Category Archives: Kitely

Kitely launches hypergrid market and a new logo

kitely-logoIn August 2013, I covered the opening of the Kitely Marketplace, having previously reported on its development in January 2013 when it was first announce, and again in May 2013, when it opened to merchants.

In developing the Marketplace, the Kitely team of Ilan Tochner and Oren Horvitz always had the goal of making it possible for merchants to not only sell into Kitely itself, but also into other hypergrid-enabled grids, using a special Export permission flag which can be set by merchants. At the start of March 2014, they took a major step towards this with the opening of the Market Hypergrid Delivery Beta Test.

On March 21st, Kitely announced that the Kitely Market Hypergrid Delivery is now open to all.

The blog post provides guidelines and instructions on using Kitely Market to purchase  goods from the Kitely Market for delivery to hypergrid-enabled destinations, and I don’t propose to repeat things here. By default, the Market offers delivery to the top five (by use) hypergrid capable grids of Craft, GermanGrid, Littlefield, Metropolis, and OSgrid, and more are promised should they prove popular among purchasers. I also understand that delivery to other grids supporting hyerpgrid can be manually configured using the Market’s built-in Grid Manager – all that is needed is the grid’s loginURI.

Customers browsing the Kitely Market can now opt to have goods delivered to other hypergrid-enabled destinations – providing the creator has set the Export permissions flag (thus preventing goods from moving between grids against the creator’s wishes) – image courtesy of Kitely Market, click for full size

Items specifically set for delivery to other grids by their creator can be located using the Export option on the Permissions search filter (lower left corner of the each Market page).

Alongside of the hypergrid delivery capability, Kitely have enhanced their merchant tools to assist with the new capability, as the blog post explains:

We’ve made it easy for merchants to test that their products work correctly in other grids. It has always been possible to use the “Test delivery” link in the Edit Product page in order to deliver the product to the merchant’s avatar in Kitely. This feature has now been extended to deliver to other grids as well. The way this works is that you go to the Shopping Cart page, and select a grid and an avatar. You don’t actually have to buy anything; just enter that information. Then return to the Edit Product page, and click “Test delivery”. The product will be delivered to the “foreign” avatar that was selected in the Shopping Cart instead of to your Kitely avatar.

Another feature for merchants is that in the Sales History, merchants can see which grid each sale was delivered to, because foreign avatars appear along with their grid: e.g., “Jane Vespa @ OSGrid”.

Also, sales reports themselves can now be downloaded as a CSV file, providing improved historical context for merchants as they track sales long-term.

Additional hypergrid-enabled grids can be added via the Market’s Grid Manager

Implementing hypergrid delivery in the Kitely Market is innovative and interesting. Many creators in walled garden grids avoid OpenSim out of fear of content ripping – not that content ripping isn’t a problem in walled garden grids, either. Some OpenSim grids (like Kitely) proactively take steps to reduce the risk inherent in “easy” content ripping (such as by limiting OAR exports to those items created by the exporter themselves). Even so, the fear is there, so it will be interesting to see how many take advantage of the opportunity to sell into multiple environments from a single point. Certainly, the option has been seen as attractive enough to well-known SL creator Lilith Heart of Heart Botanicals fame, who has already opened a store on Kitely Market.

It will also be interesting to see how this new capability within Kitely Market affects the overall OpenSim economy. On the positive side, it means that merchants wishing to extend their reach into new markets (grids) can do so from a single, powerful point, and Kitely’s own pricing structure makes it fairly competitive for them to do so, including the use of the free access Kitely Merchant Sandbox, if required. Through it, merchants can reach multiple channels and also have a good degree of control over where and how their products are used (with some obvious caveats). For those used to only dealing with one market – such as SL – this could open the door to building channels to markets outside of the walled garden environments, such as those grids with a specific focus  / purpose, such as education or business.

