Islandz Virtual World (the Successor to InWorldz) Has Launched: Will People Come Back?

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If you missed all the excitement, here’s a link to all my blogposts about InWorldz and their sudden shut-down, so you can get caught up.

Last week, the owner of the former InWorldz grid, Beth Reischl, flipped the switch on its successor: Islandz Virtual World. Like InWorldz before it, Islandz is based on the same Halcyon codebase which forked off from the standard OpenSim software back in 2010. (Purists insist that InWorldz/Islandz is not a “true” OpenSim grid for that reason.)

Note that this grid, like its predecessor, is not Hypergrid-enabled; it is a closed grid. This bucks the trend where the overwhelming majority of OpenSim-based virtual worlds now allow their users to freely jump to other OpenSim grids via Hypergrid. (There are two main lists of OpenSim grids: one from the OpenSimulator website and the other from Hypergrid Business).

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To add Islandz to your Firestorm viewer, all you need to do is open up your settings (Ctrl-P), and select OpenSim from the left-hand-side menu. Then copy and paste the following into the Add New Grid field, and press the Apply key: http://login.islandzvw.com:8002/

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If you had an old account on InWorldz, you can transfer that avatar name over to Islandz Virtual World. Just use this log in screen. Please note that your InWorldz inventory has not been carried over; you are a default system avatar, although a number of people have kindly made free clothing, hair, and body parts available at the spawn point when you arrive in-world for the first time at the Islandz Welcome Center:

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I picked up the Ruth 2.0 mesh avatar, some hair (a layered bob hairstyle freebie by Linda Kellie), and a basic clothing applier for the Ruth mesh body, and after about half an hour I had an avatar that I was fairly satisfied with. Here is Vanity Faire (with an “e’) in Islandz Virtual World:

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It remains to be seen how much InWorldz inventory that people frantically tried to save will be able to be resurrected and returned to them. I might never get back my inventory, but then again, I didn’t have much to lose, so it would be easy for me to start all over.

But the Welcome Center was, with the exception of one AFK avatar, deserted on the Saturday afternoon when I visited. The question is: will people come back?

The even bigger question is: will the content creators come back? Some of them, upset at the handling of (and communication about) the sudden shut-down of InWorldz, have since moved to other OpenSim grids and will likely not be coming back to set up shop in Islandz Virtual World. Others may decide to come back and try again.

Many of the original InWorldz residents have also moved on, mostly to other OpenSim virtual worlds. Whether Islandz can recover any of the lost glory of InWorldz remains to be seen. But they’re back; it’s now up to Islandz Virtual World’s new and returning residents to rebuild.

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What Adam Frisby Has Learned From Working on OpenSim

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Adam Frisby

Adam Frisby, a co-founder of OpenSim and the Chief Product Officer of Sine Wave Entertainment (the creators of the virtual world Sinespace), has written a very insightful article for the Hypergrid Business website.

Titled What I learned about virtual worlds by helping found OpenSim, Adam talks at length about some of the lessons he learned from building virtual worlds over the past 12 years, particularly his experience with OpenSim:

For a while, there were some big names adopting the project in droves. Nearly every major tech company had some involvement — or at least one employee contributing — to OpenSim at some point. IBM had an entire team of OpenSim developers and was running internal conferences using the project. During my involvement, the OpenSim software was downloaded hundreds of thousands of times. In the years since, it’s found its way into many surprising places, from NASA to university courses.

It’s gratifying to see OpenSim still soldiering on 12 years later, in great part through the efforts of the educators who’ve embraced it, and through worlds like OSGrid, which maintains a small but dedicated user community, along with a host of other enterprises, projects and grids using the software.

And while OpenSim didn’t become the breakout success we hoped it would, I learned a lot from it, about building virtual world platforms — and what they need.

He stresses the importance of not reinventing the wheel:

Virtual worlds shouldn’t reinvent the wheel

This is true of Second Life and OpenSim, and numerous other virtual worlds and MMOs — attempting to build key features and functionality by creating them from scratch, when better options already exist.

At the time, the list of free or cheap 3D engines could be counted on one hand — Torque, Ogre3D, Irrlicht, etc. But today, we have dozens of fantastic high-end options, including Unity, Unreal, Lumberyard, CryEngine, and Unigine. If you were willing to shell out real cash, Unreal, CryEngine, id Tech and others have been available throughout.

