Kitely starts charging; gives one free region to all

After months of delays — months in which its users enjoyed free premium OpenSim hosting — Kitely begins charging today.

The pricing plan is a bit different than what the company initially outlined, with tiered plans added as another option to the previously discussed by-the-minute billing.

The new plans are more similar to monthly cellphone plans, so U.S. users, at least, should be comfortable.

The pricing is also substantially different from Second Life pricing, or those of other OpenSim hosting companies. There, customers pay for a region — anywhere from $300 a month with a $1,000 setup free on Second Life, to as little as $6 a month with no setup fee in OpenSim. The cost remains the same whether the region is never visited, or whether it’s busy around the clock.

Kitely charges users for the time they spend in-world, and regions themselves are either free or a nominal 10 cents a month, depending on the plan.

Free regions

The first tier of Kitely’s new billing system is free — users get one free region, and two free hours of time per month in-world.

This is a great way to try Kitely out, or for groups that meet briefly once a month.

Once Kitely enables in-world commerce, you’ll also be able to sell stuff from your region, or collect cover charges at your club, and use the income to buy additional minutes.

Or you can buy minutes directly.

For $5, you can buy 1,000 minutes, or 16 and a half hours of in-world time.

Paid plans

But if you’re going to be spending $5, you might as well move up to the first tier paid plan, where, for $5 a month, you get 1,200 minutes — or 20 hours — and two free regions, plus 300 Kitely Credits for in-world shopping. If you don’t spend all your credits, they accumulate, but the minutes do not rollover. Unspent credits can also be converted to minutes — one credit per minute — which allows for another 300 minutes, or five hours, on the $5-a-month plan.

Twenty-five hours a month is plenty of time to spend in world. This is a good deal for teachers using Kitely for classes or training, for example — each student would cover their own time with a $5 fee, which is more than reasonable for colleges or private schools.

The last time I ran the numbers, active Second Life users were spending an average of 10 hours a month in-world.

When you consider that Kitely regions are functionally difficult to distinguish from Second Life regions — both use Vivox voice, both support mesh and media-on-a-prim, both can be accessed with the standard Second Life viewers — this is a fantastic deal for users who don’t need access to Second Life’s community.

LindaKellieDesigns region on Kitely is one of the most popular freebie destinations on the grid.

Currently, the only functional difference between the two platforms is that Kitely vehicles — like all OpenSim vehicles — need different scripts than Second Life vehicles, because OpenSim has a different physics engine.

Vehicles are still possible, however — both “worn” vehicles and physics-based vehicles — and there are a number of free vehicles and scripts to get folks started.

Other paid plans include $20 a month for 5,000 minutes (more than 83 hours) and 10 regions, $50 a month for 12,000 minutes (200 hours) and 30 regions, and $100 a month for unlimited minutes and 100 regions. Each plan also comes with Kitely Credits — the $100 plan comes with 5,000 KC.

The minutes are not transferable, so it looks as though the only way to cover your visitors’ time in your regions is with Kitely Credits — and there doesn’t seem to be a flat rate plan that covers unlimited use of a single region.

“There is no option for unlimited use regions,” Kitely CEO Ilan Tochner told Hypergrid Business. “Our business model only works if all usage is paid for by someone.”

So, for example, if you’re a teacher and your region is used a lot for classes, you might want to cover all the costs for your students. The top plan, with 5,000 KC, gives you 5,000  extra minutes — or 83 hours. If you have 20 students, that gives them four hours each in-world per month. Or you can buy Kitely Credits a-la-carte, with 15,000 KC going for $50 — which translates to US$0.20 per hour.

Credits can be bought in smaller increments, as well — 1,000 KC is $5, which translates to US$0.30 per hour.

It’s a confusing system, but if it allows Kitely to attract new users with free regions, get them hooked, then start charging them when they need more time, then it’s all good.

After all, if Kitely is able to bring in steady revenues, it can hire more staff and speed up deployment of some delayed functionality, including other login options besides Facebook, region-to-region and hypergrid teleports, and, of course, commerce.

For those considering setting up stores in Kitely, but worried about content leaving the grid via OAR exports or hypergrid teleports, Kitely currently filters its OARs so that only copyable and transferable items are exported.

Will content be filtered if it’s accessed via hypergrid, as well?

