In a recent discussion on another blogsite, a user made the following comment:
"Closed commercial grids, imo, will only offer a place to sell and the rest of the metaverse will be for exploring vw as it should be, with freedom from exorbitant costs, low prim allowances, saving one's efforts in the form of OARs and IARs and meeting some really wonderful like-minded people."
I thought I'd discuss these concepts a bit and the reality of Virtual Reality as it exists today. Comments like this appear from time to time, some even claiming the eventual downfall of "closed" grids because they dare to charge a fee. I thought it time we look at virtual life from a more realistic standpoint.
Let us first of all be honest. A "closed" grid is not closed. Anyone can use it... free of charge. One doesn't have to spend a dime to join. We can come and go as we please. On grids such as Inworldz we can create and export our builds. So "closed" is obviously a misnomer.
What these grids are instead are secured or commercial grids... which mean they have rules. Some people don't like to follow rules-- anyone's rules-- thus causing them to label grids not to their liking. But the label "closed grid" is perhaps an unfair and inaccurate reference.
"CLOSED" AT THE TOP OF THE LIST
In a recent article on Hypergrid Business, data citations left no doubt that Inworldz is at the top of the list when it comes to popularity and success of a grids outside of Second Life-- commercial or no. What was even more interesting was that the active membership of Inworldz (those that use the grid regularly) was almost double that of OSgrid, the largest of the OpenSim-based grids, boasting over 6,000 regions. Inworldz however, with one-sixth that number of regions had almost double the user activity, more than the next two top grids put together. The specific stats (which I posted in another Elf Clan blog):
ACTIVE USERS REGIONS RATIO (active users per region)
InWorldz: 6,031 1,117 5.4
OSgrid: 3,394 6,969 .5
Avination: 1,757 563 3.12
So we have valid reason to question the claims made in the above quote.
IT'S NOT A COMPETITION-- IT'S NOT ADVERSARIAL
There are some people who seem to view "open" sims (those that are free) and "closed" sims (those such as Inworldz, that charge a fee for land and have security restrictions) are somehow adversarial and opposed concepts. They apparently feel that for one to succeed the other has to fail. That is simply not the case.
Let's provide an apt example: some folks feel that owning their own home is the best way to live. They will state that it's an "investment" for the future, that they own it rather than "just renting", and that they have complete control over it. But what's seldom mentioned are the downsides. It's only an investment if it's sold at a profit (ask people how that's worked out lately). That ownership brings responsibilities such as property taxes and legal requirements. There is also the ever-present issue of maintenance, which for homeowners seems never-ending. So yes, while they have total control over their home (if their teenagers allow such) and that is a definite advantage... there is a price they pay for such freedom.
Myself, I live in an apartment. It's nice, warm and quiet. I have two good-size bedrooms and storage, a decent kitchen, dining room, living room and plenty of closet space. I have zero maintenance. I don't pay property taxes (unless one factors that into my rent... but I don't pay a mortgage either). Water is included and my electric bills are low. I have neighbors around me and we all keep an eye out for each other in matters of safety and welfare. I have an elderly upstairs neighbor and if she falls, I usually hear it and can call an ambulance. That's a benefit to her as she has no family with which she lives.
My preference for an apartment is not conflicting with those who prefer to own their own home. I like living in an apartment. It suits me well. But at the same time I recognize that homeowners have certain advantages they enjoy that I don't have. There are pros and cons to both. They are not adversarial concepts.
OPEN GRIDS "VS" SECURED GRIDS
In like manner, some people prefer the freedom and control of open grids, while others prefer the security and stability of commercial grids. To believe that open grids have to fail for commercial grids to be profitable, or that secured grids have to fail because they're somehow "bad"... is simply unrealistic.
If one has an OSgrid region (the largest of the "open" grids), they run their region on their own computer and tie in to the central grid. That region is based on OpenSim software, and it's free. The only cost involved is the electricity that runs their computer and the wear and tear on their equipment.
There are admittedly several advantages to such: they can save their entire region on their hard drive in a single Oar file. They can save their inventory similarly. There are some functions that some open sims have that are not currently available on Inworldz. These things are facts.
However there are downsides too. OpenSim software is nowhere near as stable or fast as Inworldz (individual claims to the contrary do not alter reality). OpenSim can be very laggy, not just due to content but because of server-side processes. Its asset system can be very slow. Inventory systems can be unstable. It's not all a bed of roses that some claim it to be. As with all grids and software, there are problems and glitches.
Inworldz, as a prime example of a commercial grid, also has disadvantages. One cannot back up an entire region in an Oar file... especially if items on that region belong to someone else. We are required to adhere to a TOS. There are copyright issues and rules that we are expected to observe. There are some features such as mesh that we don't have yet, and other features like physics are (currently) just being implemented and are incomplete. There is cost involved for land owners; they have to pay for their regions.
But there are many advantages that are not found on open regions. Inworldz is very stable (when compared to other grids), far more stable than OpenSim (no, it's not perfect. Nothing is. It's all relative). Inworldz is fast, much faster than either OpenSim or Second Life. The reason is that instead of working on toys and non-essential features, Inworldz programmers (paid professionals) have been shoring up the foundation and fixing things that are still very much broken on both Second Life and OpenSim. What things? The Asset Server system, the Inventory Server, the Scripting Engine and now... the Physics Engine as well. By focusing on these essential core devices, Inworldz has reduced lag significantly, increased reliability and stabilized the platform-- and such is an ongoing project.
