there were 157 (local) user Logins the last 30 days and 280 (HG Visitors) during the same period. Yes bandwidth is an issue right but once someone has logged onto their region the bandwidth usage falls and is only used when they build or move from sim to sim. That also does not take into consideration that the regions run on SSD’s and multiple I7’s. To handle this the Robust runs 12 instances for assets and inventory and total processor load seems to never exceed 4% across all cores. The region stats are bumped to take into account VarRegions one of which I bring up and down for testing and viewing server response. that one region accounts for 1024 regular regions. The other VarRegions were once mega regions that were converted. I have seen the user visitor stats increase greatly ever since OSG has had their problems. Thanks for the visit and call hope to see you again 🙂