By Anastasia Trombly
Tuesday, February 15, 2011
In the past year, the OMC virtual currency has gained both popularity and usefulness, with both the total currency in circulation and the number of grids it’s available for use on growing.
The OMC, or Open Metaverse Currency, is a virtual currency from Austria-based VirWoX that can be used to buy and sell virtual goods on OpenSim grids. The OMC can be traded in for real money like USD, GBP, CHF and EUR, and can also be traded in for the Second Life virtual currency, Linden dollars.
Because OMC is hypergrid-enabled, this means that instead of each grid having its own currency, just one universal currency can be used on multi-grid shopping trips — and merchants who accept OMC can sell to visitors from many different grids.
The OMC isn’t transferred from grid to grid, instead, it’s kept in an online VirWoX account, requiring each transaction made inside a virtual world to be verified on their website. The status bar on the top of the viewers will show your current OMC currency balance if you are on an OMC enabled grid.
Virtual currency is used when buying virtual objects or obtaining services in a virtual world, and is popular for roleplaying games that take place in OpenSim. Virtual currency is also used by casinos in virtual worlds, since use of virtual currency instead of real currency can help circumvent laws against gambling.
Some grids have their own in-world currency, like InWorldz or 3rd Rock, but these are closed grids and the money can not be used on any other grids.
One of the negative aspects of the OMC is that the security of the virtual money is dependent on the third party system. Grids can’t guarantee the safety as well as they could with their own currency system. Another danger is the merchants themselves. Because open grids, like OSGrid, allow so many people to connect regions, this means that there is a greater chance of illegitimate vendors.
The amount of OMC in circulation dramatically rose over the course of 2010, going from 100,000 OMC to nearly half a million. The exchange rate for OMC is 270 OMC to US$1, so this amounts to just over $1,600 of virtual currency in circulation.
This is a tiny amount, not only because the currency is typically used for micro-transactions — often a few cents or less — but also because merchants and shoppers are still wary of doing business on the hypergrid, and many OpenSim users are not even aware that the possibility exists.
The number of grids that OMC is available started with four and peaked at 23, with 19 grids enabled at the end of 2010. Today, there are 21 grids that accept the OMC currency, according to data from VirWoX.
The number of users registered to use the OMC went from less than 100 to over 500 by the end of 2010. As of mid-February, VirWoX reports more than 600 registered users of the OMC currency.
Since it’s not possible to teleport between grids running different versions of OpenSim, this caused transportation problems on the hypergrid, limiting shopping trips.
OMC is particularly strong in Europe, with the German grids — which were among the first to update to newest version of OpenSim and the latest hypergrid teleportation protocol. As a result, their merchants were cut off from OpenSim’s biggest user population, located on the non-profit OSGrid, which updated later. Finally, the education and business-focused ReactionGrid and affiliated private grids still haven’t upgraded.
There are two other multi-grid currencies, the G$ and the V$. However, even thought the V$ is convertible to Linden Dollars, it is not backed by a real company, but an individual, and is widely considered not to be secure enough for serious use.
The G$ is backed by a real company, CyberCoinBank, but is not convertible unless a third party wishes to purchase it.
Of all the virtual currency providers operating in OpenSim, only VirWoX publishes statistics, and CyberCoinBank did not respond to repeated requests for recent data.
As of the end of January, the number of OpenSim users was still low. Even though there were around 160,000 users, this is still only around a tenth of the users of Second Life. However, OpenSim is being promoted. John Lester, a former virtual worlds evangelist at Linden Labs is now promoting the hypergrid. With popularity of OpenSim increasing, it is likely that in 2011 the use of OMC will rise, given past and current trends.
Anastasia Trombly is a freelance technology and medical writer based in Massachusetts. Reprinted with permission.
For further reading:
"Hypergrid currency exchange adds Avination’s C$", Maria Korolov, February 17, 2011
"Does your grid need its own currency?", Maria Korolov, August 31, 2010