The State of the Metaverse

So with a lot of State of the Union, and State of the Nation, and State of the State speeches the last week or so, how about a quick view at the state of the Metaverse?

Growth: None

Second Life has seen no real growth at all in the last calendar year.  This according to their last quarterly reportIMVU seems to still be growing but not at the pace they were a year ago.  Other promising 3DVWs like Twinity and Blue Mars are still barely populated, despite massive increases in real estate to explore.

Open Sim News

The past few months have seen a bit of new stuff in Open Sim.  Version 0.7 was released, proving to be a major improvement.   Open Sim will probably support mesh within days of SL’s support of mesh (whenever that happens).  Some new branch projects are being developed, primarily to work on physics.  Then there is the NASA education project that decided Open Sim was better than SL.

Client News

The push is on to get rid of clients that still run on version 1.  Linden Lab is doing their part by blocking search on version 1 clients.  Open Sim is doing their part by implementing the 2.0 client features like web on a prim.  The Third Party Viewer community is doing their part by making 2.0 compatible viewers that have significantly more features than either version 1 or the official viewer.  See this video demo for the latest Phoenix viewer.

Second Life Given Back to the Role Players

The Tesla Room in the soon to close France3D futuna sim

So I spent a  fair amount of posts devoted to what seems to be a battle of “visions” going on in Second Life.  A string of posts starting with this one I wrote a year ago.  I have written so many I just decided to create a new sl visions tag. Click to see all the related posts.

So here is the story in a paragraph.  There have been three competing “visions” of what SL should be: The role-player vision, the merchant vision, and the 3D Facebook vision.  Since the resignation of the last CEO Mark Kingdon, the temporary CEO Philip Rosedale has systematically disassembled the 3D Facebook vision, largely because it is unworkable (as I predicted).  Because of the resources spent, changes requested by the merchants have not only not happened, but actually they are worse now.  Merchants continue to quit with profits way down.  That leaves us role players basically in charge, and if you have seen the latest re-design of the main Second Life page, you will see, that SL has recognized it as well.  We are back to “Your World, Your Imagination” again (though not in those exact words).

Now a lot has happened under the brief Rosedale administration:

  • Second Life Enterprise Grid – Gone
  • Basic account support – Gone
  • Premium support – once 24 hours, now limited hours
  • Non-Profit/Educational Sim discounts – Gone (or soon will be)
  • Avatars United – Gone
  • X-Street, soon to be integrated into game, currency exchange Gone
  • Teen Grid – Gone (or soon will be)
  • Community Gateways – Gone

Now many of these I am sad to see are disappearing, while others I say good riddance.  What they are doing is simplifying the whole thing.  Simplifying, always a good thing.  The general philosophy is now a “hands off” policy, meaning they are giving us players more autonomy.

Meanwhile, check out where their current development efforts are focused:

  • Mesh
  • Display Names
  • Voice Morphing
  • Wearable Avatar Physics
  • Havok 7 support

Here is what they all have in common:  They are all good for us role players.  If you are in SL because you enjoy pretending you are someone else, whether that is a formal role player in a community, or an informal role player pretending to be someone you are not, then SL seems to be catering to you again, after a couple of years where they weren’t.

Here’s the cloud to go along with that silver lining.  Philip Rosedale has stepped down, and Linden Lab is once again looking for a new CEO.  Furthermore, there is good evidence that the remaining employees don’t really seem to “get” the whole RP vision thing.  Here is hoping they hire someone who does.  Unfortunately, I am not that hopeful.

Wither the Merchant Vision

So there are now two different visions left about what Second Life is, or should be. What vision you are apart of is largely based on what motivates you to play. I call these visions “role play” and “merchant” as a short hand way of understanding them.

There are builders who build for fun, they are part of the role play vision. There are builders who build for profit, they are part of the merchant vision. There is a lot of mixing and gray area obviously.

We can all see that SL has plateaued, and will likely decline soon. This is very bad for the Merchants. It is possible that Mesh could revitalize the market, but I am leaning to the idea that it will radically change the market so much that it is unlikely to help the current merchants.

Most of us Role Players have accounts in other places, especially many open sim grids. When SL closes, we’ll probably spend a little time mourning, then we’ll be elsewhere.  Us non-merchant types will likely move on to Open Sim and start building there. Heck, a lot of them already are. Similarly the various role play communities would move and rebuild as well.

