Elf Clan Social Network

VIRTUAL REALITY WORLDS-- A CRITICAL EXAMINATION

A considerably lengthy evaluation of the state of virtual worlds at this time.

Please be sure to examine the SL Metrics Analysis in the comments section following the blog.  This appears approximately page 3 of the comments.

The field of virtual reality is not doing well, relatively speaking. Over the past four years there has been virtually zero growth (in fact, decline in user base is evident). There has been very little significant growth in technology and ability (mesh is about the only advance in features that can be credited to the worlds from 2008 to present... and people are widely divided in opinions about that). Sim count (the number of privately-owned lands) on Second Life, the largest of virtual worlds, is at a stall or declining and has been for years. In short, in a time period when virtual reality should be in its glory phase and booming... it seems in steady decline.

There are two exceptions to this downward trend.

OSGRID / OPENSIM

OSgrid, an OpenSim-based virtual grid in which users host sims on their own computers and tie in to a central address base, has seen slow but steady growth. This is primarily due to the fact that it is free and open, and users have almost total control over their own lands. They can back up their worlds and inventory in-entirety, have no one to report to, no TOS to follow, no corporate profit-centric policies to deter their work. In truth, the primary disadvantage is the OpenSim software itself, which has seen very little progress during recent years. Bug-filled, laggy and unstable... it does not present significant technical competition with the far more expensive Second Life platform.

INWORLDZ

Inworldz is the largest of the subscription virtual worlds. Although it is only one percent of the size of Second Life, it is far less expensive (¼ the price of SL), offers considerably more in the way of assets and is widely known for being a friendlier and more user-centric company. Inworldz was created by users for users and is less concerned with profit than Linden Lab, the owners of Second Life. Inworldz has a reputation of putting the customer first, which is the foundation upon which they've built their business model.

Although Inworldz is not free like OpenSim (the average sim costs $75 a month with free setup), it is also nowhere near the cost of Second Life ($295 a month and $1000 setup fee). Technically Inworldz is very close to Second Life, at this time lacking only fully-functional physics and mesh. However Inworldz boasts a completely re-written and more reliable asset server system (the system which handles inventory and user assets) as well as the Phlox scripting platform, a system considerably faster and more streamlined than Second Life's Mono. As a result, Inworldz simply runs better and faster than Second Life, with less lag and bugs than the grandfather grid.

In addition users on Inworldz seem to be in general far happier. While Second Life is plagued with drama  and griefers (people who intentionally harass other users), the Inworldz Founders are far less tolerant and more consistent in their handling of such.  As a result the Inworldz environment as a whole is more peaceful and friendlier than Second Life.

Inworldz has a very competent and skilled technical staff. As a result they've fixed many of the bugs that have plagued Second Life for years. The grid itself has a more stable, faster and stronger foundation of any grid existent, including Second Life.  It is widely considered that once PhysX and Mesh are installed, they will be the most technically advanced virtual world on the planet, surpassing even Second Life in quality of performance. This opens up the way for Inworldz to increase dramatically both in size and profitability, as their lower fees and better product attract new users, both from Second Life and the Internet entire.

WHERE'S THE KABOOM?

In the cartoon, Marvin the Martian often tries to blow something up, only to have his weapons fizzle. “Where's the Kaboom? There is supposed to be a Kaboom” is one of his well-known lines.

Interestingly though, this is uttered just before the Kaboom occurs. Unfortunately in his case, it doesn't occur where he expected it to.  That may turn out to be the case with Second Life.

So where is the Kaboom? Why aren't virtual worlds flourishing and even booming?

For Second Life the answer is simple: while the platform is fascinating, the host company (Linden Lab) has alienated so many customers that people have abandoned the platform by the tens of thousands (even tens of millions, when one considers their registration numbers). A company that focuses on profit rather than customer welfare is bound to lose its customers.  That's a simple reality of business.

For other grids such as OSgrid and Inworldz, they simply haven't had enough time to solidify their foundation to the point that they are ready to attract new users.

So those are the simple answers to the question of absent growth. But there is more involved, something considerably more important and potentially more devastating to the future of virtual reality. That something is what no one likes to talk about: what if the very concept of the platform is not what people need or want?

Second Life is the concept on which most virtual worlds are formed. They all work basically the same way, have the same design, function almost identically in use. As a result, they all tend to have the same flaws: slow loading textures, avatar skins that fade in and out, lag issues, bugs, and a very steep learning curve that is discouraging to new users.

Inworldz overcomes this to a certain extent in several ways:

* Mentors. These are self-giving volunteers dedicated to making the new-user experience easier-- and are indeed one of Inworldz greatest assets. Without the Mentors, Inworldz would not function as smoothly as it does.

* Software Improvement. The devs at Inworldz know their stuff and are dedicated to making the board run as smoothly as possible. They have eliminated a great deal of the lag and bottlenecks that plague Second Life (and that really plague OpenSim).

* Inworldz cares about its customers... more-so than they care about profit (and we hope that continues. It's part of what makes them great.  Put the customers first-- and the profit will follow).

A LIMITED AUDIENCE

Even so, one of the chief problems of the current design of virtual worlds seems to be the design itself-- and the possible reality that it appeals to a rather limited audience.  Just how large is the audience available?

A main problem with virtual worlds is that they offer an incredibly versatile environment-- but within a fairly limited context.    They also have a great deal of competition, both from other computer environments and games, and from real life itself.  Because one of the downsides of Virtual Reality is that it takes a lot of time.  This significantly limits the potential audience for Virtual Worlds.

COMMONALITY

There is a tendency for users of virtual worlds to have several things in common:

* They have a lot of free time on their hands

* They are often disabled, aged, home-bound or have other handicaps that prevent them from functioning socially in real life

* They have a certain level of income (at least enough to own a computer and have constant access to the Internet)

* They understand and enjoy computers (people who dislike computers aren't likely to enjoy computer-generated worlds)

* They tend to be more interested in virtual reality than their real lives

* They use VR as an “escape”-- or alternately to totally replace their real life social structure

* They tend to not be "family people" with husbands, wives, children; families are time-intensive. 

* They have a specific mentality that makes them more interested in creating their own world than in taking part in pre-created worlds (such as online games)

* They tend to be fairly intelligent; Virtual Worlds have a high learning curve and demand focus.

* They like the concept of virtual worlds, preferring to spend their time there rather than say, Facebook

These are not only items of commonality among VR users, they are also limitations. If an individual doesn't fall into at least two or three of these categories, likely s/he isn't likely to be interested in VR. When we consider this reality-- the available audience for Virtual Reality suddenly becomes a great deal smaller than the whole of the Internet.

