Addendum note: Please see the comments section for additional interesting observations related to this blog.
Hypergrid Business recently produced a pretty good article about the state of VR grids in January 2013. Link is here:
One thing this blog makes evident is that region count is no longer a meter by which grid "success" can be measured. Why? Because many virtual grids offer no-or-low-cost regions. They can do this because they're based on basic OpenSim software, have no development fees, no employees and very little overhead. The downside: they're based on pure OpenSim software and often are run out of homes or basements instead of professional server sites. They haven't made the technical advances we've come to appreciate on Inworldz (low lag, powerful asset servers, killer scripting system, etc) and don't have the stability we've come to expect of the Inworldz grid.
A more accurate measure of popularity is now "active users"... although of course no single figure can serve to present the whole picture of grid health. But active users is an indication of popularity. Taking a ratio of that to number of regions gives us a better idea of overall grid health.
To illustrate this I combined two charts and added ratios:
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
FrancoGrid: 1,027 526 1.95
Island Oasis: 899 151 5.95
3rd Rock Grid: 455 231 1.97
Metropolis: 454 1,070 .42
Craft World: 439 154 2.85
AviWorlds: 348 119 .32
Kitely: 274 2,995 .09
If we consider all three of these numbers we discover more of a general idea of how popular and successful the top ten grids are. Grids are made up of people; without people they're just exhibits. But at the same time without land, a grid isn't a grid. So what do we gather from above?
Inworldz is without question the most popular and successful grid overall, with 6,031 active users, a large number of regions and a ratio of 5.4.
OSgrid, the free OpenSim-based grid has the highest number of sims but almost half the users of Inworldz... resulting in a low user/sim ratio on the board. In other words it's huge... but it's not used as much as Inworldz, which charges a fee and is six times smaller in land-size.
Island Oasis has the highest ratio, but below-average user levels and a very low number of sims (thus proving ratio alone is not a reliable measure of popularity / success).
Kitely has a large number of sims... but like OpenSim many of these are free. They have the lowest number of active users and a low user-to-sim ratio.
In all of the above stats what is missing is a very important figure: Sponsored regions. That's the number of regions the entity itself foots the bill for-- regions that are not financially supported by users or customers. If we take these figures into account we can get a significant update on ratios.
With Inworldz for example, they currently have approximately 200 sponsored regions. So if we remove that number from their total region count we come to 917... and a whopping ratio of 6.58. That is the highest in the set. Not having the sponsored regions figure on the other grids we can't make a proper ratio estimate for them.
But even true ratio doesn't tell the story. While popularity can be gauged by the above figures, overall success is a more difficult concept to pinpoint-- if indeed it can be pegged at all. Because part of the definition of "success" is "what did you want to achieve in the first place?"
A rich man who wants to give away all of his fortune to charity and manages to do so has achieved 100% success.... but now he's dead broke. While this may give him a great deal of personal satisfaction, financially the decision would be considered a disaster.
On the other hand criminal organizations are very profitable-- but I doubt many would consider them "successful".
OSgrid is hosted on private computers in people's businesses or homes. Since it is free it has a very large number of regions-- but only about half the active user count of Inworldz. Inworldz on the other hand has far fewer sims but almost double the active user base-- and it is a for-profit company. It hosts regions itself, keeps its grid online 24/7, and earns enough to pay employees.
So which is more "successful"... OSgrid or Inworldz? I believe that would be largely a matter of opinion, based on personal goals. If success is based on both popularity and profitability, Inworldz is the obvious hands-down winner.
STABILITY, FOUNDATION and PROGRESS
But in addition to these things listed above we have other issues:
Stability-- degree of lag, ability to stay online, general performance.
Foundation-- the general organization itself (is the company stable? Is it capitalized? Is it competent?) and the platform on which the grid is built. Will it be able to remain online over time?
Progress-- is the grid improving or is it in a rut?
We all know Inworldz is progressing, significantly. I'll reserve comments regarding other grids, as in truth all of them are in various stages of start-up. It is unfair to gauge early-stage businesses based on stability and foundation, and progress can be a subjective issue. What we can discern however is that according to these statistics, in all three areas Elf Clan's home grid is doing very well.