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.

Maria Korolov

Maria Korolov is a science fiction writer who covers cybersecurity, AI and extended reality as a tech journalist at her day job.
Check out her author page on Amazon or follow her on Twitter, Facebook, or LinkedIn. Her first virtual world novella, Krim Times, made the Amazon best-seller list in its category. Her second novella, The Lost King of Krim, is out now.