Sorry, unlikely readers! I’ve been in absentia for a while. (I say “unlikely” because I don’t reckon many people read this blog… yet?) I’m still here in SL, of course, but I’ve not been blogging. So, what’s new?

My life in OSGrid (and latterly Grid4Us) pretty much came to an end when my build was deleted. Owing to the fact that much of it was built out of no transfer parts, I was unable to back it up. The bad faith of the person who provided the server resulted in the breaking down of a hitherto pleasant relationship. I was convinced to take part in a project but was given no direction whatsoever in my part in it despite numerous queries and attempts to co-operate with the other partners involved. There isn’t any obligation upon me to keep the confidence of the parties involved, but unless they give me a reason otherwise, I’ve decided to do so. I don’t think their haphazard organisational methods will succeed anyway. So this was all a great disappointment that has largely led to me abandoning OSGrid and hence the OpenSim metaverse for now.

But I retain an interest in OpenSim grids. It’s a catch 22 because ordinary users need to go to such grids before the content and society is considerable enough to have a decent life there, but at present it’s very spartan precisely because this hasn’t happened. But why stay in SL? It’s a closed world and you have no control. LL rule it like a feudal fiefdom and can at any time change the rules of the economy so your business fails, as they have often done. I particularly dislike the way that they tax imports with a protectionist 10L$ tariff, manipulating land prices and now meddling with GLP 3rd party viewers. Try as they might, they always end up being moral arbiters though they protest the opposite.

I think it’s time to say thanks for the product, LL, but the metaverse has outgrown them and needs to become more like the web, decentralised on a metaverse of independent servers. This is already possible. The only question is how the economy will work and how the migration of content, communities, groups and so on will happen. Herein lies the cause of the current malaise in OpenSim grids. More people are coming, especially to OSgrid, but very slowly. The servers are unstable, more geared for developing the technology than for ordinary users. Content isn’t altogether safe on the asset servers, which are flaky, and very often you crash and get stuck with everybody in LBSA Plaza. It may be quite sociable for everyone in OSGrid to occasionally get chucked together like this, but it’s also frustrating. You can’t build a stable, growing world like this. Somebody needs to step up to the plate and provide more stable asset servers and sims. It doesn’t look like OpenLife have succeeded in this either.

Well, that’s about it. Sorry that my life in the metaverse hasn’t been more interesting of late…

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.