Friday, February 17, 2012

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OpenSim's Top Grid To Purge 50%+ Regions Due to Inactivity

OpenSim losing regions

The total grid size of Second Life's open source spinoff OpenSim is about to shrink significantly, HyperGrid Business reports, because OSGrid, the largest grid running on the OpenSim platform, with 11,919 regions, is "getting a long-overdue housekeeping": "OSGrid president Michael Emory Cerquoni... said that as many as 50 to 60 percent of all OSGrid regions might be purged during the upcoming housekeeping." Why? Inactivity:

When a region hasn’t connected to the grid for at least two weeks, its map reservation will be erased, the region will no longer be counted as an OSGrid regions, and its spot will become available to other region owners.

Ironically, this news comes in a post headlined "OpenSim exceeds Second Life private regions", but as SL media maven Kimberly Winnington notes, the imminent purge of unused regions makes that title misleading.

But this retraction of OpenSim usage isn't surprising:

Last month, HyperGrid Business' Maria Korolov estimated OpenSim has around 15,700 active users -- which means the active userbase hasn't grown since 2009. This isn't meant as a criticism of OpenSim or its developers, many of whom are doing really interesting work, but as Second Life users during the world's 2006-2007 hype wave learned the hard way, it's probably better to be realistic about a platform's actual reach, than keep hoping for a future the actual numbers don't support.

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Maria Korolov

The purge is scheduled for the end of February, not Feb. 12.

The 15,000 users count is just for the top 40 grids, not for private grids -- there is currently no way to track those.

And, as I keep pointing out, we don't have any hard numbers for OpenSim users in 2009.

Masami Kuramoto

Hamlet, are we looking at the same graph? The one in your blog post clearly shows linear OpenSim growth, despite the OSGrid purges that happen every six months, and despite the fact that hypergrid has been improved to a point that makes large grids almost obsolete. Why would I even want to run my own regions as part of someone else's grid? So I can join their asset server downtimes and store my mesh builds in their cloud? No, thanks.

Your conclusion that OpenSim is stagnating has no base in reality. You don't have the complete set of metrics, and the ones you have flat out contradict your claims. If SL had growth rates like the ones shown in that graph, there would be no such thing as a "sim deathwatch" in your blog.

Hamlet Au

"linear OpenSim growth"

Growth of new regions is not the same thing as growth of OpenSim. That's like looking at Second Life's 25 million or so total registrations and proclaiming growth, without noting that there's only 1 million monthly uniques and that the user growth is relatively flat.

There's no evidence of growth in unique, actual, human being OpenSim users. On that count, the available evidence is that it's flat or waning. Do you have evidence otherwise?

Masami Kuramoto

That's right, growth of new regions is not the same thing as growth of new users. But there is almost certainly a correlation between them. However, you keep looking at the rising number of grid regions (which is the only available metric) and then conclude that the other number must be stagnant or trending downward. That makes no sense, Hamlet. It's a non sequitur.

No, I don't have any evidence otherwise. No one has. But then again, I'm not the one presenting speculation as fact in order to make the old Second Life look more sexy. What I do know is that hypergrid is making the centralized grid model largely obsolete. There is almost no benefit in joining OSGrid any more. I can still teleport or send IMs between OSGrid and my own regions anyway, but when OSGrid is down or has performance issues, my own regions are no longer affected. This is something you have to keep in mind when looking at grid growth numbers. My standalone regions don't appear in that graph any more, but that doesn't mean they're gone. You have to accept that the size of the hypergrid is unknown, and so is the number of users. Grid growth is the only indicator you have, and that is still trending up, not down. Anything beyond that is pure speculation.

Hamlet Au

"You have to accept that the size of the hypergrid is unknown, and so is the number of users."

By contrast, we have a pretty good idea of how many people use SL, and how many people are using or can use Unity. SL has a small but robust economy that is attractive to niche developers, while Unity has an extremely large userbase and a wide number of developers of all sizes working on it. If OpenSim's user numbers are totally unknown, that's yet another disincentive for other developers to invest their time and resources on it. Which is probably why there's no evidence it's growing, while there's abundant evidence that, say, Unity, is growing like crazy.

But based on my research, I do think 16,000 is a pretty good estimate of OpenSim monthly active users total. However, even if there were twice that number, 32,000, it would still be much much much smaller than the number of people who use SL *a day*. And minuscule compared to Unity's install base.

Graham Mills

The three platforms each have their own strengths and supporters. You should celebrate that if you really mean it when you say of OpenSim users "many of whom are doing really interesting work". Maybe I'm being overly sensitive but it's not coming across that way.

We can argue numbers and the nature of your research for ever and a day. During the course of this month I will have used OpenSim with 50 students. Most likely none or at most 50% of those will figure in any stats -- half are not registered on any grid as they are using sim-on-a-stick. The remainder are registered on a private standalone region that is not attached to any specific grid though it is hypergrid-enabled.

That's how it is now.