The realization we come to then is this: the dream isn't likely to happen. It has too much competition.

THE DREAM

“The Dream” was the creation of one of the founders of Second Life, Philip Rosedale. The concept was to create a second Internet of sorts, founded around 3D virtuality rather than 2D web pages. Whether people ever thought that was actually possible or not is a matter of question, but at this point in time it becomes obvious it didn't happen, for several reasons.

One was because of the closed-wall design of Linden Lab. The company apparently started out with good intent, but over time and with the addition of significant money-focused investors, the company became profit-centric rather than user-oriented. They forgot the dream.  Customer welfare took a far back seat to the concept of earning more and more money. The virtual world was “walled in”, the company taking a dictatorial stance on company policies, user rights, and limitations of ability (how much can one actually do with 15k prims on a 256m chunk of virtual grass?). They prevented users from expanding their creations and activities to other grids outside of Second Life, which fairly killed any hope of the dream being fulfilled Above all the dream required company-user cooperation-- something that Linden Lab not only discouraged, but actively prevented.

Customers didn't take this lying down. They created OpenSim, a definitely free-and-open society which had the potential of at least carrying the concept beyond the iron-curtain walls of Second Life. To a degree they succeeded. However a lack of organization, lack of direction and ever-present egos (always a danger in the computer field) prevented OpenSim from growing as well or quickly as it could have. Thus after years of work the software remains a bug-ridden, laggy and shaky in foundation code... not the kind of thing on which dreams are built.

ENTER INWORLDZ

The largest and most successful of the next-generation grids, Inworldz formed a blend between the professional status of Second Life and the low-cost of OpenSim. There are several such grids out there, but Inworldz topped the list by exercise of simple business common-sense. They started out as users dissatisfied with how Second Life was managed, so decided to do things differently, focusing on the welfare of their users and putting the customer first. That proved to be an excellent launch pad.

Unlike OpenSim they realized that for a virtual world to progress technically, it would require money, organization and professionally-qualified people. So they set up a platform similar to Second Life (a closed-wall system), but charged ¼ the price and offered three times the assets. This attracted considerable interest, most notably from large groups like Elf Clan, along with skilled and talented creators and builders who had tired of the restrictions of the Second Life platform.

Inworldz realized a virtual world is built on its foundation, so they hired some very talented programmers to shore up that foundation and create a more stable, faster system. As a result their scripting system, built from the ground-up, exceeded all expectations and technically gave them a boost over even Second Life. Their decision to use Nvidia's PhysX rather than the problematic Havok promises to provide a superior physics platform as well.

In short, Inworldz did things right... for the most part. Of course like any grid (or for that matter any business) they've had their problems and downsides. No virtual world is perfect. But Inworldz succeeded in areas where both Second Life and OpenSim failed. Whereas Second Life had a technically shaky platform and dissatisfied customers, OpenSim had satisfied customers but a very shaky platform... Inworldz for the first time managed to have a solid platform with satisfied customers. They seem to have struck on the right combination. It isn't one that will accomplish the dream... but it works and for the most part, customers are pleased and very loyal to the company. 

So... why isn't Inworldz booming? Where is the Kaboom?

FACING REALITY IN VIRTUAL REALITY

As much as some may hate to admit it, the reality is that Second Life was there first, and they are still by far the most popular grid. That will likely remain the case for some time yet.

Why is this? The reason boils down to limited audience, limited interest and investment. Consider:

Many people are very heavily vested in Second Life. They have invested in the grid to the point they financially cannot afford to abandon the platform. They own land that they rent out, they've invested tens of thousands of dollars in their group or business and they're simply not willing to write that off. Many people earn their real-life living from Second Life. Such folks are going to stick it out so long as it proves to be profitable.

Others are socially vested in the grid. “I'd leave, but that's where all my friends are” is a commonly-heard statement.

Others have invested so much in their avatars and inventory they simply don't want to leave all of that behind. Even for those who move elsewhere there is often the lament, “I wish I had my stuff from Second Life.” Not everyone is willing to pull up roots, leave it all behind, and start a new life. That's a simple reality of the situation.

Second Life has approximately 750,000 regular users and a concurrency (the number of people online at one time) from 30,000 to 50,000 people. They have some 30,000 paid sims (or so, no one is really sure at this time. It has been declining on a monthly basis for some time) and some 95,000 (or so) paid subscribers (premium users).

Comparatively, Inworldz has somewhere around 5,000 regular users, a concurrency of 200-300 and around 800-900 paid sims (it fluctuates). Paid subscribers is a moot point as Inworldz does not charge for premium membership; all users have the same rights and privileges. (While that doesn't do much for the profit line, it does a great deal in encouraging new members to become involved with Inworldz.)

Interestingly Inworldz isn't too worried about those figures. In fact, it's part of their business plan, which has basically been: Make the system work right first, then we'll bring in the customers. That makes sense in many ways. If the foundation is solid and the system running well before new customers come in, those customers are likely to be far happier with the environment as a whole, and more likely to stick around to become paying customers.

We had as a historic example Second Life itself. Although they have been financially successful and are reasonably large... their 95,000 paid members are a tiny percentage of the some 24 million registered users-- the vast majority of which took a look around and then left. The reasons are well-known: poor performance, lag, bad customer support, unfriendly environment. That's a part of well-known history, and a mistake Inworldz didn't wish to repeat.

As a result, the vast majority of Inworldz' current population consists of pioneers, early-adopters or explorers if you will. Most have either come from Second Life, or are friends of people who did. We came to Inworldz prepared for the early stages of a new company, were willing to put up with the bugs and glitches and burps... because we foresaw a potentially bright future for the grid. As a result during the relatively short period of time Inworldz has been online, their growth has stabilized at around 200-300 concurrency and 800-900 sims and has hung in there for quite some time. Yet although Inworldz is the largest of the “secondary” grids... there has been no “kaboom”... yet.

WAITING FOR THE KABOOM

That doesn't mean of course, there won't be growth. Part of Inworldz plan is to get the foundation installed, the major bugs eliminated, both Phlox (scripting) and PhysX (physics) installed... and then start their marketing push. Pretty much all users are aware of this and are willing to wait for that time. We're the early-adopters, the explorers. That's what we came prepared for, and we like it this way. We're patient.

That hasn't held true for everyone of course. Some have come to Inworldz and gone back to Second Life, or to another grid, or quit VR entirely. Why?