The downside to this is the it might make it that much harder for smaller grids to attract content creators directly, and thus users – who tend to look for the content first. Grids may well also lose out on opportunities to lease virtual land to merchants, as they’ll potentially have little need for in-world stores. However, it’s fair to say that Kitely Market could actually help grids attract users: if it is seen that a grid actively embraces the Kitely Market and its growing numbers of merchants, then the could leverage that fact in attracting new users, as the lack of visible in-world merchants is negated by the ability for merchants to reach the grid via the Kitely Market, particularly if said grids also take steps to ring-fence what can be exported via the likes of OAR files.

New Logo and OpenSim Core Group Invitation

Oren Hurvitz

Alongside the Hypergrid Delivery launch, Kitely unveiled their new logo (seen in thumbnail at the top left of this article), and have included a few notes on making it easier for people to get started on Kitely included the blog post.

And in a modest footnote to the piece, Oren Hurvitz, Kitely’s co-founder, reveals that he has been invited to join the OpenSim Core Group of developers. The invitation is in recognition of Oren’s ongoing contributions to OpenSim on behalf of Kitely, and is very well deserved; my congratulations to him.

Kitely pricing restructuring now complete

Kitely-logoOn December 15th 2013, Kitely announced the first phase of a major overhaul of their pricing structures. That announcement covered the introduction of their new account types (Regular and Premium) and their Metered world options which have replaced their “time-based” system of payment options.

I covered that announcement in some depth at the time, noting that there would be further clarification to come from Kitely on elements of the new Regular account, as well as information on the new Fixed-price options. On January 1st 2014, Kitely followed-through on their promise of providing this additional information when they issued a further pricing update.

More on Account Types

As I reported in December alongside of Kitely’s initial blog post on this subject, the company  has introduced two account types, Regular and Premium. The salient points to note on these are that:

  • The Regular account is free of charge and includes a single Metered region and a one-off  6-hour trial period which can be used in developing their Metered region(s)
  • The Premium account costs $19.95 a month, and includes up to five Metered regions with the ability to visit any metered region on Kitely (their own or anyone else’s) for free
  • Either type of account can be used when joining Kitely
  • Either type of account can be used when purchasing Fixed-price world options (of which more late in this article)
  • Either type of account can add further Metered regions at the rate of 10 KC per day per Metered region (+ access costs for Regular accounts, where applicable).

Metered Regions and  Regular Account Visitors

The key point to grasp here is that the time anyone with a Regular account spends visiting any Metered region (including their own) must be paid for by the region holder. This means that someone with a Metered region will be charged at the rate of 1 Kitely Credit (KC) for each minute a Regular account holder spends visiting that region.

The only exception to this is the initial 6-hour trial period Regular account holders are given in order to start developing their own Metered region. Once this trial period has been used, a Regular account holder can either continue to pay for their time on their own region(s) at the rate of 1KC per minute, or opt to pay for one of the Fixed-price world options (there is no charge for anyone visiting Fixed-price regions) or opt to upgrade to Premium (both of these latter options are open to Regular account holders at any time).

Because there is a cost involved in having Regular account holders visit a Metered region, Kitely has included an option for region holders to block Regular accounts from accessing their Metered regions if they so wish, thus preventing the build-up of unwanted costs in respect of such visits. The Kitely blog post elaborates in detail on how this access restriction can be set.

Fixed-price World Options

As of January 1st, 2014, the company has discontinued its original $40.00, $60.00, $80.00 and $100.00 fixed-prix options – although users already paying for these options can continue to do so if they wish. Three new Fixed-price options have been introduced in their place, referred to as the Starter World, Standard World and Advanced World options, as defined below.

Kitely's new fixed-price options, available to both Regular and Premium account holders (image via Kitely)

Kitely’s new fixed-price options, available to both Regular and Premium account holders (image via Kitely)

Both the Starter and the Standard World options come with slightly reduced resources, as indicated, while the Standard and Advanced World options include the ability to combine the regions included in those worlds into a single Advanced Megaregion. As with the old Fixed-price options, no-one is charged for the time anyone spends on a Fixed-price region.

