AviWorlds shuts off hypergrid for third time

The much-troubled AviWorlds grid has turned off hypergrid connectivity yet again, founder Alexandro Pomposelli announced in a tweet late last month.

The commercial Brazil-based grid turned off hypergrid in late 2012. “Our view on hypergrid travel is that it does create uncertainty among creators having to compete with copy-bot items,” Pomposelli said in a tweet that month.

The grid turned hypergrid connectivity back on, only to turn it off again last fall.

“No matter what hypergrid travel does to become more secure this is already embedded in the creators’ minds that traveling between grids is not safe and they will not come,” he said at that time. “The grid then can’t sustain itself and will end up closing.”

Party on the AviWorlds grid. (Image courtesy Alexsandro Pomposelli.)
Party on the AviWorlds grid. (Image courtesy Alexsandro Pomposelli.)

As during the previous closures, the grid is also restricting the viewers allowed to access the grid, and turning off the ability for users to connect their own regions.

Pomposelli, who is also known as Alex Ferraris in-world, left open the possibility that the grid might turn hypergrid back on, however.

“We will continue to observe future improvements and will consider opening hypergrid in the future when its more stable,” he said in a comment on Google Plus.

There are several issues at stake here.

First, is the ability to protect in-world content. OpenSim already has the ability to prevent local content from leaving the grid, and Littlefield, for example, takes advantage of this feature to protect its creators while allowing its users to travel the metaverse. In addition, there is now an “export” feature for OpenSim, allowing grid owners and content creators to allow some content to travel, while keeping other content local. This is an experimental feature, however, and grids are waiting for it to be thoroughly tested before rolling it out.

Second, the issue of keeping local users away from the freebies available elsewhere on the hypergrid cannot be solved by turning off hypergrid connectivity, since freebies will make their way to a grid, anyway. For example, Linda Kellie’s freebie content is all available in the form of XML files that can be uploaded to any grid, including closed commercial ones.

However, closing a grid to hypergrid travel, or restricting content from leaving via hypergrid teleport, only prevents honest users from taking content to other grids. Dishonest users, hackers, and copybotters have a variety of tools at their disposal to steal content from even the most locked-down grids and, in fact, most content theft occurs inside Second Life simply because that’s where most of the good stuff is. In addition, hackers have the ability to “spoof” legitimate, approved viewers and there is currently no technical way available to prevent them from doing so. This issue has been discussed at length recently on the OpenSim Virtual Google Plus community.

Turning off hypergrid, restricting viewers, and disallowing self-hosted regions creates an illusion of safety for content creators, however, and does help attract them to a commercial grid.

The downside, however, is that it hurts legitimate users, who are no longer able to travel, get access to a wide array of freebies, events, and communities, or save money by attaching home-based regions.

In addition, some creators have openly embraced the hypergrid and, in fact, specifically restrict their content from being used on closed commercial grids. This includes Lani Global, a sci-fi themed content creator who tweeted, “Our product license policy in OpenSim sends a message, to reward non-commercial users and grids with free stuff.”

Until the export permissions are thoroughly tested, debugged, and fully explained to creators, all grid owners will continue to face the dilemma of keeping the gates closed and keeping merchants happy, or opening the gates for the benefit of the residents. Many large, successful grids, like InWorldz, Avination, 3rd Rock Grid and Virtual Highway, have enough to offer their residents that they are able to remain closed. Smaller grids, personal grids, and non-profits typically put their users first and are open to the hypergrid.

This year, we might see some changes to this dynamic as Kitely opens up hypergrid connectivity and Avination continues to develop its export permissions.

Maria Korolov