* Price. As relatively inexpensive as Inworldz is, it still has a price. $75 a month compared to $295 is considerably less-expensive, but it's still $75. Some people can't afford $20 a month, much less $75. So price is always an issue... and a reason thousands of people use OSgrid instead of Inworldz. It's just a matter of personal finances and economics.

* Merchants. Some merchants came to Inworldz expecting to expand their business, hoping to make the same kind of killing there that they did on Second Life. What they found was that Inworldz wasn't to that stage yet, and unwilling to be “early adopters” and hang in there waiting, they simply shut down their investment and left. There's really nothing wrong with that; a professional merchant goes with the money and at this time-- the money isn't in Inworldz. They will however, very likely return when Inworldz population starts growing. That's just simple common-sense business and isn't a big problem for Inworldz. Inworldz knows they'll likely be back when the population expands.

* Socializers. Face it, if you want a social environment Second Life is the place to be. That's a simple reality. That's where the people are, it's where the events are, it's where the concurrency is, where the already-developed-society is. It's a simple concept: Second Life was there first and they've had several years advance start on everyone else. Not everyone enjoys living on an island. Some people like living right in the heart of the big city and right now-- SL is the “big city”.

* Dissatisfaction. Some people are simply dissatisfied with VR for one reason or another and bounce from grid to grid until they find one that allows them to do exactly what they want to do. Inworldz has a TOS, it has rules, it has expectations of its users. So it will expectantly lose some users to the simple reality that some people don't enjoy a “closed wall” environment with rules. Inworldz isn't a place for the chaotic, the anarchy-driven, the “I wanna do what I wanna do”, anti-social or malcontents. Inworldz doesn't worry too much about that. Elf Clan agrees; that's kind of the way we work as well. If people don't like us, they are welcome to pursue their entertainment elsewhere. No one is handcuffing users to anything.

So these are all realities of the virtual environment of Inworldz. The platform isn't for everyone, nor is it meant to be.  Its growth will come from specific types of people who appreciate its structure, security and stability.

BUT WHY IS SECOND LIFE STAGNANT?

For the last four years Second Life has not only stagnated, it has declined. During that time Linden Lab discontinued publishing their public demographics, strongly indicating they didn't want people to see what was happening behind the scenes. As a result we don't have a real idea of how many sims there are, how many paid users, how statistically popular Second Life is.

However, there are ways to examine things outside of the realm of Linden Lab's “Iron Curtain” restrictions. Analysts indicate SL is losing sims at the rate of approximately 100 a month. Indications are their profits are declining (although that's largely a matter of speculation). Customer satisfaction is at a low, due primarily to the OpenSpace Sim Fiasco (a “bait and switch” price hike which cost the company some 5,000 sims and tens of thousands of customers), a new Viewer that the majority of their users dislike (read: hate with a passion), and new company policies that have reduced user rights and capabilities significantly.

In an independent survey Linden Lab as a company was given an “F” rating in “trustworthiness” by their customers. Company stock has fallen to almost worthless value. Indications from third-party companies such as Glass Ceiling indicate significant employee disgruntlement and disorganization among management. Second Life's own forums and blogs reveal thousands of angry protests and hate-rants regarding both the company and the environment.

In short, for years Linden Lab has done just about everything wrong, without consideration for the welfare of their customers, and as a result are reaping the consequences of blatantly self-centered company decisions and management.

WHY AREN'T THE CUSTOMERS GOING TO OTHER GRIDS?

Many of them are. As pointed out, Inworldz has reached a stage where it is “working”... profitable enough to remain in business although it's not yet booming.  Most of its customers came from SL.  In addition OSgrid has over ten thousand sims, indicating a significant exodus from Second Life.

But the truth is (as mentioned way back there) the potential audience for virtual reality is somewhat limited... and a good portion of that audience has been soured in regard to virtual reality. They not only left Second Life... they left VR entirely and went to other areas. Notable are online societies such as World of Warcraft with a paid user base of nine million subscribers, a figure that puts the joint whole of virtual reality worlds to shame.  WoW is just one game out of thousands on the Internet.  

The popularity of social networks such as Facebook have done much to derail VR. Such systems are far easier to use, fulfilling to their users, less stressful, and very time-consuming. As pointed out earlier, one of the primary requirements for VR is plenty of free time. There are only so many hours in the day... and people will devote those hours to what pleases them most. When they have a choice between the complex, often-stressful environment of VR, and the simpler, full-control environment of their favorite social network, they simply opt-out of Virtual Reality and go elsewhere.

THE FUTURE

Trying to predict the future of Virtual Reality is like playing a game of darts... blindfolded... and standing with your back to the board. There are simply too many variables. However, we can give a stab at it:

* Second Life will continue to rule the roost... for a while. The reasons are stated above.  Even when something better comes along (such as Inworldz) those reasons aren't going to change. There are thousands of people who would rather spend $295 a month for a piece of land on SL than $75 a month for a better deal on Inworldz- and no matter how good Inworldz works that will continue to be the case... for a time.

That doesn't mean however that Second Life will always be the largest grid, or that it won't decline over time. One of the main problems with SL was failure to grow because of negative company policies. Remove those negative policies and growth potential exists. Since Linden Lab has a reputation for being stubborn and ignoring their customers, that potential isn't likely to emerge on Second Life.  It will have to emerge elsewhere.

* Inworldz future looks pretty bright. Its significantly reduced price and considerably better product will attract users competitively. Whereas it got its start primary by users leaving Second Life, Inworldz will in 2013 (if things go as planned) start generating new users from the public... and those users won't face the same problems they faced on Second Life. Inworldz users will be cheerfully greeted and helped, they will find a stable and non-laggy environment, and prices they can afford (even if they can't handle $75 a month for a sim, they might be able to afford $5 to $7 for a good-size rental plot). Even if Second Life stays where it is at this time... Inworldz may eventually grow to be considerably larger.  It's simply friendlier, more stable and offers more for your money (considerably less money at that).  Inworldz may very well wind up being the most successful of the virtual worlds.

* OSgrid will undoubtedly continue to grow. Free is free and people will take advantage of FREE even when it's not their preference. How popular and successful it becomes depends a great deal on the progress of their software... which at this time doesn't look very good. The future of OSgrid and OpenSim in general depends almost totally on the ability of their volunteer developers to organize and improve their product. We're not holding our breaths on that one. Still, people own entire sims or even clusters on OSgrid when they could not possibly do so elsewhere; that free environment is OSgrid's primary strength.