The Merchants don’t have many other places to go.  With no currency, no theft protection, no one to file a DMCA complaint to, the merchants have no desire to move to Open Sim, even if there were no SL.  The market place in SL is one of a kind, the closest is IMVU, and it is about a tenth of the size of SL.

The RPers may have built SL, but it is the merchants that made SL popular, they provide most of the content we RPers enjoy.  We non-merchant RPers are better off with the merchants around, which means we are better off with SL around.

I believe that when SL eventually closes, there will be a new virtual goods market somewhere, innovation abhors a vacuum.  Maybe not of the same nature as SL, but I see other virtual good markets, like Renderosity and various app markets, succeeding in other similar venues, so it is only a matter of time before there is another virtual goods market where creative people can make a few bucks.  This is another topic I have already written about.

The Problem of a Multi Grid Economy

My last post was about the slowly being developed 3D Internet, which I am guessing is likely to be built on the Open Simulator platform. There are other open source platforms in the competition, Open Cobalt is one I mentioned, while Open Wonderland is one mentioned in the comments. For completeness sake, I should also mention Sirikata, another open source platform.

Don’t expect a battle royale between these different open source platforms.  It is possible that in the end, they all might work together.  The IEEE (a major engineering organization that develops standards for web protocols) has put together a workgroup called VWRAP (Virtual World Region Agent Protocol).  The group’s first easy to read paper on the topic can be found here in PDF form, if you are more technically inclined, you can read their preliminary drafts here.

From a Second Life perspective, a 3D Internet presents many challenges.  The biggest one on the minds of most people is “How do I make money?”  Because of the open nature of a 3D internet, any rules regarding permissions and copying simply cannot be enforced.  The Second Life economic model will not work.  There will be money making opportunities on the 3D internet, but the buying and selling of 3D goods for virtual cash can only be done in a closed off system like Second Life or an individual Open Sim grid.  The 3D internet will involve multiple grids and possibly multiple platforms.  Moving stuff from grid to grid, platform to platform, and avatar to avatar makes the SL economic system worthless.

Second Life’s Flawed Intellectual Property Policy

Before discussing what a multigrid economy might look like, lets take a look at the biggest weakness with the Second Life economic model.

Second Life is the first ever to try creating a virtual economy where people retain ownership of their creations. When Second Life decided that was what they wanted to do, a lot of people said it was unprecedented and would never work.

Guess what? It doesn’t work!

There are two court cases right now, one I mentioned here, and another detailed here.  Both take issue with SL’s Intellectual Property policy from two different perspectives.  While neither case has been tried yet, these cases are the apparent cause of  Second Life’s recent rather draconian Terms of Service changes.

The problem with making an unprecedented policy is that the legal ramifications are unclear, and it may cost quite a bit of legal fees to hammer out clarity in the courts, a price I am not sure LL is willing to pay.  Eventually, Linden Labs is going to have to change to one of these two proven models:

1. The There/IMVU/Facebook/MySpace model where “We own everything you upload, so you can’t sue us if your stuff is copied, or if we remove your stuff, because we own it, not you”.

2. The Internet Host/OSGrid/Google model where “We just sell the server space and index stuff for search, so solve your own damn Intellectual Property issues.”

SL Beta member Oz Spade made a good response to this:

I think LL intended to do #2, but wasn’t doing it fast enough or in the right ways. I recall when they first announced this whole IP thing and people were asking questions like this and the answer was “well eventually we want to be like an ISP or Linux distributor or website hoster, we host, provide access to content, and support and you do everything else.” Which is fine, and would work if they really were going for that model and not sitting on their ass trying to sweep up the cash. The problem they’re having is relinquishing control because, well, they’re a company, and not a non-profit.

The other problem with that model is, in the example of the ISP/hoster you still have to respond to take down requests and “violations.” The difference between LL and the other models is, with the other models your content can go with you, i.e. you can have all the html files on your computer and take them to another hoster. However with SL, your content, if you play by the rules, can only be accessed via SL grid. So in reality they aren’t really providing only a hosting service, which is what fucks them and is completely their mistake / stupid-attempt-to-keep-out-competition-that-might-use-their-software-features. It’s like if to host a website on a hoster you had to write your website in a special language that could only be written and hosted on that hoster and you couldn’t convert it to html without hacking around.

