Sunday, November 9, 2008

The nature of the open grid

Yesterday, an interesting discussion evolved on the OpenGrid mailing list. Participant Thomas Grimshaw brought up the subject of cross grid currency exchanges and trust between grids; how are we going to do that?

Intranet or Internet
From the discussion that followed I gather that several OpenGrid beta participants think individual grids will establish their own economies, and currencies which should perhaps be exchanged in some sort of way. It seems they expect grids to be very independent from one another; connected perhaps, but essentially standalone at the core. Connected intranets, so to speak.

Personally, I had a much more interconnected grid in mind. One grid, consisting of individual sims or gridlets (a sim hosting one or a few regions) operated by many different parties, but with a lot of shared properties like a currency. Very similar to the internet, which consists of countless web servers hosted and operated by perhaps millions of entities.

Currently, many people experimenting with OpenSim are geeks, hobbyists who run one or a few simulators, hosting a handful of regions. Gridlets, so to speak. On that scale, it does not make sense to invent your own currency. You can't normally get a meaningful economy going there. For those people, having one single currency and micropayment system to plugin to, makes much more sense.

How many currencies?
From and enduser perspective, it doesn't seem very userfriendly to create a multitude of (probably low trust) currencies either. They'd have to track ever changing exchange rates, and perhaps buy currency on each grid they want to buy stuff on. That's hardly a scalable solution, which also requires a lot of technical and procedural attention with regards to setting exchange rates and facilitating cross grid exchanges. And if you bought SeredBucks on my grid and I decide to pull the plug, where's your money then? I'd rather have an account with one reliable authority, which doesn't depend on one grid operator. Adam Frisby suggested as much when he mentioned Amazon's micropayment system in this discussion.

Whatever the grid will end up to be, it will probably be a little of both. We've got interesting times ahead of us!

1 comment:

Tabliopa Underwood said...

We will see the development of neutral marketplaces first I think.

Marketplaces to where we bring goods from our own worlds. Goods that we have made and hope to trade and sell. We also bring our own currencies if we have them so we can buy goods from others in turn.

The marketplaces will have currency exchanges that buy and sell allworld currencies into the marketplace dollar. All marketplace trading will be denominated in those I think.

Assuming that our own worlds currency is worth anything to anyone else we'll be ok. SecondLifers with Linden dollars to spend for example will probably be ok. The marketplace currency exchanges will trade in them. People with bundles of zimbabwean dollars? maybe not at this time. We probably have to trade them in an alley somewhere. Same wiht my ownworld dollars when they dont have much in terms of stable governance and wealth creation to back them up.

When necessary the marketplace operators will also convert our goods into otherworld formats that avatars from otherworlds may require.

Who might own a marketplace that we could all trust to handle this properly for us? A realworld outfit like IBM maybe or Google or Microsoft even and a consortium of realworld banks behind them probably.

Linden Lab maybe but a longshot I think. LL would probably have to give up SL to do so. Simply because the kings queens emperors and peoples governments of otherworlds arent going to allow another worlds ruler to dictate their trade. So that leaves marketplaces run by neutrals.

The civilisation of virtual worlds is mirroring the development of human civilisation. We kinda doomed to repeat the past I think. Neutral marketplaces, safezones even, thats whats coming next I think.