Gaga

Well, the one thing that is certain is that Second Life is not growing because the metrics show it hardly ever exceeds 60K peak daily traffic and since they claim over 10k sign-up's per day something is seriously wrong if it adds nothing to traffic. People must be leaving as fast as they are joining. In contrast the open Metaverse is largely hidden and there is no central place to collect usage data but those of us who take the time to find out what is happening do have a good idea that it is growing quite fast. It is certainly not declining as you try to make out.

Picking up on OSgrids cull of sims which happens from time to time means very little as the grid recovers most of those sims soon after and it just goes on growing. Maria tracks a lot of grids but we know there are a lot more out there and until Opensim gets it's own viewer that can allow owners to add their virtual worlds to the grid manager database that is searchable by client users then we wont begin to get a true picture of the free Metaverse.

But it's growing. Better believe it!

Lani Global

On a personal basis, I see the growth of opensim HyperGrid and OSGrid every day, and the decline of growth in SL.

One of my OSGrid regions, "Lani" only had a little over 8000 unique visitors in 2011. It averaged about 22 uniques per day. About 25% of these visitors to my region are using HyperGrid, and many are coming from personal grids or standalone regions that don't get counted in OSGrid's Users Online or Regions Online statistics.

Comparing that to Lani region's 2010 visitor statistics, I note that we only averaged 10 visitors per day in 2010.

The number of my friends online in OpenSim now exceeds the number of my SL friends online. And yes, I'm still active in both virtual worlds.

In OpenSim, it appears that it is easy to see the growth now on a personal or sim basis, but more difficult to find statistics on a worldwide basis. I predict this trend will continue until there is some type of OpenSim HyperGrid networked avi counter system.

Masami Kuramoto

"Which is probably why there's no evidence it's growing"

The absence of evidence is not evidence to the contrary. You are suggesting that there is no correlation between grid growth (for which there _is_ evidence) and usage growth.

"If OpenSim's user numbers are totally unknown, that's yet another disincentive for other developers to invest their time and resources on it."

I find that statement remarkable, coming from someone who once encouraged development for Blue Mars as a Second Life alternative. Can we at least agree that OpenSim is vastly more popular than Blue Mars ever was? Or would you like to dispute that as well?

stiofain

An extremely biased article you take a positive, OSgrid behaving responsibly and purging dead sims to benefit its users and provide a more accurate metric, and try to turn it into a negative implying it is a drop in usage.
As has been said there is no way of measuring usage accurately but on a personal level I see more usage especially on the social side events, live music etc.

I like many others have used the experience gained on OSGrid to set up other HGed grids that dont show up in any metrics. With the current stability and sophistication of hypergrid there is a vast "hidden metaverse " out there that doesnt show up in any "traditional" way of measuring.

The fact of the matter is that opensim is showing steady sustainable growth in all areas and SL is in steady decline.

Hamlet Au

"Can we at least agree that OpenSim is vastly more popular than Blue Mars ever was?"

Actually, before I briefly joined as a consultant in 2010, Blue Mars reported 100,000 users and 10% monthly growth:

http://massively.joystiq.com/2010/04/24/blue-mars-experiencing-slow-but-steady-growth/

So yeah, at peak usage, Blue Mars was probably more popular than OpenSim ever has been. If someone was to ask me whether they should develop in Blue Mars now, I'd suggest they consider the company's shifts in directions and its move away from the PC client. However, if they were asking me if that shift means OpenSim is now a better choice, I'd note OpenSim's lack of clear user growth, and also point out that Blue Mars uses industry standard development tools, while much of OpenSim does not. Both platforms have strengths for specific uses, but developers also need to think about how they can translate their skills to newer, more commercially viable platforms.

Metacam Oh

Blue Mars never had anyone in there anytime I went and there were only like 3 places to go. Hard to believe they had 100,000 people. I don't buy it. Maybe 100,000 signups with none returning.

Breen Whitman

A point not raised in this blog, yet fairly significant is the type of person with a region(or three)in Opensim, usually having come from Second Life - they are often higher end users tech savvy, content aware creators and discoverers.

Sort of a Virtual World brain-drain accross to greener pastures.

I admit though, that casual users are a powerful market left behind in Second Life. But those top 5% gone to Opensim will be working on that.

Masami Kuramoto

"Actually, before I briefly joined as a consultant in 2010, Blue Mars reported 100,000 users and 10% monthly growth"

And you swallowed their PR hook, line and sinker, no questions asked. Despite a peak concurrency of what, 150 logins?

But in the case of OpenSim, where the size increase is visible and tangible, you insist on further evidence. OSGrid grows despite purging dead regions every six months, and here you are, accusing them of misleading the public, because hey, _between_ those purges they slightly overstate their actual size! Did Blue Mars or Linden Lab _ever_ purge dead accounts from their database? I don't think so.

"Blue Mars uses industry standard development tools"

That sounds so good, until you understand what it really means: there are _no_ collaborative development tools in Blue Mars at all. But then again, there are no social tools either. And no content streaming. And no support for the Mac. It's ridiculous.

Hamlet Au

Even if only a percent of Blue Mars' 100,000 reported users were monthly active at peak, the total would still likely be larger than OpenSim's 16K estimated monthly users. But you'll notice I write about Blue Mars only occasionally in recent months, in great part because its userbase doesn't seem to be growing. Despite OpenSim's similar lack of growth, I still cover it much more.

