What is Opensim?
Opensim is short for "Open [source] Simulator"
A simulator [sim] is a single instance of the Opensim program running on a computer. They can be run on any computer and many operating systems such as Windows, Mac and Linux. It is, basically, a virtual world running on a computer and can be set so that anyone in the world with the right software can access and interact with.
Who owns Opensim, who are the admins?
Unlike most online interactive web sites, games and simulators, Opensim does not have any specific owner. When you visit a Opensim simulator (virtual world) in many cases you are visiting someone's personal computer or, in some cases their own personal server. There are organised Opensim "grids" (a collection of Opensim simulators joined together as though they are one "world") but in general Opensim is independently run from the owner's server, whether that is in a cloud server or on a home computer.
Because of different setups, Opensim can be anything from a personal space where friends can interact through 3D avatars to a complete world with towns, cities, wilderness, deserts, woods, beaches - everything you would find in the real world (and some things that would be impossible in the real world). Most single sims are run by enthusiasts or interested people from their own computer. Because of this, unless you stay on the larger grids, performance can be variable. For instance, a grid may be run on a dedicated web server with bags of CPU power, heaps of memory and unlimited bandwidth, whereas a single sim could be run on a laptop or mini computer with only a few Gb of memory, single CPU and limited bandwidth as well as running other programs at the same time. It now becomes obvious that the former is more likely to be stable and quicker to use than the latter.
Questions have been asked about "who owns Opensim". The answer is that each grid or sim has it's own owners, there is no central ownership. The person or persons running the software is the owner. As such, the owner can set their own rules and is completely in charge of it. They range from weekend projects, educational, social to businesses who run Opensim grids and make a living from it.
It is important to know that on the vast majority of sims, nobody makes money from Opensim and many are very gifted and artistic amateurs.
Is Opensim another "Second Life"?
There are similarities between Opensim and Second Life but there are also differences. To the visitor, they may look the same - they both have buildings, landscapes etc and the basic Opensim without content (blank sim) looks identical but that's where the similarity ends.
Second Life is owned by Linden Lab, who set their rules and restrictions based largely upon Californian law. Opensim, however, can be run from any country and be owned by anyone. As such, local laws for the owner would apply but at all times visitors should follow their local laws as well as their own local laws.
Are there any advantages in Opensim over Second Life?
From a user perspective, the main difference you will notice is that you can't directly teleport from one grid to another without using Hypergrid. Since each Opensim is running on a different computer, you need to transfer from on to another using a hyperlink or landmark that allows you to. As opposed to Second Life, which is run on dedicated server farms with specific Terms of Service, some Opensims don't have an official TOS. All programs (including Opensim) are subject to the laws in which they are run and so the laws of each sim can change. In general, though, most adhere to more-or-less the same rules as Second Life since a lot of users are ex-SL users and are used to those rules. Be aware that the rules of a particular sim are set by the owner. A general rule is "be nice, don't grief, don't try to disrupt others' enjoyment and be patient.
Second Life has the advantage that when you join they have complaints procedures and a (not-so) clearly defined set of rules. To a new user, Opensim can be difficult to navigate since there is generally no central search function to help find what you want. In many cases on Opensim using the "search" button in your viewer brings up zero results.
How do I find my way around Opensim?
There are a number of web sites that attempt to index Opensim regions but their success is variable. For a start, once you have set up your Opensim region or joined an existing one, you can look at the following sites to find something that interests you:
Is an index that contains many grids and regions. The ower has to physically sign up to Opensimworld, so in most cases these should be open to visit - in fact, it's a condition of having a region listed there.
Opensim search index
Is and index on hyperica.com that aims to index regions that use Opensim. In some instances of Opensim, a new region is automatically registered with Hyperica but the owner has the ability to unlist it if they choose.
Please note that some owners prefer to list on one of the above or both so you may find regions listed on both of the above sites.
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