SUMMARY

Of one thing there is no question: Virtual Reality worlds have not lived up to their potential. Why does Second Life have only 30,000 sims instead of 300,000? Why after all these years are all virtual grids still buggy and laggy (admittedly, Inworldz less so than all others). Why does SL have a reputation of being a “virtual brothel” and an “iron curtain” environment... and why do people look at other virtual grids based on that reputation? Why is VR still so difficult to learn and use? Why don't customers find easy and intuitive solutions to their questions right inside the viewers?  Why do virtual worlds insist on being 18+ instead of trying to be more family-friendly?

These are all good questions-- questions the grids are going to have to work hard to answer over the next year or two. Because a very real problem exists, one that we've seen only recently and appears to be growing:

People are getting tired. They're getting tired of VR in its current state, they're getting tired of waiting for the features and performance they want, they're just getting tired of messing with it. They've been there, done that, can go no farther. As a result, currently all of the virtual worlds seem to be going more on existing momentum than they are change, improvement, simplification/ease of use, and new growth. Momentum only goes so far before the train comes to a grinding halt.

THE THREAT OF COMPETITION

One very real problem is one that has existed for quite some time: if we're not doing it the right way now, that leaves a major gap for someone to come along and do it better. This has been one of the primary threats to VR for quite some time.  What happens to all these worlds if suddenly a new product hits the market, one that has been in secret production for years, has had significant research and development and money behind it, and is designed in such a way that overrides the flaws and problems of the existing SL-based worlds?

That concept may sound far-fetched, but that is how the computer field works. It's highly competitive, highly-innovative, and it tends to learn from past mistakes. All it takes is one easy-to-use, common-sense, customer-friendly virtual world product hitting the market to put Linden Lab and everyone else in the business out of business. If it doesn't happen tomorrow, it could happen a year from now, or the year after that. The point is that if that happens, it will be too late to try to fix the problems VR has now. That is a potential threat everyone should take quite seriously.

If Virtual Worlds are going to succeed and prosper over the coming years, these things must be addressed today.

Wayfinder Wishbringer

Views: 1178

Comment by Balpien Hammerer on January 7, 2013 at 2:58pm

That is an interesting set of observations. BTW, WoW's growth is flattening too. They have been concerned that the trends indicate people are getting bored with or pulled away from their VR world. Here are their concurrency numbers: http://www.warcraftrealms.com/temp/activity.htm.

I believe that the gamer market is saturated, meaning that the games and virtual worlds have reached pretty much everyone who is tolerant and can handle the complexities of setting up characters and doing the day to day somewhat complex machinations that it takes to be inworld.

 

Interestingly LL got that and then they went off in the entirely worng path trying to make SL into FB-3D. That flopped exceedingly badly, leaving behind mangled names for avatars. And now they are at it again thinking they can grab a chunk of the market by converting SL into gamergrid.

 

This is not the problem. The problem is that virtual worlds now have to reach down to people who pretty much want to click a button and 'poof' they are there. Maybe someday a percentage of those folks will endeavor to geek out and go shopping, learn how to replace outfits and *gasp* build something, but I can guess that will amount to only a few percent. When entering a virtual world can be simplified to clicking or touching an "Enter VR" button, where voice is the norm. not chat, where chat is converted to voice and vica versa, where the avatars are self animated and move on their own to gather around the people a person speaks to, then VR will grow beyond what we see today.

Comment by Wayfinder Wishbringer on January 7, 2013 at 6:20pm

Yes you're right Balpien, WoW seems to have flattened, and I think you're correct too in that the industry is getting saturated.  That has shown up in computer equipment and television sales as well.  It's a matter of people simply having as much as they need and they're not interested in yet something else.

However in Wow's case they seem to be flattening into a consistency where they're at least retaining their users... and 9 million is a lot of users (especially considering each one pays around what, $15 a month?).  Their trendline between Jan 2006 and April 2009 shows a trendline primetime use of 800,000 people... which is a considerable chunk above SL's top last-known concurrency of around 50,000.

I agree with your entire post.  It reflects a major point hinted at above, that in order to survive VR worlds are going to have to step up their game-- and as you point out-- not become a game.  New user ease-of-entry is a primary issue.  Simplifying the Viewer while still retaining function is essential.  Removing the last of the megabugs (such as slow-loading textures) is long past due.  And simply improving the appearance so that the worlds look better would go a long way toward improving the environment.  One thing I can think of right off hand is allowing sim owners to set default Windlight settings to their sims to reflect their preferred ambiance.  Surely that's not too difficult to implement.

Of course, Inworldz and OpenSim have a lot on their plate and haven't had near the amount of time or manpower resources needed to do all of this.   SL on the other hand, has had how many years and millions of dollars to get their act together?  Inworldz may be playing catch-up... but they're catching up pretty quickly and with minimal resources.   Frankly, I'm a bit impressed. : )

Comment by Minethere Always on January 8, 2013 at 2:36am

wayfinder-)) now you just KNOW I gotta chime in, right?? I will work on a post that dissects a bit of your article over the day. Don't worry, it will not focus upon the obvious parochial and tunnel-vision aspects you mention concerning inwz and sl.

There is just so much that can be added though...hehe

But you mention so many things that some must need be addressed if you wish to have a much more complete picture of the metaverse for your readers.

A very good and interesting article though-)) If you wish that I not add to it, please feel free to let me know over the next few hours...I won't have my feelings hurt-))

Comment by Wayfinder Wishbringer on January 8, 2013 at 6:20am

No no, feel free to jump right in.  Diversity is the spice of life. : )

But regarding my "obvious parochial and tunnel-vision aspects concerning inwz and sl"... my opinion of these is perfectly adjusted, non-biased and extremely balanced.  So nya.  ; )

Comment by Minethere Always on January 8, 2013 at 6:26am

hehehe-)) polishing it up and will post later-))

Comment by Minethere Always on January 8, 2013 at 6:50am

This is by no means meant as a complete review of this article and if I got any facts wrong feel free to correct me:XD

‘In truth, the primary disadvantage is the OpenSim software itself, which has seen very little progress during recent years. Bug-filled, laggy and unstable...’

Actually, OS 7.5 RC1 http://opensimulator.org/wiki/Download is out and has the option to use the new Bullet physics by Intel. It is being well tested throughout the metaverse. I know of one very good scripter who, even though realizing it is the first iteration, found a vehicle script of hers to work in 7.5 DEV…one which  previously only worked in sl.

