OpenSim growth sets new record

Love on OSGrid (image by Lisa Roffo.)
Love on OSGrid (image by Lisa Roffo.)

Virtual world users continued to show their love of OpenSim this month, with a record-breaking increase in total regions counts on the biggest public grids.

The top 40 OpenSim grids reached a total of 8,561 regions — up almost 8% from 7,942 in January. However, these numbers are distorted slightly by a scientific experiment on the ScienceGrid. In January, 1,024 of the grid’s regions were a simulation of the Grand Canyon running on a single server. This month, 512 regions were running this simulation. Discounting these regions, total region counts grew an even more impressive 16% — from 6,918 regions in January to 8,049 regions in February. That’s a new 1,191 regions added to the OpenSim metaverse.

The biggest growth was at OSGrid, which gained 847 regions. OSGrid allows anyone to connect a region for free, and also offers an automated region launcher, making it even easier for home-based users to set up their own worlds at no cost.

OSGrid originally started out as a place for OpenSim developers to test out the platform, but has since grown into the largest social grid running this open source software. OSGrid is hypergrid enabled, allowing users to teleport easily to other grids. OSGrid, a non-profit, also offers events, freebie stores, and a vibrant online community.

The grid showing the single biggest increase rate was the German-language Open Neuland grid which almost tripled in size from 74 to 188 regions. The French-language FrancoGrid doubled in size, from 94 to 198 regions.

February Region Counts

Last month, someone asked me why we were tracking region counts rather than some other metric, like active users. There are several reasons for this. One is that every grid publishes its current region counts. Those that don’t — namely OpenLife Grid, and the possibly-dead Legend City Online — are no longer on this list. The second reason is that regions take processor power. Even free, home-based regions tie up a computer. And active regions are places that folks can visit. Even an empty water region is a place where users can hold sailing regattas. The folks at ScienceSim have pushed this a bit, however, with their 1,024-region natural landscapes. Despite this test, creating new regions is still harder than creating new users.

Tracking user counts is difficult for several reasons. First, many grids don’t publish statistics for active users, only registered users. It is far too easy to game registered user numbers to improve a grid’s popularity rankings. Second, even active user numbers can be gamed with bots, at far less processing cost than running a new region for a month. Finally, many people have accounts on multiple grids (since hypergrid teleports can be flaky, and not all grids are hypergrid enabled). However, if more grids begin publishing their “active in the past month” user numbers, then we will begin to track these, as well.

Another possible metric could be in the number of hours people use their Meerkat, Hippo or Imprudence browsers to access OpenSim-based grids. This would require some programming by the browser folks — and would still not cover people who use custom browsers or the official Second Life browser.

Maria Korolov