So basically they made a legal decision before they had worked out all the kinks in the technology that uses it. Or had made a legal decision without wanting to fully commit due to money/selfishness/whateverdouchery.

The first thing they should have done when saying “you own the IP” is make sure that you can take that IP with you, that you actually DO own it. And this is what people have been screaming for since they announced it and why we have things that people freak out about like “copybot” and other ways to “illegally” copy objects/etc. If LL had ignored the douches freaking out about “holy shit people will steal shit!” and actually implemented backup features properly that allowed content to travel with the creators, we would be avoiding a majority of this bullshit.

Seems spot on to me.

And another problem I have not even mentioned is the conversion of dollars to lindens and vice versa.  Linden Labs has insisted that the “Linden” currency has no real value outside of the game, and yet nobody believes that.  Lots of virtual worlds, both 2D and 3D, have virtual currencies exchangeable for money.  If a court were to rule that these virtual currencies should be treated like real money, it opens a whole new can of worms legally speaking.

Linden Labs is not going to be able to straddle the line between IP freedom and IP protectionism for long.

Eventually these legal difficulties could eventually follow over to other grids, or other grids could take this as a precautionary lesson and try something else.

A Possible Open Grid Economic Model

The SL economic model can only possibly work in SL, because there is one entity that controls all the asset servers.

In an Open Grid model with cross grid travel and communication there will be hundreds of asset servers controlled by hundreds of independent companies, just like the 2D internet is controlled by hundreds of web hosts. In the case of avatars, everyone may possibly host their own avatar outside the grids, so we could be talking thousands of asset servers.

An OpenSim grid is going to have to toss the whole SL paradigm out completely. Forget about inventory, selling individual units, and permissions, it won’t work in an open grid.

The open grid must work as a true 3D internet, with the internet as a paradigm.
Region = website
grid = webhost
inventory = stuff you store on your computer or via “cloud”

Think of the way the internet works now. If I have a website, or blog, or facebook account, etc. I can easily copy pictures, text, scripts, music embeds, etc, from other websites and post them on my web site. Its my responsibility to make sure I have the rights to what I post, but of course, most people don’t check the rights of everything they post. Since most sites are non-commercial, and visited by very few people, nobody gives a damn mostly.

On the other hand, if a site gets popular, and designed to make money, or has a big company behind it, then that website will be required to have the rights to all content on that site, or find itself with a cease and desist notice, or the web host might get a take-down notice and suddenly your site is gone.

This is the way an open grid has to work as well: everything is full perm, but copyrights are still in play.

What is needed are sites similar to Renderosity for open sim grids. Nothing on Renderosity is ever copy protected, because it makes it unusable. Buying a file is not what is important, it is buying a license, which is why most things are overpriced at Renderosity, but if you are using Renderosity objects for a commercial project, you damn well better have a receipt.

That has to be the model for open grid as well.  For example I make a couch object that in SL could sell for maybe 100L. For Open Sim I sell a commercial license for $10 or about 25 times the SL sales price, which I sell on a specialized website.  If someone buys it, they get a full perm object that they can edit, or copy, or give away, but can’t legally sell.  Most Open Sim grids have no in world currency so I can’t sell there anyways. I could try to post it for sale on a specialized website, but if the website is a legitimate one, they could investigate the origin of the items on sale on their site and prevent resales.

Because the object in world is copyable, why would anyone buy a copy when they could just grab a copy in world? Well that is where the “Internet” paradigm takes over. You could just grab a copy and post it on your region, but if the region is commercial in any way, you damn well have a commercial license for the object or be potentially subjected to litigation or grid take down.

The big money in Open Sim is going to be in the building of commercial regions for clients. Professional region builders who want to use your couch will definitely pay the $10 for the license to use it, just as the region builder expects to be paid for use of his region model for anyone that uses it.

I have proposed this idea to many, the primary objection is that it will limit the people that make money to only the best creators.  I’m sure that other methods of making money on the 3D internet would emerge that we have not thought of yet.  My primary point is that the SL economic model is not one we can (or should) consider.

Why Open Sim is the Future Metaverse (and why it is not the present)

I have been following the Open Sim development for a couple of years now. Some of the latest developments have convinced me that if there is ever going to be a 3D internet, it will be based on Open Sim. I say this knowing that Open Sim currently has a rather low population of participants, low enough that one could question the sanity of such a statement.  Well here is a brief summary of this conclusion.