The bugs you mention are those filling the inwz mantis, that are often said to be low-priority items. Heck, I still get emails from those I posted there, and those are from many months ago. In point of fact, the ONLY grid I get dependable offlines is the 3rd Rock grid. I refuse to use individual grids viewers and if sl and inwz make it impossible to use whatever opensim viewer I like at the time that happens, I will not have any problem no longer going inside them and will then inform the friends in them as to why in emails and in other grids and social networks-))

Many OS bugs have been fixed and it is really at a stage where improvements to basic OS code are being worked on now…obviously, what some may consider to be bugs can also be considered to be features-))

I particularly value my admin abilities which were recently reduced inwz-))

I think the lag you speak of is simply not a full understanding of what is being done. Even in sl I notice I teleport faster than in any grid I am a part of and usually with all attachments intact, and I am in many grids now…lol.

As osgrid teleporting takes you most often to individual computers and/or individual servers, you are not just crossing from one region to another, but crossing over to a completely new system. Thus, it becomes not just what the grid has setup in servers [and their various different qualities] but also how one’s individual computer is setup. As most of us are keenly aware, that can vary widely.

So anyone coming into osgrid [or something similar but smaller, Metropolis Grid] must realize that each teleport is going to mean what is called lag, simply due to the fact one is moving from one system to another. Now, as I said, you can rent from professionally hosted companies and this would reduce much of those issues while inside their regions simply because they are in the same server clusters.

As well, if one uses the hypergates, the additional issues of how that works come into play…making the whole thing one of a tapping fingers or go drink coffee and relax thing. But then it wasn’t too long ago we had that inwz also and that was on the same server clusters. Still tho, to consider that hypergating is even possible at all, it’s a pretty cool thing.

But even so, consider how many your own numbers state are there even with all these issues. That should tell anyone some things are afoot, and not simply costs/price relationships.

‘Explorers. These people enjoy just examining the virtual environment. They travel around, shop, enjoy the activities, and take delight in the world around them.’

The explorers [or pioneers] are the core of what draws people to opensim [osgrid, hypergated grids, etc]

Personally I am really enjoying the variety of the metaverse. From Metropolis with its large German and Austrian population, to Francogrid with its predominant French population.

‘Cyber Addict. These people are here for the sex and porn (of which there is unfortunately a ready and large supply).’

Where? Landmarks please!!

‘Drama Queen / Power Monger. Sadly there are always negative elements. Some people come to virtual worlds because of the perceived power they get, fulfillment of personal importance, or because they are anti-social in real life and come to VR to exercise their personalities in anonymity, hidden behind a keyboard. They require being recognized for their accomplishments, exercise power over others, or place themselves in a position of leadership / management / dictatorship. They get their thrills from the power and/or disharmony they can cause. (Do not confuse with organizers-- drama queens are dis-organizers).’

So very true, and they are a very serious problem. As well, it can be very difficult to discern who these people really are. Humans being naturally trusting and some people being good at fooling those people, it is especially difficult in vws. I still say limiting alts would be useful. This can be done and in fact is offered by at least one osgrid hosting company.

And virtual worlds do attract the element of those people who have mental issues. For the most part this is passive and just fine, but with all good things the bad will also be there. Since people can invent both an online persona and also any past or real life they wish to, this exacerbates the problem for those so inclined. For others they revel in being big fish in a small pond when they are in reality nothing much at all in real life [not saying it is a bad thing to be nothing much at all in rl, mind you:P].

‘Potential griefers are often in jail and can't access the Internet.’

If only that were true…

‘They have a specific mentality that makes them more interested in creating their own world than in taking part in pre-created worlds (such as online games)’

All virtual worlds are pre-created, some aspects of them just allow them to be altered, but still within pre-defined parameters. An example being the standard 256x256 m region. Though this is no longer a limit in kitely.

‘They created OpenSim, a definitely free-and-open society which had the potential of at least carrying the concept beyond the iron-curtain walls of Second Life. To a degree they succeeded. However a lack of organization, lack of direction and ever-present egos (always a danger in the computer field) prevented OpenSim from growing as well or quickly as it could have. Thus after years of work the software remains a bug-ridden, laggy and shaky in foundation code... not the kind of thing on which dreams are built.’

There is really no way to accurately determine how well something –may—have grown but for this- or –that- could- have- or- should- have been done. It would always boil down to individual perception and for those willing to delve into statistics further maybe a more accurate forecast.

‘Price. As relatively inexpensive as Inworldz is, it still has a price. $75 a month compared to $295 is considerably less-expensive, but it's still $75. Some people can't afford $20 a month, much less $75. So price is always an issue... and a reason thousands of people use OSgrid instead of Inworldz. It's just a matter of personal finances and economics.’

As you point out, thousands of people…However, price is not the base reason for its success. As one who has been discovering this over the last few months, there are many reasons people like osgrid, kitely, or whatever. People do two things in life…they do things, for the most part, that they enjoy doing…and they put their money into those things they enjoy. Of course this is not a black and white thing, but painting a broad brush you can categorize ppl this way. In this regard, there are those thousands of people who enjoy osgrid, also, for the freedom. Freedom is a precious thing, and in life is very difficult to impossible to find any more for common people anyways. OSgrid allows the utmost freedom that can currently be obtained in virtual worlds [aside from simply running your own instance inside your computer closed to all-))]. Closed garden grids have a ToS that is developed, and changed, at the whim of the owners of a grid. Many have found this whimsical nature to be distasteful. Yes, of course, costs are always an issue, but there are hosting companies within osgrid who rent regions, albeit, for less than inwz, but then their business costs are much less also [and profit motives] [and the ever present supply and demand of a free market].

One can find instances of spending patterns in any place…and in anything…aside from considerations of the constraints of income…if one likes something enough, they will buy it. I am very poor, but I will still spend more for Hellman’s mayonnaise rather than buy the cheap crap-))

As well, there is a ton of quality content in the free metaverse…for example, I now have 2 couples dance machines in my Art Club thing/build-))

‘However, there are ways to examine things outside of the realm of Linden Lab's “Iron Curtain” restrictions. Analysts indicate SL is losing sims at the rate of approximately 100 a month. Indications are their profits are declining (although that's largely a matter of speculation). Customer satisfaction is at a low, due primarily to the OpenSpace Sim Fiasco (a “bait and switch” price hike which cost the company some 5,000 sims and tens of thousands of customers), a new Viewer that the majority of their users dislike (read: hate with a passion), and new company policies that have reduced user rights and capabilities significantly.’

A report came out recently saying approximately 2200 regions left sl in 2012. Sl continues to close their iron curtains. Current versions of the phoenix viewer will not even work there now I hear. My imprudence viewer has some functions I like that no longer work. It has been posited in various blogs and communities that they are finally taking losses to opensim seriously. TPVs are no longer allowed to have proper gird management functions to opensim. Firestorm in fact put up a region/office in osgrid to develop a forked opensim only viewer and recently posted they no longer support phoenix.

