State of the VR Nation

I have been thinking about writing this post for some time now. I am not thrilled to be writing it, but in some ways I feel like an historian  -- so here goes.

Statistics show that closed grids (all closed grids including Mother SL) are in decline and OpenSim is gaining in popularity. A shift seems to be happening but along with that an overall decline in VR interest.

While I do believe in statistics, I also know that they can be manipulated to "say" just about anything one wants. So for me, a personal barometer is best.

Here is what I have seen this last month.

SL mainland continues its move into wasteland status. There are very few non-maintenance lands adjoining any of the mainland parcels I use. Large commercial multi-sim areas that used to be fully occupied are now two thirds to three quarters yellow (for sale) with no buyers in sight.

High profile designers that used to have full sims have opted for 1/8th or smaller plots for their new stores.  Some of this is due to the popularity of venue shopping; folks typically by at events or on the Marketplace these days. There are some exceptions who market their virtual brick and mortor stores well, but in general the inworld shopping experience is not the same as it was five years ago.

I have noticed -- this month in particular -- a lot of designers joining new venues that were previously not part of their marketing plan. I am wondering why the mass interest.

On a personal level, my sales are down a bit but fairly good considering the current state of affairs. I sell niche products however, many things that aren't available from others. So my retail gauge isn't really a fair one. BUT, it is very obvious that my design blog views are way down from the beginning of last summer -- over 33% I would say and that is a lot. The feeds that post their statistics have dismal numbers, some of the top bloggers have gone to one post a week; readership I am guessing is down overall.

Does this all both me?  You betcha. This is not what I want to see. I have been in a handful of worlds on the steep decline slope -- some of which are no longer. They were good platforms, but they couldn't get and keep enough growth momentum.

I am not sure there is an answer, a magic pill that will solve the problems.


Over on Opensim there is a fairly noteworthy schism burgeoning.  The "commerce" grids want more protection for their creators. The "free meta" sims want to protect old, free, pass along content. Having both sides happy is going to be tricky. Many are worried that an even wider rift will appear between the money and no-money camps.

After talking to quite a few folks that know much more than I, it seems unlikely the plans will come to fruition. There are just too many things that need to happen and some are in direct contrast to the needs and rights of others.  So while folks are flocking to the $5 and $10 a month sims that are almost like SL, paradise is not without its issues.


Now there are lots of new platforms on the horizon. So far none has beckoned loudly enough to get my attention. I am sure they will each find their own followers, but replacing SL is going to be a tough act to follow.

As I write those words I find that I am not terribly convinced that replacement will happen. Even with a glorious new platform (it seems pretty obvious by now that we aren't talking "world" but indeed something more akin to a VR ISP) I am not really convinced that SL will die. To many people with too much invested -- both years and money -- will be hard to smother under the blanket of the new flavor of the month.

The next year may be one of the most important in VR history as new platforms open and population shifts occur, but looking at the number of mesh bodies and heads being sold in SL, I don't think too many folks are planning on jumping ship.  

A Divided Opensim - Export Filters

Kitely Chic in exportable outfit at the first Kitely Merchant Fair opening mid October.
Free versus commercial. Export or no? Content creators rights. Freedom.

There have been lengthy conversations going on in Opensim this week (links to posts at the bottom of this entry). Retailers, mostly of the newcomer variety, want more protection for their products. Those who have adopted the "free meta" version of Opensim worry that a huge (really huge) amount of free and transferable goods will no longer be in the public domain.

Many feel that Opensim may be on the verge of a schism.

For those of you not familiar with Opensim worlds, they include closed commercial grids such as Inworldz, free meta worlds such as Metropolis -- and many models in between. Opensim also includes private grids only accessible to groups or individuals, not open to the public.

Some grids are connected via a hypergrid, so that on a good day you can teleport via landmark to a large variety of sims and vars (larger than sims) as easily as if you were on the same grid. Simplistically? It is a bit like a long distance phone call or Skype. Aside from money and some items not being available, it is much like you just walked down the street to a neighbor's house.

This inner-connectivity opens up the possibilities of collaboration between artists and creators on various grids.

Balancing the wonderful creative possibilities the hypergrid enables, there is a dark side. It is very easy to steal work, change permissions and rename the creator of items.

That brings us to now. 

I am sure most of you aren't astrology buffs, but there are some interesting energies afoot which became more obvious last weekend.