What is a 3D internet?
A 3D internet is one that is navigable in 3 dimensions rather than two. Instead of websites, you have explorable regions. Instead of 2D text chatting, you have 3D avatar chats.

Why is a 3D internet inevitable?
Sometimes things can be explained easier visually rather than textually, and 3D often gets visual points across better than 2D. For example if you are a photographer with a website, and you want people to see your photographs and find the ones they like best for purchase, the “slideshow” approach is a bad way to do it. After the 4th or 5th click, people start to wonder if it is worth it. Immerse the visitor into a 3D gallery of your photos and people will venture around, allowing them to find the pictures they most like fast.

Hyperlinks in 3D

The thing that got me interested in talking about the 3D web again is the recent development of  “hypergrid” teleporting.  Teleporting from region to region is easy if your start point and end point are on the same grid, but the 2D World Wide Web is built on the ability to move from page to page, where the pages are often on different sites and different hosts.  The development of a 3D web requires the ability to move from grid to grid, and from host to host.

While far from perfect, that obstacle has been resolved.  It is now possible to move from grid to grid without needing to create accounts on every grid or closing your browser.  The picture above is the OSGrid me meeting the Reaction Grid me after clicking on a “hypergrid” link.

It works similarly to the slurl’s in SL except if your destination is on a different grid, your avatar is uploaded to the new grid and your name changes to firstname.lastname @ gridyoucamefrom to prevent conflicting names. It is really cool when it works, but unfortunately a lot can go wrong.  Instructions can be found here, if you want to try it.

Not all hypergrid enabled regions can reach all other hypergrid regions.  Took me about a dozen tried to find a combo that worked.  To get from OSGrid to Reaction Grid, I found a region called Hypergrid Market Middle on OSGrid (a very boring place BTW), then clicked on this link: secondlife://hypergrid.reactiongrid.com:9009

Eventually all the bugs will get ironed out and an independent 3D web will really start to develop.

Why will the 3D Internet be based on Open Sim?
It wont be Second Life.  There are many reasons. First, a 3D internet cannot be controlled by one company.  Second, it is inappropriate for a 3D internet to be under a virtual economy if it is going to be universally adapted.  Thirdly, the designers of Open Sim are moving away from SL’s strict protocols.  Open Sim regions no longer have to be strictly 256m x 256m, they can be larger.  Researchers have managed to put 200 avatars on a single region, and have run up to 40 regions on a single server.  Open Sim offers a flexibility that SL cannot offer.

It wont Be Blue Mars, IMVU or any other current 3D Virtual World. These all do what they do well enough, but they are all designed to be proprietary.  IMVU is strictly a chat program in 3D, Blue Mars is a gaming platform.

The only real open flexible 3D platform that could be competitive is  OpenCobalt.  It interfaces with Google protocols allowing Sketchup KMZ files used in Google Earth, allowing import of the huge library of 3D objects in Google’s database, as well as in the OBJ format.  This is stuff OpenSim still can not do.  My knowledge of OpenCobalt is small, but there are three reasons why OpenSim will win: 1. it is already proven scalable technology, 2. More developers are working on Open Sim than OpenCobalt, 3. It is a lot easier to add KMZ and OBJ support to OpenSim than it is to add the OpenSim scalable multi-region stuff to OpenCobalt.

Of course, something designed from scratch could be better than OpenSim, but it would take years to develop, and OpenSim has a huge head start.  Network protocols could be designed to replace TCP/IP as well, but would never be implemented because TCP/IP is too well entrenched.  I believe we have reached a point where we are stuck with OpenSim.  Improving the platform is easier than rewriting it.

If OpenSim is the future, why is it not more popular now?
This is a very valid question.  SL has more than three times as many regions (32,000) as all of the OpenSim Grids combined (10,500).  The OpenSim grids are growing at a rate of 10% a month so far this year, while SL has only grown 1.4%.  That’s the best stat comparison.

SL has more than 500 times the number of accounts as OpenSim, and over 100 times the number of active players.  At any given time, about 60 to 70% of all regions in SL are uninhabited. In OpenSim, that percent is closer to 99%.  OpenSims one advantage is cost.  It costs 10 times as much to get a dedicated region in SL as it does to get one on OSGrid, but your SL region is 100 times more likely to get visitors than in OS, so if you want visitors, the premium is probably worth it.