‘In addition OSgrid has over ten thousand sims, indicating a significant exodus from Second Life.’

I used exodus myself in regards to a grid-)) But the number you state is significant in several regards. Primarily osgrid is a collection of individually run regions from inside one’s own computer. However, there are several professional Hosting companies now and as well one can have their own instance hosted professionally. People can also rent regions similar to how they do in closed garden grids, but have the flexibility to hypergate and see so much more of the metaverse. And those professional hosting companies offer some very cool options such as OAR and IAR files, currency, whether or not to allow hypergating, voice, the amount of alts per email, etc while at the same time giving one the full access to those 10,000 regions you mention. Dreamland Metaverse is one such that I have read about a bit.

You can get the best tracking of grid numbers here that I am aware of and she publishes new figures on the 15th of each month http://www.hypergridbusiness.com/2012/12/region-numbers-continue-to...

‘One very real problem is one that has existed for quite some time: if we're not doing it the right way now, that leaves a major gap for someone to come along and do it better. This has been one of the primary threats to VR for quite some time.  What happens to all these worlds if suddenly a new product hits the market, one that has been in secret production for years, has had significant research and development and money behind it, and is designed in such a way that overrides the flaws and problems of the existing SL-based worlds?’

I think kitely offers something significantly different but at the same time similar so that people will not have a large learning curve. I have my own free region with them and participate in their forums because I think they have a very cool business model and concept. I want to be around to watch it happen-)). You can watch things happen there in their newly moved forums http://forums.kitely.com/index.php

I have also considered that something significantly new will come along…as you know, the nature of software and the internet [as well as the hardware to run it all on] has changed significantly in just a few short years. It is not a difficult thing to imagine some new shiny bling coming along to catch the public’s attention. I think being more involved in the open metaverse one will hear of these things much sooner than locking oneself into a closed garden grid. There are a growing number of ways to keep updated and involved. Google+ communities have just started and are growing significantly. Search osgrid.org and opensim virtual in google+ for two I know of and participate in.

Regards--minethere

Comment by Wayfinder Wishbringer on January 8, 2013 at 9:21am

Very good post Mine.  I see it not so much as a contradiction to mine... but rather a filling-in-the-gaps, as I agree with most of what you say.

I was trying to keep an already very long blog from getting longer by only hitting on the points that really stand out.   Unfortunately, often in journalism this involves hitting the things that are problematic and need fixed rather than pointing to the positive matters.  

So to be fair, OSgrid will likely continue to be the "large grid" so far as numbers are concerned. For one thing, it's relatively easy to set up "sim on a stick" and own one's own sim.  Of course it requires having a computer that one doesn't mind leaving on 24 hours a day and people do need to calculate the electricity and equipment cost of such a venture (equipment does wear out over time, especially hard drives, which to reduce lag must be left constantly running on an OSgrid server).  But if one goes to the considerably extra trouble of running a micro-grid (several sims on one server), the cost per sim drops dramatically.  Koni keeps 8 sims running constantly and she's very pleased with her efforts (they're rather lovely too).

The thing I like most about OSgrid is the open and free nature.  I love going shopping and realizing that anything I find that I like is free, free, free.  It makes me feel like I do on Inworldz when I upload a texture, sound or animation and there's no upload charge.   Everyone likes free, and the open / giving nature of OSgrid residents is part of what makes that environment fun and relaxed.

On the other hand, the prevalent and extensive copybotting (theft) visible on OSgrid is astounding.  Since that's pretty much unpoliced, it's not uncommon to see blatantly stolen avatars walking right through login central, or items being freely traded and given away that one knows were ripped off from SL.  Of course, that is really no different than SL itself, where copybotting was tolerated for years and became so widespread it created an entire freebie market with thousands of stolen items.  So the blatant theft on OSgrid, although it bothers me, seems more like the child learning from the parent's example rather than being a new attitude.   To be very honest, I really wish I could bring some of my purchases from SL over to Inworldz; I really do miss some of my avatar and vehicle collection from over there (I have some 1500 avatars, 200 dragons and untold numbers of vehicles purchased on SL, for which I have absolutely no use now because I can't export them to Inworldz and I dislike the SL environment).  So you are right, the freedom on OSgrid is a big draw, and one I failed to fully mention.

I will have to disagree that OpenSim has improved in software / foundation over the years.  In this I speak not just as a casual user who doesn't really know how things work, but as a professional consultant who recognizes when software works and when it doesn't.  I've also consulted in-the-know techs (such as Zauber and Balpien) who have a good inside-view of what's going on.  I use Inworldz almost flawlessly; seldom any lag, crashes, or showstopper-level bugs.

However when I visit OSgrid (and I do from time to time) I find excessive lag, all kinds of bugs, crashing and failures that are not present on Inworldz.   For example, attempting to export (back up) creations from OSgrid result in failure any time a sculpty is involved; it simply for some reason refuses to export sculpties.   Sculpties export just fine in both Second Life and Inworldz (fully in Inworldz... in Second Life if one has creator rights).  That's just one example of the numerous bugs that exist on OpenSim.

I'm pleased to hear OpenSim is bringing in a form of physics.  That's good news.  I have no doubt that over time, item by item, OpenSim and OSgrid will improve.   The main problem I mention here is that with that particular software improvement has been so slow, convoluted and involving poor code... unless the entire OpenSim collaboration gets its act together and starts organizing on a more professional basis I have to believe they'll simply be overrun by everyone else.   It will still exist, but it will be considered the "buggy freeware" version rather than an organized and professionally-operated grid.

Mind you, all grids have their serious bugs and problems.  I just filed a Mantis on Inworldz the other day bringing to the fore yet again problems with texture rezzing and avatar skins reloading over and over.  After all this time... this should simply not be still happening.   Problem is, it's happening on Second Life and OpenSim as well.   It would appear no one is working to fix this issue... and it's one of the oldest mega-bug issues on the books.  In my opinion it's also one of the most damaging bugs, one that causes new users to turn away in disgust (the grid wouldn't even load textures!) and severely damages the reputation of all virtual grids.  So I really have to wonder why, after all these years, these two problems haven't been fixed on every single grid... especially Inworldz.  To me, this is more important than Phlox, more important than PhysX, more important than just about any other performance issue.   How can a 3D virtual world work properly if simple 2D textures and skins don't load?  Honestly, that particular function of VR is one of the things that is not rocket science.  So why has Linden Lab and everyone else had such a severe problem with it all this time?