Kitely CEO Ilan Tochner

“We haven’t decided regarding how we will go about implementing hypergrid teleports yet so the question about content filtering for them is still premature,” said Tochner. “In any case, we will enable people to decide which of their worlds [Kitely regions] will be hypergrid enabled and which won’t, so at least some of the hypergrid issues can be avoided entirely.”

Commerce functionality will also have to wait, he added.

“Our billing solution is a complicated system, similar to ones used by telecoms, and we will want to see it getting some real-world usage before we extend it with additional features,” he said. “The more people use our billing system the faster we will be able to add the transaction-related features you asked about.”

That would be great for OpenSim since Kitely is currently the only scalable grid running on the platform, and is also the one with the easiest user interface — new regions take only a minute or two to set up and take just a couple of clicks.

Scalability

Most other OpenSim grids run centralized asset databases. These are great for small grids, but are a potential bottleneck for grids that want to grow larger. Kitely uses the Amazon S3 storage cloud, which has virtually unlimited storage capacity — and it doesn’t slow down as the grid gets bigger.

Most other grids also run their regions 24-7. This means that as new regions are added, the grid owners have to provision additional servers and connect them to the grid infrastructure. As a result, most commercial OpenSim grids charge around $60 a month per region.

Kitely runs its regions in the Amazon EC2 cloud, and only boots them up when people access them.

Where Kitely lags significantly behind is in its social features. There are no welcome areas, no common plazas, no parks, no civic structures or central shopping areas. These may develop as Kitely grows, or individual user groups could come forward and provide some of these facilities.

Access controls

For folks worried about visitors to their regions eating up all their Kitely Credits, Kitely offers some of the most fine-grained access controls around.

Region owners can keep their regions totally private, or allow access to all their Facebook friends, or just to particular Facebook groups. For each category of visitors, region owners can specify whether the visitors pay for their own access, or whether the region owner will cover their costs.

For example, if I put my company offices on Kitely, I would cover the costs for my staff — and would set up a new Facebook group for them. Everyone else, however, would need to pay for their own time.

Earn free minutes

Want to spend more time on Kitely without paying a cent?

Get new users to visit your regions, and you get 200 free minutes for every brand-new user who spends at least five minutes in-world — more details here.

 

maria@hypergridbusiness.com'

Maria Korolov

Maria Korolov is editor and publisher of Hypergrid Business. She has been a journalist for more than twenty years and has worked for the Chicago Tribune, Reuters, and Computerworld and has reported from over a dozen countries, including Russia and China.

  • If you want to have your own Kitely region, and don’t want to start with an empty island, Kitely lets you upload an OAR file to get you started. Remember to unzip any zipped file, first. Here are some places to get free OAR files:

    LindaKellie.com — great selection, beautiful landscaping, complete with freebie stores, scripts and animations: http://www.lindakellie.com/myoars.htm

    OpenSim Creations — http://opensim-creations.com/category/regions/oars/

    OpenSim Worlds — http://opensimworlds.com/index.php?part=worlds

  • Sounds lovely and a lot more appealing than my initial encounter…any word on how long a wait time before other login measures are available? I really, reaallly, honestly and truly hate facebook. I have an account for specific purposes and VW isn’t it. I don’t want to have to get another one, nor am I willing to go off real names. I have a VW identity and a RL identity. I prefer, as do many likeminded others, to keep them separate. I have one phone that is tied up to that FB acct so verifying another one isn’t likely to happen.

    A twitter or openID account option that doesn’t force personal id would be ideal. 

    I enjoyed Rockmelt for its own sake but the ultimate thing that drove me back to Chrome is facebook, being dependent solely on fb to do anything at all with it.

    Zuckerberg’s a clever little man and great sense of humor, and he’s a gazillionaire but not everybody finds facebook all that relevant in life.

    Hopefully Kitely will open other options for people who don’t ride the meatwagon 😉

    • Hi Virtual Clover,

      If there are no unexpected surprises, we’ll be adding email/password
      based account registrations in a few weeks (we did some work on our
      backend already to support it). This won’t have the full benefit of
      integration with Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. (which will come later), but it
      should make it possible for you to start using Kitely without having to
      connect it to a Facebook account.

      We intend to roll that out with a solution for logging into
      Kitely without having to use our plugin (the plugin will become optional). This will free people from
      being limited in their choice of viewers or operating systems when using
      Kitely. Together these two features should enable anyone wanting to
      start using Kitely to do so without further delay.

      • Wow, that was way quick ;-p 

        I had one more I was about to edit in – this 100 unlimited premium option – of course anyone who is sane would love 100 regions – but what kind of distribution are we talking? Is my unlimited use time cover all those regions or just one? I think I’m confused again. 

