Top OpenSim grids doubled in size in 2010

OpenSim grids hit yet another new peak this month, with 15,094 regions on the top 40 grids, an 11  percent increase from last month’s 13,564 regions — a gain of 1,530 new regions. Meanwhile, total registered users on these grids grew 5 percent from 140,053 in mid November to 147,565 today.

The top 40 grids have more than doubled in size over the past year — in December 2009, they had a total of 7,246 regions.

OSGrid remained the top gainer in terms of regions, growing to a new high of 8,512  regions through a gain of 795 new regions. OSGrid currently has more regions than all other top-40 grids combined, due to the fact that people can connect regions for free if they have the technical skills to run OpenSim at home. There are also a number of third-party hosting companies offering full regions for as little as $9.90 a month who offer hosted land on OSGrid.

OpenSim growth has been steady over the past year, except for a dip this past summer when OSGrid conducted a major housekeeping campaign and cleared out thousands of inactive regions.

OSGrid is also home to the largest user population of any OpenSim grid, with 54,154 total registered users and 3,397 users who were active last month. OSGrid residents run a variety of freebie stores and event venues, which helps attract visitors. Finally, OSGrid allows hypergrid teleports to other grids, making it appealing for those looking for a jumping-off point from which to explore the metaverse. This month, however, hypergrid teleports out of OSGrid have been disrupted as a result of problems connected to the upgrade to the latest version of OpenSim.

But while OSGrid gained the most new regions, InWorldz — a closed, commercial grid – gained the most users. InWorldz now has 25,568 registered users, a gain of 3,095 compared to last month. InWorldz does not report active monthly user numbers.

Meanwhile, InWorldz has been bumped from its second-place position in terms of region counts, since it only gained 31 new regions, for a total of 719 regions.

Instead, Virtual Worlds Grid is now in second place, with a total of 813 regions. Virtual Worldz Grid is run by Myron Curtis, an IT specialist at Butte College, and is also known as Virtual Worlds College. The grid is home to some installations that require a lot of land — for example, the under-construction Virtual Worlds Galleries is planned to be the single biggest virtual building, spanning 36 regions. That translates to 576 acres of virtual land — about half-way in size between New York’s Bronx Zoo (265 acres) and Central Park (843 acres). However, Virtual Worlds Grid is in 34th place by users, with just 279 registered account holders on the grid.

Unlike Second Life — where each region costs $300 a month to run, with a $1,000 setup fee — regions on OpenSim grids are usually free to create and cheap to run, with professionally hosted prices typically ranging from $10 to $100 a month, depending on power and features. In addition groups with access to low-cost servers, such as research companies or educational institutions, can easily run large numbers of regions at very little cost if they have the in-house technical skills to set up an OpenSim server.

As a result, total land area might not be the best indicator of how active a particular grid is. Unfortunately, many grids do not publish their active user numbers, and there is no way to independently verify the user totals of those grids that do. Region counts are easy to verify, by simply logging into the grid and checking the map.

Other grids grew as well. AlphaTowne, a commercial, hypergrid-enabled grid, gained 147 regions, to a new total of 334. George Washington University’s virtual campus, eceCloud, gained 76 regions for a new total of 97 regions. The Italian-language VirtualLife gained 43 regions, for a new total of 114 regions. The non-profit New World Grid gained 41 regions, for a new total of 543.

Of grids that report active user counts, OSGrid was in first place, followed by Your Alternate Live with 1,665 active users, Meta7 with 1,159 active users, AlphaTowne with 854 active users, New World Grid with 526 active users, and the role-playing Avination grid with 524 active users.

Private grid growth

The growth of these top 40 public OpenSim grids is only a small part of the story, however. There are hundreds of institutions, organizations and individuals running private grids and mini-grids. In fact, creating a new grid is now as simple as downloading setup files onto a USB stick and popping it in.

The popular Diva Distro distribution of OpenSim, was downloaded 588 times this past month. However, this does not mean that there are now 588 more private mini-grids — some people might have downloaded the distribution but decided not to use it, while others may have downloaded it once and then used it to set up multiple grids.

In addition, many hosting providers — including ReactionGrid, SimHost, and Dreamland Metaverse — run private-label grids and mini-grids for the clients. And the non-profit Immersive Education Initiative offers free hosting and free help for schools and colleges looking to set up their own grids.

Meanwhile, Second Life lost 12 regions this past month, for a total land area of 31, 545 regions, according to Grid Survey. Second Life no longer publishes numbers of active users.

December Region Counts

We are now tracking a total of 114 different publicly-accessible grids, 82 of which were up this month. The raw data for this month’s report is here.

Maria Korolov