Whether or not users on one of the discontinued Fixed-price options will want to change to one of the new options will depend upon on a number of things, such as the complexity of their build(s), and their typical numbers of daily users or their requirements for avatar-intensive events. However, the ability to swap is there for them to use, if they so wish.

General Feedback

It will be interesting to see broader reaction to the idea of Metered region holders having to pay for any visits made to their regions by Regular account holders – and how many Metered regions are closed to Regular account holders as a result (I have already closed my own Kitely region to Regular account access, for example). However, the initial reaction to these changes has been favourable, even allowing for the confusion which occurred when the initial part of the restructuring was announced in December 2013.

As it is, the new Metered and Fixed-price payment options continue Kitely’s tradition of offering competitive and flexible payment options, and may well serve to attract new users into giving the platform a try.

Kitely announces pricing changes

Kitely-logoKitely, the on-demand virtual world platform, is revising its pricing structure.

The changes, which come into effect from January 1st, will see both the Metered (also referred to as “Time-based”) payment options and the Fixed-price payment options revised with the aim of presenting a more streamlined set of options which more closely suit the needs of Kitely users.

Changes to Metered (time-based) Payment Options

The first part of these changes, as announced in a blog post and an e-mail sent to users, will see the Metered payment options substantially revised. Currently, these payment options comprise four plans:

  • Free: 1 full Metered Region plus 2 hours in-world time a month
  • Bronze plan: $5.00 a month, 2 full Metered Regions and 30 hours in-world time a month
  • Silver plan: $20.00 a month, 10 full Metered Regions and 120 hours in-world a month
  • Gold plan: $35.00 a month, 20 full Metered Regions and unlimited time in-world.

The monthly in-world time offered under the Free, Bronze and Silver plans can be used as time spent by the user on their own Metered Region(s), and/or as time they spend visiting other Metered Regions. Additional time for these plans, if needed during a month, can be paid for at the rate of 1 Kitely Credit (KC) per minute. Under all of the plans, additional Metered Regions in excess of the stated allowance can be obtained at a rate of 10 KCs per day per Metered Region.

As of January 1st, 2014, these plans will be replaced by two new account types:

  • A Regular account, which will include 1 free Metered Region, with additional options still to be announced by Kitely
  • A Premium account, which will cost $19.95 a month, include up to 5 free Metered Regions and the ability to visit any Metered Regions (your own or anyone else’s) for free (neither you nor the region’s manager pay for your visit).

For anyone who is either on, or who signs-up to, the Silver or Gold time-based plans before the end of the year (whether they are an existing user or new to Kitely), there is good news: their plan will be grandfathered-in under the Premium account, with additional benefits. This means that:

  • Those with the Silver plan will continue to pay $20.00 a month and will gain unlimited access to any Metered Regions as well as retaining their allowance of up to 10 Metered Regions (so they will pay $0.05 more a month than those signing-up for Premium accounts after January 1st, 2014, but have up to twice the number of Metered Regions)
  • Those with the Gold plan will continue to pay $35 a month and will retain their unlimited access to any Metered Regions, and the total number of Metered Regions they can have at no additional charge will be increased from 20 to 30.

This incentive is being provided to encourage people who are considering Kitely as a future option to make the move now and take advantage of this limited-time offer before it expires.

Those on the Bronze plan (which has been discontinued as an option with immediate effect) who do not upgrade to either a Silver or Gold plan before January 1st 2014, will be automatically downgraded to the new Regular account. Any second Metered Region they have developed under their Bronze plan will then be charged for at the standard rate of 10 KCs a day (the equivalent to paying as little as $1.00 a month for it, if buying KCs in bulk).

Those opting to stay with the Regular account after January 1st 2014 (whether they were on the Free or Bronze plan) will still be able to purchase additional Metered Regions at the rate of 10 KCs a day. They will also be able to upgrade to a Premium account if they wish, but they will not enjoy any of the grandfathered benefits on offer until the end of December 2013.