        So while I could have a 100 region “grid” it’d be personal, there’s no rental or way to connect to others, is that correct?

        Thanks for the quick response. 

        • Each world is currently 1 region in size (up to 100,000 prims per world). Our Platinum plan enables you to have 100 such worlds running concurrently if there are people inside them. Extra worlds cost just 1 KC per world per day ($0.10/month per world), and the Platinum plan includes 5000 KC in addition to the unlimited Minutes.

          The unlimited Minutes you get with the Platinum plan means your avatar can be inworld 24/7 (regardless of which world you visit). However people who visit your worlds will need to have Minutes of their own, unless you grant them Minutes when visiting your worlds by having your KC balance charged 1 KC per Minute you give someone.

          All Kitely worlds are on the same grid so inventory, for example, works as you would expect when moving between worlds. However, each world is like a private SL island without neighbors meaning that there is no way to place it next to other worlds.

          That said, we intend to support megaregions in the future which will allow you to create bigger worlds (i.e worlds containing more than 1 region).

    • That all being said, I haven’t encountered a host provider yet that can offer 100 regions without the general sl downside so that benefit alone is allllllllmost worth ditching that fb acct for a virtual one. 

      Aside from the login issue, what’s the catch? 100 regions, unlimited use time, option to charge visitors along with personal time…what’s the punchline? ;-p

      1. vehicles – can they move freestyle or are they restricted to a movement path like a rollercoaster (and are there freebie scripts available to make rollercoasters? hah I love those – and all those fun theme park rides, bumper boats – all those – doable or?)

      2. combat sim? I really enjoyed the resident evil sim with the zombie shoot outs and scripted guns and damage – is that doable in there? B. and the combat systems?

      3. Color me morbid but I got a tremendous kick out of my scripted marine life – sharks and stingrays that would “kill” non group members and zap them to a home location – is anything like that possible in there? 

      4. Does ANYBODY make avatars that are actually appealing? All those freebie opensim open source ones are just hideous. Anybody with actual skin making talent offer avis? 

      5. Is the “front door” the only way in? I think I read hypergrid wasn’t an option? How do people connect when they don’t know what’s where?

      6. What’s the policy on full red light all adult and x content? 

      Just to get ya started ;-p

      • Clover —

        Some more answers to your questions:

        1. Yes, you can have vehicles in OpenSim. All kinds of vehicles. Read more about it here: http://www.hypergridbusiness.com/2012/01/devs-divided-on-scripted-vehicles/

        In a nutshell, you can have anything you want, but you might have problems with region crossings (though of course that’s not an issue in Kitely!) and you’ll need different scripts. But scripts are available.

        2. There are OpenSim grids out there with combat systems, so OpenSim supports all that. But since Kitely doesn’t support megaregions yet, you’re limited to what you can do on a single region at a time. So you might want to try another grid for that.

        3. There are no region-to-region teleports in Kitely yet. So you can’t zap someone to another region — they’d have to log out, go back to the Kitely website, and load in the new region. 

        4. I made my own skin using my photo – and I do like Linda Kellie’s skins (LindaKellie.com). If you want something else, I urge you to contact your favorite SL designers and ask if you can pay extra for permission to take your skin to Kitely — or buy your skin in Kitely from them (if they make it no-copy or no-transfer you won’t be able to export it out of Kitely, and their content will be protected).

        5. That’s the big problem with Kitely right now. It’s not much of a social world. There are no welcome areas, no common meeting plazas. It’s up to you to create a welcome area for your friends and invite them all in via Facebook. This works for some groups — doesn’t work for others. If you’re looking for a social grid at a low cost, try OSGrid or one of the other open grids. Or for around $60 a month, InWorldz or Avination or 3rd Rock Grid.

        6. Kitely does allow adult content. Just set the rating on your region to “Mature”: http://blog.kitely.com/2011/11/16/public-worlds-maturity-ratings-and-making-public-worlds-affordable/

  • It’s great to see this new development and hear of future plans! Kitely has a lot to offer, let’s get the word out 🙂  

  • What does it have to do with those that “need access to SecondLife’s community”?  That community is not here.  Nor can it be on Kitely until both commerce and teleporting are enabled at a minimum.  I like Kitely but this claim did not make much sense. 