In addition Inworldz users have increased security, the ability to conduct business and a support-ticket system. While Inworldz does charge for land, customers are evidently willing to pay for such because of advantages such as stability, speed and zero-maintenance. Keeping the grid online is the responsibility of Inworldz.
So as we can see, there are benefits and liabilities for both systems-- as well as people who need and want both systems. It's not an adversarial situation-- it is two separate systems that cater to the diverse needs of a wide audience.
ADDRESSING THE CLAIMS
Are the claims made in the quote above valid and factual? On examination, no; they don't agree with the reality of the Metaverse. Let's address these:
"Closed commercial grids, imo will only offer a place to sell and the rest of the metaverse will be for exploring vw as it should be"
Are we to believe a grid like Inworldz, with over 1,000 regions, doesn't allow a possibility of exploring? Hardly. One could visit and thoroughly explore a new region every day and still be doing so three years from now-- during which time undoubtedly new regions would be springing up all the time. Further, the existence of Inworldz does not prevent one from exploring other grids. It's not like we're handcuffed to one grid because we support a "closed" grid.
"with freedom from exorbitant costs,"
There is some truth to this, especially when one considers the $1000 setup fee of Second Life and the $295-a-month tier fee. However Inworldz has no setup fee and charges $60 to $75 a month fee per region... which is 1/4 the cost of Second Life. That's significantly less expensive.
Some people appear to still consider that "exorbitant" and of course, it's not free. But professionally- maintained, redundantly-backed-up server space costs money, and it's not cheap. Professional software development requires paid employees. So while Inworldz may not be free... customers are willing to pay for the added professionalism, stability and reliability of the system. So no, commercial grids do not always charge exorbitant fees, nor would a fee of $60 to $75 be considered "exorbitant" by most (especially when people know the ins and outs of how grids are operated. You tend to get what you pay for). That fee is simply necessary to pay the bills.
If one can't afford $75 a month, there are other options. It's quite possible to rent a 1/4 region for about $20 to $30 a month (depending on the landowner). If that's still too much, one can rent a 4096m plot with 2000 or more prim allowance for as little as $5 to $7 a month. If one cannot afford that (or alternately, refuses to)... then indeed a free grid may be best for them. If they can't handle $5 a month for the stability and progress of Inworldz, either Inworldz is the wrong place for them... or they don't really need land. But for those who want the stability and progress of a world like Inworldz-- there's a price to meet any budget.
There are of course grids that charge less than Inworldz, but they do so by cutting corners. They're based on the less-stable OpenSim software, offer less than Inworldz offers overall, don't have paid developers (and thus none of the software advances found in Inworldz) and are less attractive to users. How do we know this? Look at the stats above. It's obvious which world users prefer.
Evidently the Virtual Reality public does not consider Inworldz fees to be exorbitant; if that was the case Inworldz wouldn't be the most popular and profitable grid on the planet outside of SL itself. (Note, the same could be said of Second Life itself, but we have to remember that when SL set up their prices they were the only bar in town. Now that competition is hitting-- their numbers are dropping rapidly, indicating their prices are exorbitant).
"...low prim allowances..."
That description would apply to Second Life, but not to Inworldz. Inworldz regions are allowed 45,000 prims... three times that of Second Life. Now while there are some grids that offer up to 100,000 prims, tests have proved that anything over 45,000 can cause rather severe region lag. Why? Because prims aren't just prims. They impact graphics, memory, and carry with them things such as textures, scripts, sounds, movement and more. A grid that offers 100k prims may as well offer one million for all it will serve the region. 45,000 prims seems to be (currently) a good, balanced number of prims for a grid to offer, whether the grid is closed or open. Interestingly enough, with Inworldz software advances they may be the first grid that could legitimately offer 100k prims... but at this time it seems no grid can do so and claim no negative effect on region operation. That's just a reality of how grids work.
"and meeting some really wonderful like-minded people"
One can do that on any grid. One cannot claim that all OpenSim users are wonderful and like minded-- nor can that be claimed on SL or Inworldz or any other grid. That's just fact. If I were forced to compare the two, I would have to judge that the Inworldz community is more like-minded and cooperative than OSgrid... and considerably more progressive.
I point these things out because the commenter stated closed grids will "only offer a place to sell"-- presenting that they don't offer the other advantages. That is plainly not the case.
BUT AGAIN... IT'S NOT A COMPETITION
This isn't a competition where one has to fail for the other to "win". This isn't an adversarial situation where one cannot succeed unless the other fails. There are people that love and support secured worlds, and there are people that love and support open worlds. They are like flip sides of the same coin. They are not mutually exclusive, combatant or opposed (or at least they shouldn't be). It would seem that those who view the field as such may need to step back, re-examine their opinions, and work to drop any bias or bigotry that may exist. Some individuals out there have had bad personal experiences with one grid or another. Sometimes those experiences are the fault of grid managers-- but other times it's caused by attitude, drama and hatefulness of the user. Isolated personal experience does not formulate the reality of Virtual Reality worlds, the success of grids, or the future of the Metaverse.
To ignore facts, statistics and demographics because of skewed personal opinion is not beneficial. If we want to see the progress of the Metaverse as a whole... we best do so with an open mind and paying attention to what's really happening. Making public comments that are easily refuted is of benefit to no one. It's pretty obvious from the demographics where the VR Metaverse is going. Right now it appears that both open and secured grids alike are quite popular... and that both have a future.
-- A commentary by Wayfinder