Why the horrible stats?  I like to think of the 2D internet as it existed 20 years ago.  SL is AOL, and the WWW is a couple of years away.  The people who were on the web at that time were students, researchers, hobbyists, some businesses and governments.  So who are the few people on OpenSim?  students, researchers, hobbyists, some businesses and governments.

When it became obvious that the open WWW was superior to AOL, everyone flocked to WWW.  I’m hopeful that history will repeat again with OS and SL.  On the other hand, maybe it is more accurate to think of SL as “Windows” and OS as “Linux”, and OS will be forever stuck as a niche platform despite its parity.

Setting up a Simple Open Sim Sandbox on your hard drive

This is an edited repost from last August.

Most people that play Second Life, run into this problem eventually: You want to build stuff, and cant afford a lot of land, so you go to a sand box region, and when you go, its laggy and overcrowded.

Why is it even necessary to build stuff in world anyways? We can make our own textures and animations offline using other programs then import them into SL. Why cant be build objects in a third party program and import them?

There is a solution with OpenSim. You can create a free, lag free personal sandbox island on your own computer and build what you want.

I heard horror stories about setting up an Open Sim server of my own. Unfortunately, instructions to set it up are often overly technical and have the format “if you want to do this, then A, but if you want to do that then B.” A lot of tutorials want you to compile the latest source and set up another database, none of which are really necessary.

All I want to do is set up an Open Sim sandbox on my own hard drive. I’m not looking to connect it to a grid, or invite my friends to connect to it. I just want a free place to play and experiment. How difficult is that?

Its not difficult at all. Here is the process for Windows PC’s in four easy steps:

Note: If you already  have an earlier Open Sim set up, back up your build in an OAR file, and your inventory in an IAR file, so you can reload them later, then completely erase the old files before beginning.

Step 1: Download and unzip the latest Open Sim build. They now have a zip file for PC’s that makes loading Open Sim on your hard drive really easy.  You just need to know where you want to unzip it to.

The download page is here.  The file you want for the PC is http://dist.opensimulator.org/opensim-0.6.8-binaries.zip

Step 2 : Open the directory you installed the program to, and find “opensim.exe” if you have a 32 bit version of windows, or “opensim.32bitlaunch.exe” if you are running a 64 bit version. Right Click and “create a shortcut” and move it to your desktop. (Vista and 7 users only: Right click on the shortcut you just created and go to Properties, then the “Advanced…” button, and check “Run as Administrator”). This is needed to get all the permissions right. Every time you launch the shortcut you may also be asked to “allow” the program to run. Its a very minor inconvenience.

Step 3: Run Opensim for the first time. The scary part is that it will look like a DOS command prompt which you may not be used to. Don’t worry its easy. It will ask you to fill out a bunch of initial settings. You need to make up a first name, a last name, a password, and a server name. The rest of the settings you can just press enter to use defaults.

Step 4: Right click on your Second Life shortcut, and create another shortcut. Right click on this new shortcut, rename it to whatever you want, maybe something clever like “Local Life”. then in the “Target” section add the following info the the end of whatever is there already:

-loginuri 127.0.0.1:9000 -login firstname lastname password

The last three things should of course be whatever you made up in step 3. Launch shortcut!

OR Step 4: Launch the Hippo Viewer (downloadable here) and put your name and password in, then select “local” on Quick Grid Select and sign in. If you plan to do some building, this is better as the Second Life client does not support building with prims bigger than 10 meters on any side.

The first time on you will probably see a puff of smoke on top of a small round dome shaped island. Going into inventory under Body Parts you can create then wear a new shape and new skin. If you still see a puff of smoke press ctrl+shift+R to rebake your texture.

Note some third party viewers do not work in Open Sim, especially the Emerald Viewer.  This may change in the future, but for now stick with the Second Life client or the Hippo Viewer client.

There you are on your new island. There are no shops to buy stuff and you will have to load all your own textures, build your own stuff, and basically start from scratch. But at least there will be no lag. For help you may want to consult the opensim wiki page.

Free Content

If you feel lonely stuck on this tiny atoll with nothing visible in any direction. I found the following free content you can download and load to your private server.