Graham Mills

OpenSim "similar lack of growth" wrt Blue Mars?

We're back to the hidden/deep/invisible metaverse again. I only know a little about the education side of things but fwiw within the last day or two:

* I chatted with a French educator with 14-sim private grid operated by NWG
* SLED has posts from two US middle school educators successfully using sim-on-a-stick with classes

Going further back:

* ReactionGrid CEO said they operate "hundreds" of virtual worlds in addition to ReactionGrid OpenSim (presumably mainly OpenSim and Unity). I know one of their clients who has a 12-sim private OpenSim grid.

In terms of news:

* Developers such as Daden and RRR now using OpenSim alongside Unity
* Kitely now has a commercial cloud-based service with support for OARs
* OpenSim features as a core tech in the Australian educator development project PLANE due to launch mid-2012

Of course, I'm coming at this from an edu/training perspective but I'd like to think that it's sustainable, organic growth. Moreover, the students involved may not be economically active in a major sense but they are the metaverse citizens of tomorrow.

GoSpeed Racer

I've been to Blue Mars and various OpenSim grids. Both are (were) full of promise and they failed to catch on due to poor marketing and lack of content. Both of them look pretty but they were lacking socially and materially.

Masami Kuramoto

"Despite OpenSim's similar lack of growth, I still cover it much more."

OSGrid just grew by 20% within a single day. Where's your coverage of that, Hamlet?

Gordon Twine

"OSGrid just grew by 20% within a single day. Where's your coverage of that, Hamlet?"

Oh yes please do it!
This is a result of the removal of 6000 regions last Sunday. All OpenSim evangelists now quickly connect new sims, whether they need it or not. And after a few weeks, we have again masses of unreachable sims. Same procedure just like every time.

Pussycat Catnap

"they failed to catch on due to poor marketing and lack of content"

Blue Mars was dead for me the day I tried it for two reasons:

1. I didn't own a NASA mainframe nor a Pixar Rendering HUB. I lacked $3million to spend on a home PC. The system reqs were just insane... My PC was brand new when Blue Mars hit and I was lucky to get 1 fps.

2. I looked like a Hawaiian Euro-Polynesian mix with Caucasian surfer-beach-bum skin. An I could not change this - no matter what I tried to do to the shape and color dials. This was even more severe the the common problem with 99% of video-games where everyone is White, even if they have black skin... At least in the SL mesh, I can tweak enough dials and land somewhere other than one small corner or the north Atlantic. ;)

- I think a lot of people gave up on Blue Mars for reasons similar to my own. Number 3 for most was also the restrictions in early days on making content. Loosened up a bit later, but still tighter than most would have liked.

Pussycat Catnap

"A point not raised in this blog, yet fairly significant is the type of person with a region(or three)in Opensim, usually having come from Second Life - they are often higher end users tech savvy, content aware creators and discoverers."

BUT...

They are also often less socially tuned in. Less communal. So they care less about the loss of all those other folks and access to all that existing content in SL. And they're not as savvy about becoming 'meme-triggers' or trend-setters that cause masses of others to follow.

Meanwhile back in SL, plenty of amazing tech savvy content creators, as well as social-magnets; continue to work together and keep things going.

OpenSim doesn't need 'tech savvy content makers' to survive. Its needs trend-setters; someone for Barbie and Ken to follow. "Geeks" aren't enough. :D

Hamlet Au

"Oh yes please do it! This [growth] is a result of the removal of 6000 regions last Sunday."

Interesting, Gordon -- got a link for this?

Graham Mills

Hamlet -- follow @osgrid on Twitter.

But why not try to report positive things about OpenSim just occasionally. You might like it.

Hamlet Au

Thanks. I've written a lot of positive stuff about OpenSim, actually, on this blog and others. I wrote a couple features mentioning OpenSim for GigaOM, one of the Internet's top tech blogs, like this one:

http://gigaom.com/2008/04/08/here-comes-the-open-source-metaverse/

And this one for OStatic, which got picked up by Slashdot:

http://gigaom.com/2008/04/08/here-comes-the-open-source-metaverse/

And for that very reason, I want to be realistic and scrupulous about reporting downsides of the platform too.

Masami Kuramoto

"And for that very reason, I want to be realistic and scrupulous about reporting downsides of the platform too."

While OpenSim is far from flawless, the downside you are reporting here is something you made up. You omitted the fact that OSGrid region purges are nothing new and happen regularly. You omitted that the 50 percent drop in land mass happens every time and is known to be a short term effect because most regions recover quickly. Instead of appreciating OSGrid's effort to report realistic usage statistics, you spin it into something bad. And thanks to your misrepresentation of this non-event, there is now the rumor of OpenSim usage as a whole contracting by 50 percent due to lack of interest. Nothing could be further from the truth. Well, thanks a lot, Hamlet. I hope you feel proud now.

As an example, here's how Prokofy picked up your story. From her blog:

"BTW, if you think that everybody is "fleeing to the open sims," I just read somewhere that Open Sim is deleting 50 percent of their regions for non-use. We continue to keep finding out that virtuality is an acquired taste."

See what you did there?

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