State of the metaverse

Reliability seems to be the issue at present. I remember well how unreliable SL was for much of 2007/8, and I shudder to think what it was like earlier – I must ask my friend who has a 2005 avatar. But of course it was always running on production servers, which distinguishes it from many of the OpenSim grids, the biggest of which are OSGrid (nothing to do with the British Ordnance Survey maps) and DeepGrid. Despite legions of dedicated developers, technical functionality is light years ahead of practical reliability because these ventures remain largely, if not entirely, unfunded. This should not detract at all from the nobility of the aim of bringing the open source metaverse to everyone.

Some open source endeavours have created a viable business model and I see no reason why the OpenSim grids should not do so in future. This is the real challenge facing these developers. It will not be long before their metaverse is technically superior to SL – in fact, in some respects, it already is. (You can already host your own server on your desktop, if you so wish, and link it to a public grid.) But today I have not been able to login to either of these two grids for more than a few seconds, despite many attempts. LL have a service oriented approach that they lacked in the early days, but this is essential to their success. In some ways they are still lacking, but this element will be vital if residents are to be tempted away from SL to OpenSim grids.

It almost doesn’t matter which grid these residents go to, since HyperGrid enables all but the “walled gardens” such as SL and OpenLife to be joined together with distributed asset servers. RealXtend can bring some of the visual glitz that SL lacks compared to impressive but fundamentally boring online games, and soon it will be available to be overlaid on top of OpenSim, following their recent co-operation. There are DRM issues to be resolved, of course. But it does matter that these grids must be much more reliable than they are at present. The average user does want amazing new technology – but only if it is good, and only if it is reliable and they don’t have to worry about it every time they log on.

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