Today the zfRedZone site gives the “official” number of Redzone locations as 17480, which is up almost 2068 in a week. If this were a true representation, zFire would have netted income of well in excess of US$ 30,000 last week alone from people wishing to profit from his illegal enterprise. Not a bad income stream.
But I am sorry, I find these figures not just dubious – I believe zFire is downright fibbing about these statistics. Here is why: The last quarter report from Linden labs puts the Second Life world size at as little over 2,000 square kilometres. A sim is 256×256 metres in size, so you get under 16 sims to a square kilometre. Multiply the two figures together and the SL world size is about 32,000 sims.
If we are to believe zFire’s statistics, we should be finding zfRedZone spyware on in excess of 50% of all sims in Second Life. This frankly does not afford with my experience. Most sim owners, in my experience, are honest people and do not make use of spyware.
Thus I decided to conduct a survey. I used a pseudo random number generator to generate coordinates for in excess of 100 sims on the whole grid map. If I chose a location in the sea I reselected with a new coordinate pair. If I could not access a sim, I likewise reselected until I had a list of 100 randomly selected accessible sims. I then visited each sim with parcel media enabled, and flew around each sim for long enough for RedZone to detect me even if it is in 96 metre mode. I collected all attempts to make my client return data to the Redzone database.
Of these 100 random sims, 3 used zfRedzone. That is, based on this survey of 0.3% of the whole Second Life grid, the number of sims running zfRedZone is 3%. Further testing will increase the confidence in this estimate, but it’s a pretty good estimate. Based on 3% of sims running zfRedZone, we would have a figure of under 1,000 locations across the whole grid.
So where does the 17,480 figure come from?
Only zFire knows for sure, but I do not believe he just makes the figure up. My hypothesis is that each time a copy of zfRedZone is rezzed and “armed” it calls home to zFire’s Mac on which he stores the RedZone database. I believe he may count each rez/arming as a new installation, whilst taking no account of old “installations” that have been removed. Thus if someone picks up and re-rezzes their device, this may count as a new installation.
It may also be that upgrades do the same thing, and here we see some evidence for the hypothesis. A new version of RedZone was released this last week with the failed “stealth” mode (it attempted but failed to hide from Greenzone). In the same week, zFire’s installation numbers jumped by over 2,000 (the previous week, new installations only edged up by about 300).
So why the sudden jump in installations? If each upgrade counts as a new installation, and there are about 1,000 RedZone installations out there, if everyone upgraded, we would expect a 1,000 jump in installations in addition to the usual 300 installation churn. We actually see a bit more than that, which indicates either I have slightly underestimated the number of installations out there, or perhaps that sim owners, when upgrading, rez the device more than once. We must of course remember some owners will not have upgraded, but this hypothesis broadly agrees with my survey results.
If there are about 1,000 RedZone installations, the GreenZone project have currently mapped about one third of them. Their map is becoming a seriously useful resource to inform SL users where the spyware is located in Second Life.
It seems unlikely that there are greatly more than 1,000 RedZone installations out there. Only zFire will know for sure. Sadly we cannot rely on him to give us an honest answer
 Of course some sims could have more than one copy of RedZone running, as the software can be run on individual parcels, not just whole sims. What the distribution of installations would be is not clear at this stage.
 These figures therefore suffer selection bias in that they are true for the population of accessible sims, but not true for inaccessible ones. The avatar I used was not age verified and was denied access from some sims for this reason. It may be the spread of RedZone use is significantly different in inaccessible sims, but I was not too worried by this selection bias at this stage, as I was only looking for a working estimate of RedZone use.
 Specifically, 3 sims had installations of RedZone that were actively scanning avatars. Again, it is possible the value is underestimated, as RedZone may have been in other sims but temporarily switched off, or scanning so infrequently that no attempt was made to scan my avatar during the fly through.