One of the primary advantages of all non-walled grids (ie, OpenSim) is the ability to create full backups, not only of inventory but entire sims.   This is one of my gripes on Inworldz and I've mentioned it more than once-- the lack of ability to back up user inventory and an entire sim.  We spend far too much time creating these things, investing in these things in both time and money, to risk them vanishing over night because of a severe server glitch or because we have to (for RL reasons) close down our sim for a month or two.  It's one of my pet peeves and something that I admit is a serious dysfunction of both Second Life and Inworldz (and any other grid that does not allow backup of essential data).

If that report you read is true and 2200 regions shut down on SL in 2012, that's even worse than I'd heard.  That's almost 200 regions a month.  That is over seven percent of their user base in one year.  In most companies, a loss of 7% of revenues in one year (especially due to mismanagement) would result in heads rolling at the top levels.

Regarding Viewers:   this is a sore topic for many people because of the old "I wanna do what I wanna do" mentality-- regardless of what may be necessary.  But the truth is, Linden Lab made a major mistake when they put out their viewer as open-source.   I knew it, other professionals in the field knew it, merchants knew it, security personnel knew it, techs new it.  Linden Lab was warned, with all the reasons, but they did it anyway.  They were warned about increased security issues, incompatibility issues, drama from ego-coders, etc etc.   But in typical Linden Lab decision method they did it anyway, throwing all caution to the wind.

One of the results was Emerald, a widely-used viewer in which one of the Devs abused his trust and put a trojan in the system.  Once discovered that resulted in killing that viewer.  But that discovery did nothing to eliminate the possibility that it's still possible for someone to do exactly the same thing.  There are several viewers out there, some of which have absolutely no check-and-balance system to insure integrity.

The truth is, despite personal feelings and rants, any sane computer company involved in VR that is serious about security and the welfare of their customers, would do well to decide on an official viewer, created by official members of the staff, and require that specific viewer to be used with that system.   I honestly think Inworldz would save themselves a lot of grief in the long run if they decided to make the official Inworldz Viewer the viewer that people must use.   I'm sorry if folks don't like that-- but doing so would cut down in both support and potential security problems.  They also could allow specific tools such as Stored Inventory to be used.  

In truth, if a viewer does what it's supposed to do, we really don't need multiple viewers.  We just need one really good one.  The problem is... there isn't one really good viewer out there (although I will say the official Inworldz Viewer is pretty good.  I don't like the way it limits link count though.  No real need for that, as other viewers have already proved.  That's a serious limitation).  

One thing I would like to see on Inworldz is the ability to answer IMs from our email systems.  I hate having to log in to the grid just to answer a message; most inconvenient.

But all grids have their pros and cons, their benefits and disadvantages.   What each person has to decide is what they're looking for, what's right for them, and go with it.  In the case of Elf Clan we tried Second Life and found it to be an extremely disappointing company.  We tried OpenSim (via Reaction Grid) and it didn't fit our needs at all.  We went to Inworldz and thrived.  We have the tools we need (for the most part) our lands are numerous and beautiful, our group peaceful and enjoyable.  Yes it costs us far more than OpenSim... but it does what we want it to do. 

For others the story may be different.   Those who don't have the needs and requirements of a large group like Elf Clan may find the free and open nature of OSgrid to be their preference.  Those who need more social structure are likely going to stick with SL regardless of the cost and negative management issues.    Which grid to use is definitely an individual decision.   But we need to be aware that individual decisions have little to do with the future of VR.  Most often the future of such fields are dictated not by internal concepts, but by external ones.  We will simply have to wait and see what happens with our current concept of virtual reality.

Comment by Minethere Always on January 8, 2013 at 10:26am

yea, and i was trying to keep my what- could- have- been- even- longer response to a minimum...lol

"So to be fair, OSgrid will likely continue to be the "large grid" so far as numbers are concerned. For one thing, it's relatively easy to set up "sim on a stick" and own one's own sim.  Of course it requires having a computer that one doesn't mind leaving on 24 hours a day"

Many do not keep their regions up 24/7, especially if they host it on their own computer. Why would you think that? if they did the region numbers would be even higher...

"The thing I like most about OSgrid is the open and free nature.  I love going shopping and realizing that anything I find that I like is free, free, free.  It makes me feel like I do on Inworldz when I upload a texture, sound or animation and there's no upload charge.   Everyone likes free, and the open / giving nature of OSgrid residents is part of what makes that environment fun and relaxed."

Yes it does, it is basically a more grand vision of freebies ppl get in sl [and in all grids of course to varying degrees] and there is a ton of very quality content to be found. For another example...vbinnia radek has some absolutely wonderful content for free all over her 4 steampunk regions. Arcadia Asylum is involved also:P I expect many readers will know of one or both those names-))

"On the other hand, the prevalent and extensive copybotting (theft) visible on OSgrid is astounding.  Since that's pretty much unpoliced, it's not uncommon to see blatantly stolen avatars walking right through login central, or items being freely traded and given away that one knows were ripped off from SL.  Of course, that is really no different than SL itself, where copybotting was tolerated for years and became so widespread it created an entire freebie market with thousands of stolen items.  So the blatant theft on OSgrid, although it bothers me, seems more like the child learning from the parent's example rather than being a new attitude."

copybotting is in all grids...if there are more ppl on a gird, there is a larger percentage, is all. However, in opensim it is easy to change perms...which some ppl think is wrong but is not copybotting i dont think. osgrid members would not be the children of sl, but the old hippies who left it for freedom-))

"I will have to disagree that OpenSim has improved in software / foundation over the years.  In this I speak not just as a casual user who doesn't really know how things work, but as a professional consultant who recognizes when software works and when it doesn't.  I've also consulted in-the-know techs (such as Zauber and Balpien) who have a good inside-view of what's going on.  I use Inworldz almost flawlessly; seldom any lag, crashes, or showstopper-level bugs."

and this is where i continue to not understand you. we both know inwz forked from a very early version of os code and has the mantis to prove for fact the issues that still need to be fixed from that...many of those issues [such as i just saw commented on in the forums concerning maps and someone incorrectly stated only sl has them well] are just fine in all grids EXCEPT inwz...and that is just one small issue...this is why i originally mentioned tunnel-vision..and truly, i understand this and am not saying it is a bad thing at all-))

"I'm pleased to hear OpenSim is bringing in a form of physics." um...opensim has had full fledged physics in the form of ODE for a long time. When i first left inwz it was one of the things i found so fun-)) They are moving to Bullet as it apparently is a much improved physics than the outdated ODE....just the travel of technology is all-)) as we know, inwz had blocked out much of ODE which, btw, still causes regions to go down and need grid owner support to bring back up.

