Region counts drop for second month

The total number of regions on OpenSim’s 40 largest grids fell for the second month in a row, only the second time this has happened since we started keeping track in mid 2009. The major reason for the loss is the closure of ScienceSim, an Intel-backed research grid that had 1,189 regions at time of closing.

There are now 25,267 regions on the top 40 grids, down by 1,160 regions from this time last month, meaning that there would have been only slight growth without the loss of ScienceSim. However, these grids did gain more than 3,000 new registered users and over 300 new active users.

Regions counts fall on OpenSim's 40 largest grids.
Regions counts fall on OpenSim’s 40 largest grids.

The unimaginatively-named A Virtual World was the biggest gainer, with 53 new regions, a size increase of 57 percent. The biggest loser was OSgrid, which was down 211 regions, even after last month’s long-overdue housekeeping in which more than 5,000 regions were removed from the map.

A total of 183 regions reported statistics this month out of 214 active grids, totalling 27,313 regions, 358,965 registered users and 21,683 active users.

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 need not met 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:

The biggest changes on this list this month was that Virtual Highway replaced AviWorlds in the ninth position. AviWorlds lost 53 active users this month, dropping from 372 to 319. Craft kept its position despite losing 83 actives, and InWorldz dropped by 225 and probably didn’t even notice, given its sizeable population.

The biggest gainer this month was OSgrid, which picked up 189 new active users, followed by Kitely with 94 new actives and Island Oasis with an increase of 90.

News from around the grids

Easter decorations were all around the grids this month, as were spring-themed builds of all kinds.

Zandramas lifts all prim limits on regions

If Kitely’s 100,000-prim limit is too constraining, visit Zandramas, which just lifted all prim limits on its $35-per-month full regions.

Suzan De Konning
Suzan De Koning

The price is still the same, however, the grid’s senior manager and co-founder Suzan De Koning told Hypergrid Business.

“We no longer enforce prim limits at all,” she said. The viewer might show 100,000 as the limit, she added, but that number can simply be ignored.

“Users can use 100,000 prims, 200,000 — whatever they like,” she said. “We made this change as we want people to have the freedom of creativity and not have to worry about prims we believe this is the future and a good option for people.”

Creators will need to be mindful of how the prim numbers affect visitors, however, and be mindful of scripts and textures so that regions that see a large amount of traffic do not become too difficult to visit.

No more prim limits on Zandramas. (Image courtesy Suzan De Koning via Twitter.)
No more prim limits on Zandramas. (Image courtesy Suzan De Koning via Twitter.)

Spellscape tests quest system with Easter egg hunt quest

The magic-and-vampire-themed Spellscape grid is testing out the beta version of its quest systme this month with an Easter egg hunt.

“It’s a proof of concept but all members are welcome to try it,” said grid founder Xander Bing. “Hidden across our main regions are ten Easter eggs. Players will login to the website to start the quest and are shown the first clue. When they find an egg in world and click on it, a popup is displayed in the viewer and the webpage is updated showing the next clue. The idea behind the system is to eventually have more complicated quests with an interactive story that the player goes through in world, guided by the website.”

The system, which allows any region owner to create their own quests, is still in its early stages, Bing told Hypergrid Business. “But we hope people will see the potential it has for creating more interactive virtual worlds.”

The quest system is supported by special script functions we have created that allow anyone that has a region with us to create their own quests. I know your very busy but id love to hear your views on the quest system if you have time.

(Image courtesy Spellscape.)
(Image courtesy Spellscape.)

Island Oasis offers inventory backups and scheduled restarts, ends free stores

The Island Oasis grid has rolled out some new features for its residents, including inventory backups and scheduled region restarts.

The inventory backups are not the standard OpenSim IAR inventory file which can be taken from grid to grid, but a proprietary, encrypted, compressed file that can only be used on Island Oasis.

“In the event that a resident encounters inventory issues or accidentally deletes items from their inventory, residents can email this file to our support desk and request to have their entire inventory or a specific inventory item restored from the backup,” Island Oasis marketing director Liz Harrington — also known as Alysin Paolino in-world — told Hypergrid Business.

Island Oasis region management panel now supports scheduled restarts.
Island Oasis region management panel now supports scheduled restarts.

Region owners who want to have their regions automatically restarted on certain days can now schedule them using the grid’s website. Watch a video tutorial of how to do this here.

“They can choose one or even all seven days of the week to restart their region,” said Harrington.

In other news, Island Oasis has shut down its free store program, which has offered no-cost shops to merchants for the past three yeras.

Finally, the grid will be celebrating Eastern this month with a multi-region Easter egg hunt, starting at 1 p.m. Pacific on April 19 and starting a series of building classes conducted by instructor Francisco Koolhoven in the Builder Emporium starting at 4 p.m. Pacific on April 24.

