Its a sad fact when some of the things we enjoy in life start to fade away. When that favorite item is not made anymore, and we can’t replace it, or in this case when development seems to stop on an important project.
OpenSim is not dead. It will likely live on for decades but I am not convinced that this will be with active development. Without active development it is also quite likely that it will become insecure as security issues are discovered and not plugged. As OpenSim runs on either .Net or Mono, it may also be that in years to come it does not run on later versions of these and unless development updates the software it could simply become unsafe to run.
Over the years the number of commercial grids running OpenSim (and forked projects like Halcyon) has fallen. There is not the money to be made with this that there used to be – less content creators are happy with their content on these grids as more and more stolen content is appearing everywhere.
All these things add up and now with the closing of Inworldz grid I question the future of OpenSim. For reference, I am including Halcyon in this as while it forked off the OpenSim project a few years ago I believe it still shares a common ancestry and shares the problems I am discussing.
It came as a surprise to many when Inworldz announced it was going to close down – with about 3 days notice, a GoFundMe was started to save it but that looks to have been badly thought out and was closed down despite nearly reaching its goal.
Many have quoted bad management as a reason for the latest closure. I cannot comment on that personally but it does seem to be a pattern. Often people are attempting to run grids as an “easy commercial venture” without the business acumen to manage the project robustly. Running an OpenSim grid is hard! It is expensive and due to the ever increasing resource requirements, the project itself is designed to become unmanageable from the very start.
Just taking one aspect of running an OpenSim grid – assets. These grow. Assets are immutable. This means that every asset lives in your asset server forever. When you upload a script it is in the asset server. When you edit that script – the new version is also in the asset server. if you edit that script 100 times – there are 100 copies of that asset. Only one version of the script may work – but that just means there are 99 dead versions still in the asset server. You may not have them in your inventory – but they are still in the asset server and there they will stay. Imagine an asset server after 10 years of being an active grid! It is huge. You cant “shrink it” easily it WILL grow out of the servers you have it running on. It costs more and more to keep the grid just running.
These things run away with people and suddenly the grid is massively larger than they originally planned. People often do not have the business knowledge to deal with these things either. Decisions are made that do not respect ownership of assets – assets are swapped between companies without thought for who owns the assets etc
The other worry is the apparent lack of development. I remember a few years back regularly looking at the progress and changes documented by Justin Clark-Casey on an almost weekly basis. Now, Justin has left for pastures new a few years ago, visible development seems thin on the ground and version 0.9 seems to have been with us far longer than any other version. Critically Open Simulator has never managed to get to the golden version 1 stage.
Combine all these together with the snowballing intellectual property theft that seems to be everywhere, causing valued creators to back away, and I do not see a healthy future for Open Simulator. I think it’s a sad state of affairs but I think the technology has had its day. It wont suddenly go – but I think it will be on the decline very shortly if not already.