There is one other change with the new Metered payment options, and that is in relation to OAR (OpenSim Archive) file operations. OAR allows users to back-up their regions to their hard drive for use elsewhere, while fully respecting the permissions system (thus preventing users from exporting objects when they don’t have the required permissions as set by the objects’ creators). Currently, each OAR operation cost 10 KCs for Metered Regions. From January 1st 2014, this will be increasing to 150 KCs per operation for Metered Regions.

Kitely CEO Ilan Tochner (via Google+)

Kitely CEO Ilan Tochner (via Google+)

Even without the grandfathering of existing Silver and Gold account plan holders, the new Premium account still offers significant value for money, as Ilan Tochner, Kitely’s CEO and co-founder, pointed-out as we discussed the changes.

“This means that a group of builders, each on a Premium account, can get a LOT of land in Metered Regions and not have to think about time while visiting those regions,” he said, “and they can have all their Premium account friends with them in-world for as long as they want without thinking about time even though they are using Metered Regions.”

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Kitely opens their marketplace for business

Kitely-logoIlan Tochner, CEO of Kitely, dropped me an e-mail on Friday August 30th to let me know the Kitely Marketplace is now open for business.  There’s also an official announcement from the Kitely team on their blog as well, which is recommended reading for those interested in the Marketplace.

First announced at the start of the year, the Kitely Marketplace has taken eight months to reach the point of launch – and with good reason. The Kitely team have been working to develop an online experience which is initially available within Kitely, but which can be expanded in time to support other OpenSim grids.

The new Marketplace can be accessed directly from the toolbar displayed on the Kitely website

The new Marketplace can be accessed directly from the toolbar displayed on the Kitely website

The Market combines features familiar to those used to using the SL Marketplace or markets such as the (now defunct) Apez and Metaverse Exchange: items can be browsed on-line, then purchased (using Kitely Credits (KCs) or US dollars), prior to being delivered directly to the purchaser’s in-world inventory in a similar manner to SL’s Direct Delivery mechanism. Additionally, the Market functions more like e-commerce sites such as Amazon, where items can be searched for using attributes as well as a category hierarchy, making the search process and drill-down easier and more flexible for both merchants and consumers.

The Marketplace allows for flexible serach using a combination of category, attribute and filter-based searches

The Marketplace allows for flexible search using a combination of category, attribute and filter-based searches

In addition, the Kitely  Marketplace allows for multiple versions of a product to be listed as a single item, thus simplifying the listing, viewing and reviewing of products. So rather than having five individual listings for an outfit which is available in five different colours, a merchant can create a single listing for the outfit, which includes the 5 different colours, allowing consumers to buy any of the five from the one product listing.

Products can include multiple variations in a single listing - in this case five versions of the same mesh dress

Products can include multiple variations in a single listing – in this case five versions of the same mesh dress

A further aspect of the Marketplace is that demo items can be “built-in” in the main product listing, eliminating the need for additional, separate listings to deal with product demos.  Where a merchant offers a demo (indicated in the product listing), the potential buyers can try it by adding the item to their Shopping Cart, where they’ll  get a link called “Try demo”. When they click this link, the demo version is immediately added to their inventory.

There are other subtle touches as well, some of which may be familiar to users of virtual world marketplaces  - such as the ability to click on a store name either in a list of multiple products or within an individual product listing, in order to display and browse the contents of that store. Other touches aren’t so obvious, but are nevertheless pleasing to find – such as rolling the mouse cursor over the thumbnails of any variations of an item to see each of their full-sized images displayed in the product listing.

In developing the Marketplace, Kitely have focused not only on the usability / functionality aspects of the system, but also on optimising the servers and putting in place strong automated capabilities and additional safeguards.

Kitely CEO Ilan Tochner (via Google+)

Kitely CEO Ilan Tochner (via Google+)

“We spent a lot of time optimizing the backend so it will be able to provide a snappy user experience even thou each page returns multiple dynamic counters (the number of results given the existing filters in each category and attribute that contains relevant search results),” Ilan informed me in announcing the launch. “Kitely Market remained fast even when we tested it on databases of more than 1 million different products and many concurrent bots (and this is without starting to scale up the hardware we use for the marketplace or distributing it to multiple servers).”

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