Better World Descriptions

In Kitely, virtual worlds have a name and a description. The description used to be limited to simple text, but we’ve received numerous requests to allow richer descriptions. This is now possible! World descriptions can now include hyperlinks, images, separators and various text formatting options. You can easily take advantage of these options using the rich text editor in the New World and Edit World dialogs.

Today’s update also upgrades our system to the recently released OpenSim

OpenSim 0.7.1 and More

Hi everyone,

We’ve updated our servers today with various backend stability improvements and made some changes that should help improve your user experience as well. Here’s what’s new:

OpenSim 0.7.1

Kitely is now using the release version of OpenSim 0.7.1. This version includes many bug fixes and features, such as Shared Media (a.k.a. Media on a Prim). For more information, see the OpenSim release notes.

Please note that in order to take advantage of Shared Media you’ll need a V2 viewer.

Email Required

We’re now asking for peoples’ email addresses when they open a Kitely account. If you already have a Kitely account, then the next time you login you’ll be asked to allow us to access the email address that you entered in your Facebook account.

The reason for this change is that we need a reliable way to be able to contact you. For example, there might be a problem with your account; or someone might have lodged a copyright-infringement complaint about some content that is associated with your account. Previously, we had intended to rely on Facebook Messages for contacting people, but we’ve found that this solution isn’t good enough, for several reasons. First, some people have disabled the ability to contact them via Facebook Messages. Second, if we need to contact multiple people then using Facebook Messages is extremely slow; emails work much better. Third, having your email address will enable us to communicate with you even if you can’t access Facebook for some reason. And finally, we intend to support additional signup methods in the near future (besides Facebook), so some people won’t even have a Facebook account at all.

We will only use this email address in accordance with our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service. We will not use it to send spam, or share your email with a third party without your consent.

World Templates

We currently offer two stock worlds that can be used as a starting point when creating a new world. We’ve made small changes to these worlds.

First, we replaced the “Empty Island” world with a world called “Empty Land”, which is a 256m x 256m square of flat terrain located just above sea-level. This is more useful as a starting point than the island, which was quite small.

Second, both of our world templates (“Empty Land” and “Virtual Collaboration Environment”) now have the sun fixed at the noon position. We’ve made this change to make these worlds more friendly to people who aren’t familiar with changing light conditions. We’ve been told that when new users enter a world, and see that everything is dark, they can sometimes become frustrated with the user experience.

Since this environment setting (“Fixed Sun”) can be changed, you can easily modify it if you wish.

Imprudence 1.3.2

We’ve updated the default viewer that we provide to people who don’t already have a viewer installed to the latest stable version of Imprudence (version 1.3.2).

Welcome to Kitely

Hi! My name is Oren Hurvitz, and I’m the Co-Founder and VP R&D of Kitely. My Co-Founder and CEO Ilan Tochner and myself have launched the service just under 4 weeks ago, but we only got around to creating this blog now. It’s been hectic.

We’ve released a major update to the service today. Our focus in this update (and in the near future) is on making the service more robust and manageable. This means most of the changes aren’t visible on the surface, but that doesn’t make them less important! Here’s what we’ve been working on:

Improved Communications

We’ve added this blog. Until now our main channels of communication with the community have been our support site [Edit: in Jan 2013 we moved support to our self-hosted user forums], Twitter account and commenting on other people’s blogs. While we’ll continue to use these options, a blog is a better way to communicate some things — such as this post, which describes what’s new in Kitely.

We’ve added a Contact Us page so you can get in touch with us more easily.

We now have the ability to post short announcements that appear at the top of the website. This will enable us to let you know about important updates: e.g., if we release a new version of the Kitely Plugin.

We can also broadcast messages to every user that is currently connected to any of the Kitely virtual worlds. We’ll use this feature to warn you before we update the system, so that you and the other people visiting your worlds can exit our service cleanly. Until now we’ve used Twitter for these announcements, but sadly not everyone follows our account.

Content Protection

We’ve added two online forms to allow you to lodge complaints about other users:

  • You can now use the Abuse Report form to report a violation of our Terms of Service.
  • You now have easy access to a DMCA Takedown Notice to report cases of copyright infringement.

When these forms are submitted we receive an email, and we’ll quickly follow up to determine the appropriate way to respond to what you reported.

If we decide that a violation has indeed taken place, then we’ll first contact the offending user and ask them to fix the violation without delay. If they don’t do so quickly, then we now have the ability to suspend their account in several ways, depending on the severity of the violation:

  • We can suspend access to a world. The World Page will still appear, but it will not be possible to enter the world. In the specific case of a copyright violation, we do allow the world’s owner (and only the owner) to enter the world for a short period of time. This is necessary so that the world owner can remove the offending material.
  • We can hide the world page entirely. This sanction may be required if the World Page itself contains copyrighted material or violates our Terms of Service.
  • Finally we can suspend access to the user’s entire account so they will not be able to login.

User-Visible Features

In addition to the management features, we’ve also added a few features that should now be visible to you:

You can now set the access control of a world to “My Friends” so that only your Facebook friends will be able to enter that world. This feature saves you the hassle of managing a Facebook group when all you want is just to have a private place that you and your friends can access.

The site now works with Internet Explorer 9 so you can use Microsoft’s latest browser with Kitely if you wish.

Bug Fixes

We fixed many bugs, and improved performance in several areas.

Here’s one specific problem that we fixed, which is more user-visible than other problems: in the past, you may have seen messages in the browser status bar such as: “Waiting for…”. These messages were a side effect of the mechanism that we used to update the site dynamically (e.g., have the number of Active Users change immediately when users enter or exit a world). We are now implementing this feature in a different way, so these messages will no longer appear.

We found and fixed a major bug that unfortunately caused a few worlds to be deleted. This happened when a networking error temporarily prevented the OpenSim server from communicating with the main server. Here’s what happened: when a world becomes idle, we save the world state to a file in the cloud (in the Amazon S3 service). This networking error caused the OpenSim server to tell the main server to save the file to the cloud twice. The first request was handled correctly, but the second request, which was unexpected, caused the file to be deleted. We fixed the problem by having the server recognize when it’s getting duplicate requests and ignore them.

This problem only occurred in a very small number of worlds, but that is no comfort to the users who were affected. To them, we offer our humblest apologies! Unfortunately, as a one-month-old service which is still in the testing phase, some bugs are inevitable. We take this extremely seriously, we have fixed the problem, and we will continue to focus on robustness ahead of other features.

Although this particular bug has been fixed, we recommend using the “Copy” button to create backup copies of any worlds which you’ve invested a lot of work in. When you create a copy of a world, the copy is entirely separate from the original world, and is not affected by anything that happens to it. This is also useful for keeping different versions of the world, e.g. in order to try out new things, but be able to revert to the previous version if desired.

Coming Soon

We (or rather, our lawyers) have been working on finishing the Terms of Service. We now have a draft that is very close to being complete, so we expect to be able to post the TOS soon.

Some users have had problems using the Kitely Plugin because it isn’t digitally signed. We are in the process of getting a digital certificate from Thawte, which will allow us to sign the plugin. Thawte are very assiduous about verifying that we’re a real company (good for them), but we expect this to be finished soon.

That’s it for now. Please continue using Kitely, and let us know what works for you, and what doesn’t. May all your virtual worlds bloom!