I suppose you’ve heard of Kitely by now? If not, to learn everything you could want to (short of creating an account), go to this blog by Ener Hax, and this one by Maria Korolov. Both are chock full of replies by the founder of Kitely, Ilan Tochner.
So is this: a follow-up blog by Ener, wherein she meant to gather questions for an email interview, but Ilan jumped in and answered them in the comments (don’t know if the interview itself will go forward). The question I posted was very simple; since first learning of it, and what it can and can’t do, I’ve been wondering “What’s it for?”:
Given that Ilan has promised Facebook will eventually not be the only login path, my biggest question for him is “Who are the target customers?”
Ilan’s answer, though no doubt well-meaning, irked me, loaded as it is with buzz phrases and corp-speak:
Our initial target customers are the people who have made virtual worlds their life and work tirelessly to sell others on that vision. We hope that what we bring to market can help people such as yourself sell your VW-based solutions and services to your existing and potential clients.
Going forward we see virtual world and augmented reality based services being more widely accepted by the general public. At which point we believe we will transition to become a mostly transparent utility on top of which people build their value added services. A type of Amazon Web Services for virtual worlds if you will.
Of course, Ilan’s completely unaware that I’m not a “solutions and services” kind of guy. Perhaps he should have been, before dropping a pile of boilerplate on me — “know your customer” and all that. Ilan does know his customer — the ones he’d like to have, anyway. He can’t be expected to know I’m not one of them. In any case, the answer he gave is the one I was expecting. Pardon me for a moment while I invoke the “Immersionist or Augmentationist” dichotomy I had such fun declaring obsolete a while back. Kitely is Virtuality-as-a-tool, not as a place to be in and experience — most importantly, to share experiences with the other people you find there.
Mind you, on its own merit this is not a bad thing, and I don’t have much trouble understanding that there’s a niche market within the larger niche market of Virtuality generally — one which Maria outlined very well in her follow-up blog. Somewhere on the economic spectrum between the people with enough disposable income to pay the likes of Linden Lab or Inworldz for land, and the people with enough savvy and desktop power to self-host their own for free (either as a standalone or hooked to a grid like OSG), there’s a group of people who might be attracted to Kitely’s pay-as-you-go plan in exchange for the convenience.
[Believe me: I’ve done the self-hosting thing. I was barely knowledgeable enough to parse the tutorials available a year ago to get the config files right and set up an instance of MySQL to handle assets. ‘Twas not for the faint of heart, and I don’t expect it’s any easier this year than last.]
The other thing that has me irked: Kitely’s websites calls the OpenSim regions one creates through their service “worlds”. They’re absolutely not worlds — they’re tiny walled gardens, an archipelago of private island sims so isolated by the setup that in order to travel between them, you have to quit out of the viewer and log into the next one. Beyond that, they’re being touted for their potential as sandboxes and conference centers.
In the immortal words of MPoster Linden: “You can have a meetin’ in it!”
Or in Ilan’s words, “solutions and services”. Srs Bznz.
I’m not being facetious when I wish Ilan good luck with Kitely; neither am I being dismissively cynical in advising “don’t quit your day job”. The product has limited appeal; don’t be surprised if interest plateaus quickly after the current first rush of early adopters. Just do us all a favor, please, and stop calling them “worlds”. That’s as big a mistake as the one some people still make when talking about “playing Second Life”.