Virtual Highway celebrates spring at Festival Park, offers free stores

Merchants looking for a new free store can visit Virtual Highway, which offers three months of free storespace in its new mall on a high-profile location next to the Virtual Highway Landing.

New mall. (Image courtesy Virtual Highway.)
New mall. (Image courtesy Virtual Highway.)

Shops are also available on Valhalla Plaza, The Galleria, or Adventura Mall through a profit-sharing setup with the grid.

“By offering these two options, together with our zero upload fees, we assist content creators in setting up a business and allow them to test the market with their wares in Virtual Highway with no initial costs,” grid owner Gene Call told Hypergrid Business.

The grid has also partnered with the Eldexchange, a European virtual currency trading platform, which will make it easier for some residents to buy currency.

Meanwhile, the grid is celebrating spring with a new build on Festival Park, with a variety of musical events being held there this month as well as a spring-themed building contest.

Littlefield holds Easter egg hunt

On Easter Sunday, April 20, the Littlefield grid will hold an all day, grid-wide Easter egg hunt.

“The eggs can be found throughout the grid, and will hold prizes donated by grid residents,” said grid founder Walter Balazic. “One golden egg will hold a $15 iTunes gift card.”

Start the hunt on the Littlefield Hangout region, by teleporting to lfgrid.com:8002:Littlefield Hangout. There will also be dance the night before, at 8 p.m. Pacific on Saturday, April 19, at the Speakeasy region at lfgrid.com:8002:Speakeasy.

“Also in celebration of our one-year anniversary, we will be continuing our land rental special until May 1,” he added. New renters can get four 30,000-prim regions and two 1,000-prim water regions for a total of US $60 a month.

On  Saturday April 26 Stonehaven Island will be celebrating its seven years in the virtual world. The region has been in existence for five years in Second Life, one year on OSgrid, and then one year on Littlefield.  The region will have games and other fun activities throughout the day, followed by founder Dirk Mathers making a speech at 9 p.m. Pacific, follwed by a dance on the Stonehaven Patio.

Visitors from other grids are welcome to attend by hypergrid teporting to lfgrid.com:8002:Stonehaven.

In other news, the grid is hosting a Blender class held by Aaack Aardvark on the OpenSim Builders Alliance region at 12 noon Pacific every Sunday. Teleport in to lfgrid.com:8002:OBA to learn how to create tattoos and clothing.

Avalonia Estate ‘femdom’ grid reopening, offers free homes to hypergrid visitors

OpenSim’s only grid dedicated to the adult “femdom” lifestyle is back. The reopening celebration will be held on April 20 from 3 to 4 p.m. Pacific at the Avalonia Estate manor house.

The grid is reopening with a new business model, in which users are encouraged to base their avatars on other grids, and to hypergrid teleport into to Avalonia Estate for gatherings and other activities.

“We welcome visitors from other grids that have an interest in Femdom, but who do not wish to leave their current grids,” grid founder Justin Ireman told Hypergrid Business. “We are no longer looking to attract, or accept new members to join up as account holders.”

The grid is even offering free homes, with up to 4,000 square meters and up to 3,000 prims, for users who teleport in via hypergrid.

It is the first grid to do so. Other grids currently only offer free land to grid residents.

“You may prefer to stay a member of your home grid such as OSgrid or Metropolis, but believe that we offer a better deal when it comes to renting a small parcel of land,” he said. ” This is subject to terms and conditions as you would expect, but if you are interested in Femdom, and you are not required to sign up with us and leave your current grid, what is there to lose?”

By not having local avatars for residents, the grid reduces the burden on its own servers. Meanwhile, would-be users don’t need to create a new avatar for the grid but can simply use an existing avatar that they already have — complete with its inventory and friends list.

Kitely to have hypergrid ‘within a month’

Kitely has been on a roll lately. First, it rolled out hypergrid delivery for its Kitely Market in late March, which resulted in an increase in buyers, sellers and the number of listed items.

Ilan Tochner
Ilan Tochner

“It also more than doubled the sales volume,” Kitely CEO Ilan Tochner told Hypergrid Business.

Then the grid upgraded to new servers that cut world startup time in half. Kitely is an on-demand grid, meaning that regions are stored away when not in use. When a user wants to teleport to an empty region, that region has to be started up. The delay is not very long — some regular teleports take longer — but can be an inconvenience especially for people who are new to the grid.

Now the grid is revamping its logo, website, and getting ready for a big marketing push. Oh, and rolling out hypergrid connectivity within the next month.

Kitely Market statistics.
Kitely Market statistics.

According to Tochner, the marketplace now has more than 2,580 product listings in more than 5,000 variations. Of these, 2,037 are exportable, meaning that the merchants have decided to enable delivery to foreign grids.

On the community side, the April egg hunt will continue until the end of April.

“There are free content prizes to be found in the more than 200 eggs that are hidden in the 34 participating Kitely worlds,” said Tochner. By “worlds,” he means islands, not separate grids.

