Having spent a few years in Opensim and Second Life I am often asked which is best and which do I prefer. Actually I have no real preference since I tend to use them differently. Both, whilst looking very similar, are as different as chalk and cheese. Let me explain.
Second Life is significantly better in terms of protecting intellectual property rights for creators. It has a stable currency, unlike opensim where the two main currencies have each experienced problems. Second Life is also much much busier than opensim in terms of actual numbers online at any given time. Things tend to just work as they should do in Second Life.
Opensim is fragmented, split up by multiple grids, often with hardly any users to be found on them and with no incentive for any really good creators to make anything since it can be stolen with ease. Apart from that there is a general attitude in opensim that everything should be provided for free.
There is a distinct difference in culture too. Second Life provides a very extensive range of groups and interests. Everything is on one grid. A friend in Second Life who had heard of opensim thought it was a place where old people went to dance. Indeed, the users in opensim tend to be older, many on lower incomes which prohibit them from being part of the more expensive Second Life environment.
Without doubt the cost, or lack of any signicant capital outlay, makes opensim attractive for those on a budget. Land prices are as low as $5 a month for a an entire region whereas in Second life even a low prim homestead will set you back $100 a month. When you go shopping you will encounter signs proudly telling everyone not to buy anything in opensim - its all free!
In reality most of the items that you find in opensim have been stolen from Second Life. Yes. There is no way of dressing this up nicely but most of what you have in opensim is stolen. The avatars are a classical example of this. Lelutka, Catwa, Maitreya, Gianni bodies and heads are all to be found for free in opensim. Only the names have been changed. Ripped off from Second Life and imported by copybot programs they are yours for the taking. Welcome to the Wild West!
Opensim receives a constant stream of new users each week. They are amazed that land is so cheap and everything they need is free. Wow. This is the place to be. The honeymoon tends to last a couple of weeks or so. The new user is busy sprucing up their avatar and finding a new home. By now they have experienced some problems teleporting. Issues with inventory and technical mishaps have disturbed them. They are a little disillusioned at this point because they can never seem to find anyone online except at parties where the same crowd of people seem to be there each time. Where is everyone?
One day they go to login and their grid is down. Not for a few hours, but for days. When they get back they are no longer as keen. They struggle to find people and it starts to get boring. Eventually they drift back to Second Life and are never seen again.
Now on the upside there are many of us that actually like opensim. It is a builders paradise. Regions from $5, even free if you host it yourself. Some of these regions are var regions consisting of clustered groups of regions that would cost you a small fortune in Second Life. You can build a community here but it is hard work and communities come and go.
You will meet some wonderful people in Second Life and Opensim. From personal experience, and based on the fact that there are less people in opensim, it has its fair share of entitled "Karens". Just look on the Opensim Directory and you will find any number of people who leave grumpy comments, often ignoring the fact that other people are paying to host regions for their pleasure. Fair enough if you are actually paying for a service but have a little respect for the efforts of grid owners and the people that are doing this all for free and for your benefit. Ungrateful toads.
Second life also has an element of drama, and users often use the platform to stroke their ego by entering into an argument or boasting about their achievements to anyone they can find who will listen to them. Second Life also leans more towards the sexual content and almost every kind of kink and peversion can be found here. The community is very diverse.
Both Second Life and Opensim offer online purchases. In Second Life this is called Market Place whereas in Opensim the best example is offered by the Kitely grid. Second Life, being much more advanced commercially and having all the creators and designers with featured stores is way ahead of anything that Kitely can offer with its outdated products and old fashioned listings.
If you are from Second Life please take the time to explore Opensim. You can actually use your Firestorm or Singularity viewer to enter opensim. It really is easy. Just find a grid like OSgrid.org and register your avatar and login.
And for those in Opensim please don't be put off by Second Life if you are worried about spending money. It really is possible to make a very good mesh avatar for free and to live in a community with rezz areas and vacant furnished housing to take advantage of.
Enjoy your virtual. Be nice to people. Have a great day!