The Kitely Market is significantly different from Second Life’s Marketplace. Not only because it will soon allow delivery of items to foreign grids – that’s just the biggest and most obvious difference.
But there are a number of other areas where, according to Kitely CEO Ilan Tochner, the new platform significantly improves over Linden Lab’s version.
HTML 5 Web design
The Kitely Market website is built on HTML 5, which allows a greater amount of interactivity and animation on the page.
“Second Life’s Marketplace requires page loading on every action,” Kitely CEO Ilan Tochner told Hypergrid Business.
The downside, however, is that the site doesn’t work as well on Internet Explorer, which lags behind the Chrome and Firefox browsers.
Product attributes and variations
If you go to most online shopping sites, once you decide to buy a particular piece of clothing, say, you may see different size and color options. On the Second Life marketplace, each single variation is listed as a separate item.
This makes it difficult to find products because you’re browsing through many multiples of the same item. A single dress available in 20 different colors can dominate a results screen.
The Kitely Market works much like Amazon and other shopping sites — once you select an item, you can then choose its color, if it’s available in multiple colors.
“It enables much better content discovery and content browsing,” Tochner said.
The company also worked with merchants to create a product directory that made sense, so that it would be as easy as possible for customers to find what they were looking for.
The Kitely Market also allows users to search for items based on their attributes, including colors. Other attributes include whether it’s meant for male, female, or furry avatars, and which permissions it has. Permissions are set automatically by the system, not manually by merchants, who might make mistakes.
Speaking of search, the Second Life Marketplace searches just the keywords, said Tocher. Kitely Market also searches in the title and description.
“We already have plans to improve this even further,” Tochner added.
Built-in demo items
The Second Life Marketplace is flooded with freebie demos — trial versions of products. In Kitely, the demo functionality is built right in.
“When you want to try out an item, you do so from the product listing itself, not from some other product listing,” said Tochner.
There are other features, many of them too technical to go into here.
“We’ve talked to many merchants and to people who built successful marketplaces for Second Life to learn what needed to be improved,” he said.
Why should readers care?
Kitely isn’t the only commercial grid with a web-based marketplace, and it isn’t the first marketplace that promises to deliver goods to multiple grids — functionality which is expected to arrive later on this year.
What makes Kitely different from some OpenSim vendors is their focus and follow-through and attention to the customer experience. The other attempts at multi-grid marketplaces –HGExchange,¬†Cariama, and SpotON3D’s Synergy — have all failed to gain any traction in the wider OpenSim community, mostly due to a lack of effective marketing on the part of their backers.
But the enterprise users of OpenSim are particularly in need of just such a marketplace. Companies, schools, and non-profits are not well-suited to closed commercial grids, where most content is currently sold. These organizations need more control and ability to make backups, features which are rarely available on closed commercial grids.
As a result, companies and educators looking for legitimate content have so far been limited to Linda Kellie products and OpenSim Creations. Both of these sites offer free content with user-friendly Creative Commons licenses, but the selection is limited.
The biggest commercial site that delivers to multiple grids is Sunny Whitfield’s Total Avatar Shop, but this is a single shop, with a relatively small number of items, not a full marketplace.
The lack of content hurts potential adopters of OpenSim, which, in turn, keeps merchants from taking this market seriously.
Kitely hopes to change that.
“I really believe Kitely Market can have a bigger effect on the evolution of the hypergrid-connected metaverse than everything we’ve done so far,” said Tochner. “It’s about removing barriers to adoption, making it easy for merchants to sell to the hypergrid and for consumers to find legally licensed content to buy on the hypergrid. The current thousands of separate OpenSim grids — both public and private standalones — are not a big enough market to create traction. This changes, however, once we have an Amazon-like service that enables anyone to become a merchant with an online storefront without having to deal with the backend logistics.”
According to Tocher, the Kitely Market offers Second Life merchants an opportunity to expand their customer base without having to create a new presence on each OpenSim grid.
“¬†Once you get that ball rolling, more legally licensed virtual goods become available outside of Second Life, more people start checking out OpenSim and you get a critical mass of people who still love Second Life to become part of the hypergrid,” he said. “Combine that with technologies such as the Oculus Rift, which promises to attract new people to this content-rich hypergrid, and you have an infliction point in the adoption of the distributed virtual worlds ecosystem that science fiction authors have written about for decades.”