Building your own graphics engine from scratch, however, is a dumb idea. It’s an insanely complex bit of software. Throw in a few thousand graphics cards and chips, various drivers, and you’ve got the recipe for a monumental headache on compatibility and support, let alone trying to stay up to date with the latest and greatest in 3D features. Trying to build your own is just going to result in you wasting a ton of talent reinventing the wheel.

Sinespace is built on top of the Unity engine, which allows it to leverage the usage of such cool, Unity-based tools such as Archimatix. Contrast this with Linden Lab’s Sansar, where Linden Lab has decided to develop their own engine. There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches (for example, Sinespace has to scramble to fix bugs introduced by regular Unity updates, something that Linden Lab doesn’t need to worry about as much, since they control everything in-house).

Adam also talks about the importance of addressing non-Windows and mobile users:

Virtual worlds must be accessible — immediately

Even among gamers, the percentage of people willing to downland and install a client, then endure a time-consuming, multi-step login process, is vanishingly small. For the same reason, web and mobile access matter too. We know from our own efforts that if you want someone to download or install something, half of the people who sign up, won’t.

Today’s consumers don’t use desktops either – the web today is mobile, and I find myself using my phone more and more, switching only to my desktop to get work done. You need to be where the users are – and that, in my opinion, means friction- free and device-agnostic experiences.

I note that Sinespace is now available not only on the desktop (with versions for Windows, MacOS, and LINUX), but also for users in VR headsets (Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Windows Mixed Reality). They’re also currently testing viewers for both iPhone/iPad and Android devices. Sinespace even has a viewer that runs completely within a web browser (I’ve tested it and it works fairly well). And they are working on a client for OpenVR viewers for both Windows and Mac, too! I would have to say that, at this point, Sinespace is ahead of the competition in terms of mobile device and multiple platform support. They’ve got all the bases covered!

Offering lots of options for people to access your virtual world (particularly those which don’t involve downloading a client) gives you an advantage in an increasingly crowded market of metaverse products. And if you don’t believe that mobile-accessible virtual worlds are important, you really do need to check out both IMVU and Avakin Life. Both are very popular with children and teenagers, most of whom are on smartphones—and these children and teenagers are future adult consumers! Companies need to be paying attention to this segment of the market.

This is a very good article about virtual worlds from an industry veteran who is doing some innovative things in virtual worlds. I’d encourage you to go over to Hypergrid Business and read it in full!

UPDATED: Google Is Finally Yanking the Plug on the Failed Google+ Social Network

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Google’s failed experiment to create a social network to compete with the 800-lb. gorilla Facebook is over. Today the company announced that they are shutting down Google+:

Google+, a social network that we can certainly say existed and not much more, is slated for a long-overdue trip down the memory hole.

A ten-month sunsetting period was announced in a Google blog post today about increased security efforts, dubbed Project Strobe, which found a bug in Google+ that could have leaked some personal information users posted to their profiles, though according to Strobe’s analysis no one else was aware of or took advantage of the vulnerability.

That may have something to do with Google+’s relative obscurity as an online social destination. Despite integration with the company’s other, hugely successful products like Gmail, Blogger, and YouTube, Google admits usage is negligible. In the company’s own words, “90 percent of Google+ user sessions are less than five seconds.”

Given the potential for abuse, and the fact that almost no one is using Google+, Alphabet opted to take the path of least resistance and yank the doddering network off life support. Users (whoever they might be) have had plenty of time to download and migrate their data before the platform’s final days arrive in August of next year.

According to an article in The New York Times:

Google said it would shut down Google Plus, the company’s floundering answer to Facebook, after it discovered a security vulnerability that exposed the private data of up to 500,000 users of the service.

When the company’s technical staff discovered the bug in March, they decided against disclosing the issue to users because they hadn’t found anyone that had been affected, the company said in a blog post on Monday.

That decision could run afoul of relatively new rules in California and Europe governing when a company must disclose a security incident. In the blog post, Google said its “Privacy & Data Protection Office” decided the company was not required to report the security issue.

The incident could face additional scrutiny because of a memo to senior executives reportedly prepared by Google’s policy and legal teams that warned of embarrassment for Google — similar to what happened to Facebook earlier this year — if it went public with the vulnerability.

The memo, according to The Wall Street Journal, warned that disclosing the problem would invite regulatory scrutiny and that Sundar Pichai, Google’s chief executive, would likely be called to testify in front of Congress.