... a combination of tension and working out of certain issues ...

This can be a destructive cycle and it can also place emphasis on creating solutions to problems that seem intractable.

... the result of action or the choice not to act ...

It’s a reminder that something is not true merely because you believe it. It’s a reminder to answer the question, “Where’s your data?”

Quotes from Eric Francis: Where Ideas Meet Ideals (membership material, but free to read a few articles).  This is a long and technical but extremely good article. If you skip through the planetary material and just read the "outcome" of the energies, it will likely give you some insights.

I have been in VR for nine years now. I have lived, made art, and set up shops on a dozen platforms.  Grids have booms and busts and now and then resurrections. The grid owner and citizens decide (sometimes peacefully, sometimes not) the future of the grid. Even the biggest grids have changed policies when faced with an overwhelming outcry from the populous. Other times, owners make the rules and those living on the platforms cope or leave.

It has been a heated time. Fingers have been pointed; lies have been told. It is difficult to see the other side of the issue -- the one that you do not accept as "correct".

I am in the leave things alone camp for several reasons. I have lived and sold in enough closed grids (and adding export filters so that items cannot leave the grid makes it difficult at best to hypergrid) to have watched them decline. Items may be better protected, but there are also fewer sales -- in essence from those that plan to use the product only on the grid where it is sold and never venture outside the grid.

To be fair, creators will in theory have the ability to update their items and choose if they want to sell things that can still be exported. Generally, from people's comments, those asking for protection will not be selling exportable items -- at least not in the near future.  Those that have gifts they want to export to the free meta will need to mark those items as such.

What I have watched in the past on many grids seems likely to repeat. Some new, often mentioned as "better", creators come to various protected grids and set up shop. They sell things for awhile and then when they have sold to the resident population of those actually living on the grid, sales drop.

Most of these "better" creators do not make a home on the grids; they simply leave their items and go back to the big grids. There is a short time when an influx of new folks make accounts and perhaps buy land. It DOES give the citizens of that grid the ability to buy from a larger variety of items. It does not typically enhance the general well-being of the grid.

One of the biggest worries which as of this writing has not been addressed is what will happen to the myriad of freely giving to the metaverse items that float around hypergrid enabled Opensim. It appears it will break all that content, making it no longer "pass along" as it was intended to be.

The closed commercial Opensim grids have been in decline for some time now. Some have recently shared their code and others have offered to share their code. This could be simply a magnanimous gesture, or it could be that they are looking for a way that would let them comfortably join the larger and definitely growing hypergrid community.

I am stepping back and watching for awhile. Money has been raised to implement this new code. As of this writing it appears that when completed and working it will be added to at least some grids.

How much this will divide the metaverse is the question of the season.


DigiWorldz spearheads fundraising for export permissions fix:

Call for Crowdfunding:

New Record Highs for Opensim:

GCG to Filter Exports:

Avination donates code to Opensim:

A busy but tenuous week with my computer always on now as the hard drive is on death's door. With a new be-still-my-beating-heart machine at the order desk, I have been blogging ahead at Phil's Place "just in case". With some group filming done (you'll here more about that later - not my story to tell) a sigh of relief was heard by all.

Enter Virtual Open Google Group, +Inara Pey *wink* and (really a great name).  Note that "space" is a domain extension. So many of them now, but this does seem fitting.

Seemingly on the same wavelength (yes, a pun) as Sansar, Sinewave is opening for experienced creators now and further along the timeline towards opening.

Once my new computer arrives I will be journeying over on yet another adventure --- and you know how I like those. And of course I will keep you informed as much as I can.

I was thinking lately -- WAY back to when the web was new. For those of you too young to remember that time, there was a browser war going on. I was in the Netscape camp and very active on the web as a designer. Back then, you most often were greeted with a notice on the entry page of a website. "Best viewed in IE2", "Please use Netscape 3 to see these pages as intended" etc.  It was messy.

With so many contenders out there for the next generation of the web, it will be interesting to see who wins the biggest piece of the pie. But, as I wrote in a comment on Virtual Open last night, the public is really the winner as we are being given a choice. And choice is GOOD. Some will find a place to call home and settle in. Some will be vagabonds flitting from place to place and enjoying them all.

I am guessing you know which camp "I" fit into.

See the Living in a Modem World post here.