Let’s Talk Basics: Grids

Last time we covered Regions, and how they could be banded together to form big chunks of virtual space.  We left off asking how all these Regions could work together, even when the Regions aren’t direct neighbors.

The answer in Opensim is a service known as a Grid.  Grids are like a buddy system for Regions.  Not only do they allow multiple Regions to act together, they act as community hubs for users. While it’s possible for a Region to exist completely on its own, a very large majority of Regions belong to a Grid. 

Grids are owned and operated by people or organizations who are responsible for running all the background services that make a Grid possible.  In some cases, this is a single person.  Other times, a Grid owner is a business or non-profit.  Many larger grids have a mixture of volunteer helpers and paid staff.

A map view of OSGrid, one of the oldest Opensim Grids.  Each speck is a standard-sized Region!

A Grid can be a wide range of sizes.  Some are quite small, just a handful of Regions and users.  These are often personal Grids, for a small group of friends.  Others, are quite big, with hundreds of Regions and an active population of users.

A good way to think about Grids and Regions is to imagine this: Regions are like towns, and Grids are like countries.  The members of the town are all citizens of the country, and can freely move pretty much anywhere in its borders.  Grids often have their own economy, their own culture, and their own focus. When a new user comes to Opensim, one of their first decisions is what Grid they want to join.  When they sign up with one, that Grid becomes their “home base”.

If you’re familiar with Second Life, you’re already familiar with the idea of a Grid.  Second Life itself is one big grid run by a single company called Linden Labs.  When Opensim first started off, it was trying to mimic a lot of the way Second Life grouped things together, and borrowed the idea of Grids, Regions, and many other ideas too.

How many Opensim Grids are out there? Well, the last time Hypergrid Business counted (at the end of July 2018) there were 248 active Grids.  Not too shabby!

Next time, we’ll talk about something which makes Opensim truly different from Second Life.  It’s a shared network called the Hypergrid that allows Grids to work together as one big community.