I actually will be rather sorry to see Google+ go, but I can certainly understand the decision. Nothing can compare to the initial excitement when the social network launched, but the feeling of euphoria didn’t last very long. As I have written:

…I joined Google+ when it launched in the summer of 2011, and I immediately began having real conversations with people instead of avatars [on Second Life], participating in face-to-face in hangouts, and posting items that people enjoyed and thanked me for writing. That first year was a heady and exhilarating time, hard to describe to someone who wasn’t there.

But after that first year, things went rapidly downhill and usage dropped off precipitously. Hangouts, which were great fun and a novelty at first, did not catch on the way that Google obviously hoped they would. Eventually, Google+ became a virtual ghost town.

Now I’m going to have to sit down and figure out exactly how to back up all my Google+ posts (over 18,000 of them!). I don’t want to lose them. I guess I’d better figure out how to use Google Takeout to save my stuff…

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One group that will be hard hit by this decision is the Opensim Virtual community, which has been a primary source of information on OpenSim developments for years now. Perhaps Talla Adam will move the group over to Facebook, where any number of Second Life related groups seem to be doing well.

UPDATE Oct. 9th: Lauren Weinstein has written a must-read editorial on Google (the company) in general and Google+ (the platform) in particular on his blog: The Death of Google.

And a petition to save Google+ has already gathered over 10,000 signatures over on Change.org, but I personally don’t think it’s going to make Google change their mind:

Petition

Mike Elgan, who was a passionate user of Google+, writes:

Remember Yahoo? Twenty years ago, Yahoo.com got more traffic than any site on the internet. But it failed to evolve.

In place of evolution or innovation, Yahoo simply started buying everything with the intention of integrating it. But it was unable to integrate anything in a compelling way.

Eventually, Yahoo simply became the company that closed things. It quickly became clear that nobody should invest any time, energy or money into supporting or using Yahoo because whatever product you invested in would likely be shut down, killed off, closed for business.

Now, Google is the new Yahoo.

Google is the company that kills its own products.

Google’s M.O. is to launch some new product or service with great fanfare, convince it’s loyal fans to go all-in, allow those fans to devote countless hours with the product, then kill the product and leave the devoted fans with nothing.

They did it with Reader, Inbox, Answers, Lively, Glass, Orkut, Buzz, Wave, Nexus Q, Dodgeball and many others.

The closure of Google+ is the biggest slap in the face ever, by far.

Google told us Google+ was the future of Google. So we jumped in and engaged. Personally, I’ve spent thousands of hours lovely crafting publication-quality opinion pieces. This is what I do for a living, and I gave my time and labor over to Google+ for free.

Now, Google is going to flush all my work down the toilet.

Yours, too.

Google has been working hard for years to push away its most loyal fans. Now, Google is going even further.

In fact, the killing of Google+ is a perfect storm of Google’s vision vacuum. It’s driven by their antipathy toward passionate users, and also their failure to understand the human element generally.

Google has failed utterly with every social network they’ve ever launched, and the reason is that, culturally, Google simply can’t understand human beings.

I recently got rid of my MacBook Pro and bought a high-end Pixelbook. And I was leaning toward buying a Pixel 3. But now I’m off the fence. I’ll be buying iPhones from now on.

And I can’t even imagine what will happen when Google decides to kill Google Photos.

Google simply can’t be trusted.

Google is the new Yahoo, the company that kills its own products.

Which Google product is next?

AvaCon: A Brief Introduction

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AvaCon is another virtual world company that is notable for its work in organizing and hosting real-world conferences in the past. They run an OpenSim grid called AvaCon Grid, and they appear to have hosted a series of real-world Avatar Meetups:

AvaCon hosts and produces a series of educational lectures and community gathering meet-upsthat reach approximately 15 to 40 attendees per event and take place in various regional cities such as Austin, Boston, New York and San Francisco.

These meetups feature a single panel discussion, presentation, artistic or musical performance, or community event to foster knowledge sharing and social networking among attendees who are interested in broad technical, scholarly, scientific and creative uses of virtual worlds, augmented reality, and 3D immersive and virtual spaces.

These meetings appear to have stopped in 2014, however. Their news page hasn’t been updated since October 2017, and I notice a lot of somewhat dated content on their blog, which leads me to believe that AvaCon is not nearly as active at the moment.

I was surprised to discover that AvaCon produced the Second Life Community Conventions of 2010 and 2011. (There hasn’t been an SL Convention since then. I guess people just lost interest, or maybe the organizers got burned out. Organizing a convention is a lot of hard work!)

More recently, AvaCon was a co-host of the 2017 OpenSimulator Community Conference, so it would appear that they are still at least somewhat active in OpenSim projects.