Every time Linden Lab makes another drastic announcement which will outrage a chunk of the resident community, we get a new round of self-styled prophets that announce LL’s (and SL’s) upcoming end. This gets so frequent that Philip even mentioned it on his SLCC keynote speech! The truth is, LL is not going anywhere, and SL is probably going to outlast all those doomsday prophets, and we have nothing to worry about.
Nevertheless, it’s true that changing conditions might push more and more users out of Second Life — not because it “fails” or “ends”, but because their tolerance of LL’s constant blunders and fiascos has faded, and they are ready to move elsewhere. Universities and even businesses, although for different reasons (e.g. costs) might not see any point in remaining in SL any longer. However, all of them enjoy the “Second Life experience” and are not necessarily interested in going to a completely different virtual world (or go play Facebook games instead). Content creators, for example, might have accumulated over the years a lot of content and patiently acquired a skill set which took them a lot of time to develop, and they’re reluctant to drop everything and start from scratch on an unfamiliar virtual world where everything is different and nothing can be re-used (not even their reputation!).
OpenSim is the choice for all of those people who love Second Life but hate Linden Lab. Of course it requires some patience with OpenSim, too. Although OpenSim sports many features that Second Life doesn’t have, some of them — like grid interconnection — Linden Lab has completely wiped out of the picture, it’s a far less stable and complete product, subject to many caveats. Even though setting up a sim from a pre-configured distribution might make the setup effort simple enough, actually maintaining an OpenSim grid that supports the same level of social interaction as LL’s own Second Life is extremely hard (if not even impossible!), and requires high-end servers on tier 1 co-location facilities — not old PCs on someone’s home — and expert system administrators with a lot of expertise in OpenSim development to keep everything working smoothly. That combination of skill and hardware is not so easy to find at most grid operators and only a limited number of grids can actually boast of providing a service which is good enough for more than casual use.
Ultimately, the choice for 2010 is still leaning mostly towards SL as the better choice — no matter how much we blame SL for the constant crashing and inventory loss and utter lack of customer support, it’s far, far superior than the best of all OpenSim grids (which is still an alpha product, even though it’s impressive). People selling their land in SL and leaving in fury for OpenSim full of expectations that they’ll get pretty much the same experience will be immensely disappointed. Not to mention that only a tiny fraction of the content is available on OpenSim… even though it grows, and it gets better all the time, most of the best experienced content creators are still on SL and afraid to open shop on OpenSim.
But on the other side of the coin, if you just wish to join a virtual world which works most of the time, have patience to endure glitches and low performance, can be far cheaper in land, and doesn’t subject you to LL’s whims and ToS, OpenSim is the perfect choice for you.