Here is a decent OAR file you can download (read the thread for details).  If you do not know how to import OAR files to your private server, read this page.  It will create a city in the clouds high above your head along with teleporters on the ground so you can easily reach it.  You can edit to your hearts content.

Here is a decent collection of freebies in an IAR file you can download into your inventory. If you do not know how to import IAR files to your private server, read this page.  This should give you a decent collection of props (including trees, campfires, etc) to make your island less barren.

Moving Content from Second Life to Open Sim Using Hippo Viewer

You say you have too much invested in SL to move over to OS?  There is a simple and free way to move your own prim based content, and full perm content from SL to OS without getting a paid program like Second Inventory. This also works with the Meerkat viewer for Macintosh computers.

1. Go to SL and select the object in world. Right click and select “more” then “more” again, then “Export”. Save item as an XML file on your hard drive.

2. Quit Hippo and go to an Open Sim grid of your choice. Click “File” then “Import” then “Upload Textures + Import”, then select the XML file you saved. Instantly the object appears in front of you.

If you can find some nice full perm prim hair or prim shoes in SL to export, you can look stylish in OpenSim. Demo Video.

Have Fun!

I may eventually write about upgrading the database on your home grid and connecting your build to the OS Grid, but these are more complicated, and I have not even figured them all out myself yet.

For now I have a sandbox to play in and build stuff… FREE!

Open Sim Grids

In my last post, I decided to venture in to the untamed islands on the frontier of the Metaverse: The Open Sim Grids.  Today I introduce 4 good grids to start out on, and I will introduce others in the weeks ahead.

A few basics about Open Sim.  Open Sim is to Second Life, what Apache is to IIS.  Both are internet server software that work with a common client.  To the casual visitor they will seem to be the same, but there are underlying differences that will show up when you are building. Open Sim for example does not support vehicles, but does allows prims bigger than 10 meters per side.

If you are used to Second Life, you will find Open Sim grids to be very similar, and you can even use your Second Life program to connect to these Open Sim programs by adding ‘-loginuri’ and the grid web address on the client shortcut target.  The Second Life client was released as open source under the GPL, allowing programmers to play with the code.  The Second Life server was not released as open source, though it is for sale by Linden Labs.  Open Sim is a freeware open source program that works in tandem with the Second Life client. It was built from scratch and released under BSD, and shares no copyrighted code with the Second Life Server, meaning Linden Labs has no control over Open Sims.  So far Linden Labs has fully supported the Open Sim grids, but even if they stopped supporting them, Open Sims can still continue to operate legally.  The upshot is, if Second Life were to suddenly close down like There or Vivaty did in the last month, the Open Sim grids would still be around.  Its a safe bet that as long as there is an internet there will be Open Sim grids available to play in (in the same way that text based MUDs have been around for over 30 years).

Despite the number of grids being more then 300, the total combined regions, players, and traffic on these grids is considerably lower than Second Life.  Second Life is more than twice as big as all the Open Sim regions combined.  The people that run these grids do not always have the resources to make sure the grids are stable and always online, so sometimes logging in is a problem.  Inventory can suddenly disappear as well occasionally.  Luckily its all free.

Before you begin, you are probably going to want to get a dedicated client.  The Hippo Viewer is designed primarily for Open Sim use, and allows you to log in automatically to many different grids.  Decide on a name as well and use it on each grid.  I am Ariane Barnes on all of these grids. A common name makes switching grids easier.

You may notice that I am wearing nearly the same thing in each picture.  These are the nicest hair and clothes I have available in my Second Inventory program to upload.  When you first join these Open Sims, you will look like “Ruth”, as they call the default avatar.  All of these grids have freebie avatars available if you don’t have your own hair, skin, or clothing textures to upload.  Second Inventory allows you to move stuff that is free and full perm or stuff that you made yourself to other grids, but the program itself is not free. There are free and legal ways to move inventory between Open Sim grids by “hypergridding” but that is a topic for later.

The four Open Sim grids I have chosen to post about first are all free, all allow free uploads (textures, animations etc.),  have free sandboxes that allow Second Inventory uploads,  and all have English as a primary language.  These four also are representative of many different kinds of grids out there.