    Why the heck aren’t the minutes transferrable?  Why would I need 200 hours or even 83 unless it was to defray cost to customers/students/clients I was seeking?  Can I run a bot and use my minutes that way? 

    What are you talking about that Kitely is the only scaleable opensim grid?  This is surely not the case. 

    • Serendipity — 

      I meant that if you want to have a million potential customers for your merchandise, then you want to be on Second Life, not on Kitely — Kitely doesn’t have much of a user base.

      But if you bring your own users with you — students, employees, members of your group — then Kitely could work.

      I asked about the minutes, and they’re only for you. The Kitely Credits are what you can use to cover the access cost for your visitors, if you want. 

      As far as scalability — the way Kitely is set up, it looks like then can pull up 10,000 new regions in a few minutes — I don’t think any other grid can do that. Plus, they don’t have the centralized asset servers to deal with, which can quickly bog down a grid if it grows too fast. 

      In fact, one of the reasons that billing has been delayed for the past few months was that they were working on the scalability issues, just in case usage exploded over night. And one of the main things they did was get rid of the asset database and just use Amazon storage for assets.

      The closest thing like this that I know of is the RCI grid management system available from PioneerX, and also distributed by TalentRaspel. It’s got a private cloud setup, which shares some of the cloud scalability benefits, and its got potential to evolve into an even more scalable system.

      Another approach is the completely decentralized Diva Distro-based loosely linked grid, which is actually made up of lots of small grids connected by hypergrid teleports and a common map, but without a common asset database. Now that we’ve got hypergrid friends, instant messaging and landmarks, this is actually doable. I believe New World Grid is going to try something of this sort, and Cyberlandia tried the same thing two years ago but wound up just falling apart, with one of the mini-grids, Craft, growing up to replace it.

      • hi yes NWG is setting up a hypergrid network.    Its kind of mushrooming and has 2 parts one is a set of teleports to other larger grids and the second is teleports to individual hypergrid enabled stand alone sims.    I am not positive on this its just an assumption on my part but I think the hypergrid standalones is just for New World Studio users, but you need to ask Claudius Utopy about that on New world grid.   It its working (so far) 🙂

    • Hi Serendipity,

      The main reason Minutes are nontransferable (and why they were added in the first place) is that many people had asked for the ability to stay inworld 24/7 without having to keep an eye on their KC balance. If we make Minutes transferable then we can no longer offer a plan that includes an unlimited number of them.

      Our business model only works when every minute of use is paid for by someone (other than the 120 free minutes per month which we plan to subsidize from revenue received from paying users).

  • Not entirely true that vehicles are as good as the scripts that run them.  The physics of opensim worlds are not up to SecondLife standards thus far.  This has a lot to do with how well vehicles operate.  I would expect you to know this. 

    • Serendipity —

      I’ve seen some pretty cool vehicles in OpenSim. But you’re right, OpenSim physics lags behind. For many applications, though — education, training, non-profits, collaboration, meetings, virtual museums, support groups — the vehicles you get in OpenSim are fine. What I hear from developers is that the main difference is in region crossings, where OpenSim vehicles have a harder time. On the other hand, you can have bigger prims and linksets. On other grids and standalones you can also run server-side scripts, which I’m surprised more grids don’t take advantage of. Server-side scripts are highly effective against piracy — if you steal the object and take it off-grid, it’s useless without the scripts — and can also help differentiate a grid from its competitors. 

      If Kitely starts making serious money with their new billing system, maybe they can invest  in physics improvements — or put in some work on the Bullet physics engine.

    • Hi Serendipity,

      Maria’s reply pretty much covers my own thoughts on the subject but I’m responding just so you’ll know that I’m not ignoring your comment 🙂

  • On a positive note, this is a LOT of wonderful cheap space at a very affordable price.  If you just get commerce soon this will be especially appealing to builders who need showroom space and space for custom region sets.  It is pretty appealing now except they have to role their own payments and their is not teleport between builds/regions.  When the megaregions come online this will be even more exciting.  How long do you think start on teleport will take? 

    • Hi Serendipity,

      We are currently working on removing the requirement to use Facebook and on eliminating the dependance on using our plugin (making it the default option for new users but one which they can bypass). This should open the door to anyone wanting to open a Kitely account and enable people to use whichever viewer they want on whatever operating system they are using.

      Once we are done with that, and unless something more urgent pops up, we intend to start working on teleports between Kitely worlds (which is non-trivial due to the way our system works). I don’t have an ETA for when we’ll finish building that functionality yet, sorry 🙂