Guesses for OpenSim in 2009 January 9, 2009Posted by justincc in opensim, opinion.
So, I thought I’d somewhat belatedly indulge in that favourite blogging staple, predictions for the coming year. In my case, I’m going to stick to speculation about OpenSim (or speculation about events that may affect it). And in the interests of truth in advertising, I’m going to call these guesses as they’re based largely on gut instinct.
I’d also like to emphasize that these are my personal views and not necessarily those of any other OpenSim core developers or community members 🙂
Things that may just happen in 2009
1. OpenSim will remain in alpha for the first half of 2009, and probably for the second half as well. Although OpenSim is progressing well, there are still a lot of bugs in the code base, some missing features (e.g. user groups, allowing rez/derez of collections of objects), and various aspects of the user interface that are very rough and ready (like the console command system and the API for region modules). Also, the really nasty bugs (especially those relating to race conditions and performance) will take a long time to pin down and eliminate. Therefore, I would be very surprised if we emerge from alpha in the first half of this year. I think there’s a small possibility that we may go to beta late in the second half.
2. Lots more public OpenSim based grids will appear but growth will be steady rather than spectacular. Quite a few OpenSim based grids have come up already. However, I think that we’ll see considerably more this year. They’ll range from fairly (though not massively) well funded efforts down to those which run on a couple of servers in somebody’s closet. Not that there’s any reason why some of the latter won’t be very professionally run, but the majority of grids will remain small – overall population on grids using OpenSim will grow steadily but not exponentially. I don’t think that any grid will dominate – the market that exists is too immature for that. Some grids will try to distinguish themselves from the competition by providing specialized features and viewers.
3. The leading Second Life viewer by a very large margin will remain the Linden Labs Second Life viewer and its derivatives. There are some viewer projects underway that don’t use the Second Life viewer code base at all. However, a vast number of man years has gone into the Linden Labs viewer, so I think that it and viewers derived from its codebase will remain the ones that the vast majority of people will use in 2009. I’d loved to be proved wrong on this since I think that a viable alternative viewer would be the first step towards codifying protocol specifications of some kind.
4. Open Grid Protocol (OGP) efforts will remain almost at a standstill. My impression is that there’s been a significant drop off in Linden Lab’s Open Grid Protocol activity now, after completion of the initial first steps of being able to teleport avatars between a Linden Lab beta grid and suitably OGP enabled OpenSim instances. I think that with the current recession, much of their activity has been diverted from risky activities that don’t promise any short term return (such as OGP) into projects which are more likely to produce immediate growth and revenue for the company. Therefore, I don’t think that there will be any revival of OGP activity in the first half of 2009, though possibly there might be some renewed work in the second half of the year.
5. Experiments with Hypergrid and similar cross grid architectures will continue but will not become mainstream. There has already been considerable interest in OpenSim’s experimental Hypergrid architecture for linking grids (and standalones) together. I think that we’ll see considerable experimentation and development of this in 2009. However, though I think that the remaining technical bugs are resolvable (such as the failure to rez the inventories of objects), there remain considerable security and intellectual property related challenges with the architecture. It will take a lot of work to resolve this and even to determine the extent to which these can be resolved. Therefore, I think that we will see much use of hypergrid in commercial grids in 2009. There will also be continued experimentation with alternative multi virtual environment architectures, such as that where assets and inventory is maintained directly by users rather than by grids. However, none of these will be ready for prime time in 2009.
6. Linden Labs will launch their “grid behind a firewall” product but this won’t significantly reduce interest in OpenSim. I think that Linden Labs will launch a beta of this product this year, as CEO Mark Kingdon unofficially announced. For two reasons, I don’t think that it will have an enormous impact on OpenSim. Firstly, I suspect that it’s going to be pretty highly priced, especially as it’s been developed in conjunction with IBM. Secondly, I also think that it will remain proprietary rather than become open source. In combination with the price tag, this will mean that even within a company that buys this product, creative individuals won’t be able to simply pick it up and start running their own region servers and grids. Even getting some sandbox space to play around in may involve going through a bureaucratic process. A proportion of these individuals will prefer to pick up and run with OpenSim instead, especially as they can still migrate content developed there over to the official corporate solution.
7. There will be growing corporate interest in OpenSim. Speaking of corporate interest, we already have quite a few large companies contributing and experimenting with OpenSim both officially and unofficially (such as IBM, who have core development members and Intel, who contribute significant patches). I think that this will grow in the coming year, both in terms of relatively small content development companies such as Rezzable and in experimentation and maybe even official participation by larger companies (for instance, Jeff Barr, the Lead Web Services Evangelist at Amazon, obviously has an eye on OpenSim). This will enrich OpenSim and help push OpenSim forward, though a very high proportion of development will continue to come from very talented individuals who aren’t working for a large corporation.
8. Later on in the year, products using OpenSim as part of an application will start to beta. One exciting thing about OpenSim is that it’s not just a virtual world platform – the aim is to be a platform that’s a good basis for all kinds of applications that require virtual environments. We’ve already seen some early experimentation in this area, such as IBM’s 3D data center. I think that the coming year will see a few more such announcements, though I believe that the numbers will remain low for now (disclaimer, I work for a company that is doing exactly this).
9. There will be considerable growth in third party OpenSim modules this year. One of the aims of OpenSim is to have a modular architecture into which people can plug in their own code without having to get patches into the core codebase. Although our architecture and API for doing this are currently far from perfect, we have already seen a number of third party projects created, many of which are hosted by the OpenSim Forge set up by Adam Frisby for OpenSim related code. This trend will continue in 2009, though in my opinion it will be most significant late on in the year as module support improves and OpenSim matures to the point where some of the APIs can be stabliized.
Now that I’m looking back on the predictions I’ve written, most of them are pretty conservative (maybe part of me just doesn’t like to be wrong :). Like Gwyn, I think that this will be a strong growth year for OpenSim but not a breakout one.