Inworldz
Website: http://inworldz.com/
Account Registration:  http://inworldz.com/register.php
Login URI:  http://inworldz.com:8002/ (in Hippo Viewer you will have to add this to the grid list)

Inworldz is the smallest of the grids I am visiting. I picked this one first as it is the most SL like. They host some mainland regions as well as offer private grids at considerably lower than SL costs. They also have their own in world currency the Iz exchangeable at $1 = 500 Iz.  Inworldz reminds me of SL as it once was: small, friendly, and very experimental. Its a place to build and play, and hang out in the welcome center and chat.  The picture above was taken at the Inworldz welcome center.

OSGrid
Website:  http://www.osgrid.org/elgg/
Account Registration: http://www.osgrid.org/elgg/account/register.php
Login URI: http://osgrid.org:8002/

OSGrid is by far the largest of the Open Sim grids, it is sort of the closest thing there is to an “official” Open Sim grid, though there really isn’t such a thing. OSGrid.org is a non-profit organization and maintains a small core of regions and the grids main asset servers via donations. They do not sell or rent space.  Instead, they provide a service where you can attach your own private region up to the  grid for free if you have your own web server.  I have seen hosting services offer your own private OS region hooked up to the OSGrid for as cheap as $15 a month.  Dedicated core regions with 15,000 prims can be obtained for $30 a month with no initial setup costs.  A real bargain!

The downside is that the OSGrid is made up of hundreds of different providers, including many regions hosted on home computers connected with home broadband.  No telling what regions are up or down at any given time, and no central authority to go to for troubleshooting, or reporting bad behavior of other players.  It is very close to a 3D internet in that regards.  No central authority also means no central economy. Sales of in world items are done through PayPal usually.

Reaction Grid
Website: http://reactiongrid.com/
Account Registration: http://reactiongrid.com/Register.aspx
Login URI: http://reactiongrid.com:8008/ (in Hippo Viewer you will have to add this to the grid list)

Reaction Grid is a PG rated business friendly grid designed to be a place to host company meetings and conferences.  It is also used by schools and colleges for online courses in a 3D environment, which means you can expect to run into student created builds as you explore.  Many companies and colleges that used to be in SL have moved here for budget reasons.  Like OSGrid, Reaction Grid allows independently hosted grids (meaning there is no in world economy), but unlike OSGrid, Reaction Grid maintains some control over the grid so they can troubleshoot problems.  Reaction Grid has a good reputation as a result and an impressive list of clients.

New World Grid
Website: http://www.newworldgrid.com/
Account Registration: http://www.newworldgrid.com/lang/en-us/register/account
Login URI:  http://grid.newworldgrid.com:8002/

New World Grid is an artistic community sponsored by multiple non profit charities based in England, France, and Canada.  The primary one being Virtus France.  The grid is completely bilingual, everything labeled in English and French.  There is no in world economy, but because it is primarily an artist community, there are lots of freebies to be found.  Some lands are rentable, but you can also petition for a free land grant if you have something worthwhile to build and share with the community.  The latest addition was a region dedicated to “Life After There” for former therians.  If you go there, an incomplete Saja like platform hovers in the sky.

I include this grid as a good example of the majority of the grids out there.  Most of the grids I researched have a primary language other than English, providing a 3D multiplayer environment for people that speak something other than English.  There are at least 4 grids for German speakers, and they are working out a common currency between them. I have also seen Spanish, Italian, Korean, Japanese, and Portuguese grids, probably others.

There are many more grids out there to explore.  The grid list maintained at OpenSimulator.org is unfortunately out of date, with a lot of closed grids.  I have a list of 30 grids known to work on my 3D Virtual Worlds page (under the RealXtend / Open Sim Project section). This page lists 40 grids, with a note that there are over 300.

The next few posts will also be about Open Sim.  Next, I will revisit setting up your own private grid (it keeps getting easier) with links to free content, then take a tour of a couple of really impressive private grids, then walk through the hypergrid process which shows promise to join all the grids together in a single 3D world wide web.

Why BUILDERBOT is an Awesome Idea!

The Second Life world seems to have its panties in a bunch over a new 3rd party utility by Rezzable dubbed Builderbot.

Basically, Builderbot can copy every object in an Second Life sim and put it into an OAR file that can be loaded onto any OpenSim server, thus making a near exact copy (scripts as usual are a problem).  They also are creating an OAR editor, and (even more impressively) a way to port OAR files into Second Life, thus making transfers from OpenSim to Second Life possible.