"Mind you, all grids have their serious bugs and problems. I just filed a Mantis on Inworldz the other day bringing to the fore yet again problems with texture rezzing and avatar skins reloading over and over. After all this time... this should simply not be still happening. Problem is, it's happening on Second Life and OpenSim as well."

in this i fully agree, vw as well as software in general are in a continued state of improvement... ofttimes even replacement as tech  changes....btw, of course, almost all of the metaverse except sl offers free imports-))

"It's one of my pet peeves and something that I admit is a serious dysfunction of both Second Life and Inworldz (and any other grid that does not allow backup of essential data)."

actually, though i dont care for that grid, island oasis now offers 5 region backups that they keep on their servers...restore points actually...not as great as opensim where u can save it to your own computer, but i have not seen it elsewhere-))

If that report you read is true and 2200 regions shut down on SL in 2012, that's even worse than I'd heard. That's almost 200 regions a month

i think this has some of the info but i saw it elsewhere also, couldn't find it now tho.

http://www.sluniverse.com/php/vb/virtual-business/8523-new-sl-sims-...

"I honestly think Inworldz would save themselves a lot of grief in the long run if they decided to make the official Inworldz Viewer the viewer that people must use"

I am all for that:P

"But all grids have their pros and cons, their benefits and disadvantages.   What each person has to decide is what they're looking for, what's right for them, and go with it."

And of course we can all agree with those wise words-))

Comment by Wayfinder Wishbringer on January 8, 2013 at 1:13pm

I heard that folks need to keep their OSgrid sims up 24/7 because if they don't they lose their "slot" in the address links.  To maintain a constant address they must maintain constant presence.  I don't deny I may have been misinformed in this, as I've never dealt with OSgrid on that level.

Copybotting:  Yes, it is on all grids.  But on OSgrid it is extensive simply for the reason it doesn't seem there's anyone around to stop it.  At least that's the word I've heard from OSgrid users.  Copybotting exists everywhere, but on Inworldz if a copybotter is discovered they are banned from the grid and-- as best as can be done-- the item removed from the system.  But to be fair, nowhere is copybotting so prevalent as on Second Life itself.

"and this is where i continue to not understand you. we both know inwz forked from a very early version of os code and has the mantis to prove for fact the issues that still need to be fixed from that.."

Consider this:  if OSgrid was as good as Inworldz, if it functioned as well, if it was as stable and lag-free and powerful, Elf Clan would not be paying Inworldz thousands of dollars a year for their service.  Obviously there is something significant we find on Inworldz that we consider to be worth the price.

The difference is that Inworldz although forked from OpenSim code has left that code way behind and has fixed a whole bunch of the major bugs that plagued OpenSim.  Most of those bugs have not yet been fixed on OpenSim, with the result that OpenSim is still very much in similar state to what Inworldz was in when Elf Clan first arrived in 2010.   At that time even Inworldz was severely buggy, unstable and laggy.   But since then Inworldz has installed Phlox (which helped them locate and fix a whole lotta bugs).  Yes, extensive bugs still exist on the Mantis... but even so they are not of the number and severity as is still present on OpenSim.  In truth, Inworldz has fixed some major bugs that still plague Second Life itself.  It's not that Inworldz is without bugs; it's that they have fewer bugs than anyone else and have fixed more major bugs than anyone else... the entire scripting engine and asset server being foremost among these.  When a company totally overhauls the scripting engine and asset server code line-by-line... their performance is likely be be considerably better than those who haven't. 

One thing that I mentioned before is OSgrid's inability to export sculpty-based builds.  Inworldz has no problem with that.  That's a significant issue there... and that's just one out of hundreds.  In their last release alone Inworldz fixed some 1,100 bugs en total.  I don't think anyone else can make such a claim.

It's good Island Oasis offers 5 backups.  Inworldz (to my knowledge) has three in-system backups, but as with Island Oasis offers no user-side backups (not even an encrypted offering).  I believe for any closed-wall system to be up to par with standard computer operations, they need to offer user-side uber-encoded backups, that the user can create as many times as desired, with staff notified every time one of those backups is restored to keep people from scamming the system.  Anyone found scamming the backup system would face severe consequences for such actions (similar to copybotter punishment).

I should probably point out that in the above blog I take a somewhat negative stance, with the intent of bringing to the attention of all companies that they can't sit on their successes and continue to succeed.  None of these systems have experienced significant growth over the last year (number of regions alone isn't the sole indicator of growth).   As Balpien said, that's an indication the field is saturated with the current type of users involved-- a major point made in the blog post.   To grow the systems are going to have to be both improved and simplified at the same time.

The computer industry is constantly changing.  We should be of the belief that sooner or later a new virtual reality system is going to come along that is not based on Second Life concepts-- that might be far better than what exists.  The best way to avoid such is to do rapid development that vastly improves the current systems past Second Life's decade-old concepts.

But in acknowledgement, I see benefits to all three systems.   Second Life (despite Linden Lab itself) offers a large, solid, active, existing community for those who demand such.  OSgrid offers a free and open community for those who don't have heavy demands from VR (or alternately, can't afford paid grids).  Inworldz offers a stable, secure and rapidly-advancing system for those who have heavier demands (such as Elf Clan and the merchant industry) but who want to get away from the iron hand of Linden Lab.

Of course I am personally partial to Inworldz.   The reason is simple:  although there are other closed-wall, secure systems, they are all based heavily on OpenSim code and bring with it the same liabilities and problems.  If I wanted to use OpenSim code, I'd just go with OSgrid.  If I'm going to pay for user space, be in a closed-wall grid and have to follow a TOS, I require significant advantages in doing so.   I've visited several grids and in my experience, the only one that offers benefits significant enough to pay for along with the power and functions required for a group the size of Elf Clan, is Inworldz.   I've tried other grids and simply have not found one that even comes close to meeting our needs.  In my opinion although Inworldz isn't perfect (no grid is), they're significantly more powerful, more stable, less laggy, and offer more features than any paid grid outside of SL.

Comment by Minethere Always on January 8, 2013 at 1:27pm

No, you are not required to keep a region up 24/7..that would be an unreasonable burden and simply something that cannot be expected. However, I do not know how long the particular x/y coordinates are held, or even, if it is even necessary to do so.

And I will leave that as the last words. I have never been one to try and convince people to do that which they either cannot see, or will not see. I much prefer to simply point the way and let people just decide to do that which they find enjoyable, for themselves.

Personally I think kitely would be an awesome place for elf clan, and I expect some have or will check into it. But I do of course realize the management of elf clan inwz wants to be in inwz, and that is fine, as well-))

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