Speculoos, the Belgian cookie grid, is temporarily closed

Speculoos, the tiny “Belgian cookie grid” best known for attracting hypergrid visitors to its freebie malls, it temporarily closed.

“We’re working on Speculoos to come back,” grid owner Gudule Lapointe said in a statement posted on the grid’s website. “Chances are that we change our subscription rules and switch to an web of trust model, with sponsorship from existing members required for newcomers. We love this place and we love the creations that were made here. So we definitively want to keep it.”

ScienceSim shuts down

On a more permanent note, the Intel-sponsored testing grid ScienceSim is officially shutting down.

“ScienceSim no longer exists as a grid,” grid manager Mic Bowman told Hypergrid Business. Bowman is an engineer heading up Intel’s virtual worlds research project. “Robert Adams and I continue to contribute to OpenSim and Simian, though our research focus has changed.”

The grid was best known for hosting the Fashion Research Institute, for a land grant program for educators and researchers, for experimental regions holding more than 200,000 primitives and more than 1,000 avatars, and servers holding more than 1,000 regions each.

Many of the residents who used ScienceSim have since started their own grids, Bowman said. “And I still have plans to build a single varregion version of Yellowstone… that should be interesting. I just need some of that proverbial ‘free time’ everyone talks about.”

Transitions

We’re listing 38 grids as suspended this month because we haven’t been able to get to their grid info pages or websites this month, including: 3rd Life Grid, AnSky, B-ATM, Canaria, Cuddles’ World, Darpa Tech Edge Grid, Digilands, El Rayo Verde, ExoSpace, Flatlandia, Four Ages, Heavens Gates, HomeTown, Kadobikrew, LDL World, MajWorld, Morpheusgrid, OpenMOOC, OpenSim Creations, OpenSim Shop, Our Own Designs, Pink, Psychedelia, SA Project, ScienceSim, Siberspace, SimB2B, Speculoos, The Hidden Continent of Chaxez, The Loom, The Microverse Grid, Titusville, Tundra, University of the Aegean, VIBE: Tooth Fairy, Virtual Realms Grid, Virtualife, and W3DC-World.

Meanwhile, we’ve added several new grids to our database, including Japan Open GridVirtual World City, Metaverse, and Mega.

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 stats page for the standard OpenSimulator distribution reported 539 new downloads this month, for a total of more than 29,000 downloads of OpenSim from the official website since the start of 2013, when they began publishing  the data. Interpolating based on trends from other distributions, the Hypergrid Business estimate of OpenSim downloads from the official website is now a little bit over 122,000.

The stats page for the Diva Distro, a user-friendly distribution of OpenSim, reported 503 downloads this month, for a grand total of over 29,600 downloads since the distribution was first released in May of 2011.

Sim-on-a-Stick, an even more user-friendly, packaged version of the Diva Distro, was downloaded 1,246 times this month, for over 30,000 downloads total since the distribution was first released in May 2011.

The even easier still New World Studio, which allows people to set up private grids in just a few clicks with a fully automated installer, recently began publishing its usage statistics. As of today, it reports 23,963 regions on 2,543 different active mini-grids running on this distribution of OpenSim. That’s an increase of 1,694 new regions, and 145 new mini-grids.

Adding in these three other major distributions of OpenSim, we estimate that the OpenSim server software has been downloaded more than 184,000 times since the start of 2010.

Meanwhile, according to data from The Hypergates, the number of hypergate jumps on their network this month rose by 99, to 2,787. The system now has 746 registered hypergates, up by 11 compared to month, on 60 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.

Meanwhile, Second Life has held steady over the past month, according to data from GridSurvey, with exactly the same number of regions today as this time last month. The Second Life grid now has 26,176 regions total, down 1,398  regions from this time last year, and 5,709 fewer regions than its peak in June of 2010.

Second Life’s loss rate has been dropping steadily for the past four months, a possible sign of a turn-around in the grid’s fortunes. If growth is permanently back, it would be a good sign for the metaverse as a whole, since Second Life spends more on marketing and outreach than all other grids combined, and also offers a very wide variety of resources to help newcomers learn how to use the viewers and building tools.

Most recently, Linden Lab has been investing in Oculus Rift support, with a new viewer now in beta testing. Second Life seems to be tailor-made for the Oculus Rift, offering users an accessible, low-cost way to create virtual environments for others to enjoy. By comparison, other platforms, like the major video game engines or Unity, require highly specialized programming and content creation skills.

Second Life is also currently the major entry way to OpenSim, which combines an interface already familiar to Second Life users with lower costs and more control.

April 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 811 different publicly-accessible grids, 214 of which were active this month, and 183 of which published their statistics.

Many school, company or personal grids do not publish their numbers.

The raw data for this month’s report is hereA 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.

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