There are two things that are upsetting to the Second Life community: 1. Builderbot does not look at copy permissions or ownership, it just copies everything on the sim. 2. Rezzable was planning to release the SL to OAR part of the Builderbot for free.  These things had the whole community grabbing torches and pitchforks ready to boycot Rezzable. Rezzable finally gave into demand and will not be releasing the SL to OAR part free.

Hate to be the person that disagrees with pretty much everybody on this issue, but maybe I’m the only one who sees the big picture. Builderbot is an awesome idea and a key component to expansion of the 3D web. It is probably the most important 3rd party SL utility ever, and if Rezzable doesn’t release theirs, someone out there should release something similar, including the ignoring copy permissions and ownership part.

Mobile Building

Lets start with the obvious need for Builderbot. Currently, putting a build in Second Life requires that you actually be in Second Life and spend sometimes weeks building there, paying monthly tier as you build. If you want to take your time and do it right it will cost you. Then there is the occasional system hiccup that could cost you hours of work.

Builderbot does two things, it moves the building part of the project off the SL grid. You can now build your server build on your own computer, no system outages to worry about. You can save and backup your work to OAR files as often as you like. If you make a mistake, just load the latest backup. When you are done building and ready to move your build to SL, it can be moved into SL in a matter of minutes, or at most hours. This is the primary design of this program.

Fixing SL’s Design Flaws

Second Life as it was initially concieved is a flawed system. Whoever thought it was a good idea to equate Real Estate with computing power, I hope they have learned a valuable lesson. I have written about this major flaw before. Bottom line, SL runs on thousands of computers, and as many as 80% are not doing anything at any given time.

The obvious fix is to store unused regions in memory and load them up to an available server as needed. Linden Labs could cut their server need by 50-75% with such a system.

They could also bring up mirrored instances of extra busy servers. Want to give a concert that 1,000 people can attand? Just copy the build on 10 different servers that can service 100 people each. If more people want to show up, add more instances.

None of this is possible without a reliable backup system. OpenSim has OAR files, SL has got copybot (basically nothing). What Rezzable is doing is creating a tool to save SL regions as OAR files that can be stored when not in use, quickly loaded when needed, quickly mirrored on multiple servers. Obviously there is some extra programming involved to do all this, but considering the cost savings it is definitely something worth doing.

Why it is necessary to ignore permissions

The biggest concern from most of the Second Life players, is that Builderbot ignores permission. Copy a region, move to OpenSim, and everything in that region has no permissions at all. Anything in Second Life could be quickly copied, permissions be damned.

Rezzable argues that there is nothing in SL that cant be copied already. Players argue “True, but you shouldn’t make it so easy.”

Building a region is like building a website. I build websites myself and anyone can steal my code by right clicking and click “view source”, and there is nothing I can do to stop it. It is super easy.

What most Second Life players  are asking for is DRM management for SL content!

DRM has been a failure everywhere it is tried. Music, video, ebooks, the case against DRM is pretty clear. Read boingboing.net to find out why. How many of you asking for DRM for SL have stripped DRM off a music or video file so you can play it in the format you want?

A Future Marketplace

I come from the 3D Artist community where people build and sell detailed models for use in other people’s projects. All of these models are distributed DRM free and fully copyable and sharable. Yes, there is piracy in 3D models, but it is part of the cost of doing business. But since I do artwork I may want to sell, I pay for all my models and commercial licenses.  This business model is where the 3D web (SL and Opensim) will eventually go.

Most SL players are thinking in L$ economic terms without seeing the big picture. Eventually there will be an xstreet for all grids, and the ability to buy a pre built full region builds (OAR files) to load on to your personal server or hosted server is likely to be a new popular alternative method to static build exploring.

There is much money to be made in building custom regions.  Especially commercial clients who would not dare copy other people’s work. Individual objects and props have their place in the new marketplace as well, especially if they include commercial licenses that will allow the objects to be put into other builds.

I believe this could be a huge market. If I could explore lag free by loading OAR downloads to my computer based open sim server, I would love it! If I could edit them and share with others to show my edits, that would be really awesome as well. I’m quite certain I am not the only one.

The possibilities for Second Life are numerous as well. Can you imagine the fun of going to an SL club that has a different build for every event? Random combat locales? Roleplay setting that can be brought up as needed?

Like it or not this is the future! Second Life is just the early primitive beginning. In a few years we will probably wonder what all the fuss was about.