This version is intended for people who are already familiar with VP.

Who is

We are a group of former Excite employees who have been involved with Virtual Places chat, some of us since 1996. We are the world's leading experts on Virtual Places chat and online communities.

We are building a new VP community, separate from Excite, using the same VP software people have come to know and love.

We are able to use the VP software since the technology is owned by the Lotus division of IBM, it is not owned by Excite, and we are licensing it directly from Lotus.

What Will Halsoft Do Differently ?

Our community will be supported by paying subscribers rather than advertising (which supports the "free" chat services). No more annoying flashing and blinking banners, pop up windows, or junk mail. We're not trying to sell you something, we want you to have fun and enjoy the company of your friends in a safe, high quality community -- and we hope you agree that's worth paying for.

Pay to Chat? When There Are Free Alternatives?

We think that the old saying "you get what you pay for" is becoming more and more true on the Internet. Remember when people were even giving away free dial-up modem service? How did they ever expect to make money from that? Well, no one did. First, quality suffered. More ads, less reliability, slower performance, ... then they were gone ... And now the same thing is happening with other free services. People just can't make money giving things away, and ad banners are not paying the bills.

Take a look around ... Geocities, Talk City, and many others are introducing "premium" services that cost money. The free stuff is still around, but it's getting harder to find and you're getting less and less function and quality.

How Are You Providing A Higher Quality Service?

Simply getting rid of the ads is a big improvement :-)

More importantly, we will offer a safer, family-friendly community.

The vast majority of chatters are decent people who just want to have fun, but chat rooms in general have an unsavory reputation -- conjuring images of pedophiles, perverts, stalkers, and assorted trouble makers. Sadly, that element does exist, even though they are a small minority of the chatters. And that small minority can ruin the chat experience for everyone else.

A free, open Internet community simply cannot keep out the trouble makers.

If you throw someone out for bad behavior, they promptly register a new name and come right back. You can block their computer's Internet (IP) address, but it's easy for them to change their IP address. You can block a whole range of addresses, but this is impractical since many innocent people are blocked too.

Also, people hide behind anonymity in a free community. They cause trouble at will, safe in knowing that no one can prove who they really are.

A subscriber-based community fixes these problems.

How? If you get thrown out for misbehavior and you need to pay for a new name to get back in, you'll think twice before doing something to get thrown out again. Also, we will refuse to accept new registrations from repeat offenders.

No longer can anonymous trouble makers get away with their actions. Since you have to provide credit card information to pay for your registration, we can associate chat users with real people.

In extreme cases, for example illegal activities, we provide this information to law enforcement agencies.

How About "Adult" Activites?

Chat users can be roughly divided into two groups.

One group is interested in meeting new people, chatting with friends, playing games, attending organized events ... teens, Christians, poetry lovers, people seeking others from the same region or country ...

The other group wants to find someone to talk dirty with. After all, the single most popular chat room at most services is Sex Chat ...

These two groups simply don't mix, but either is too big to ignore.

So how do we handle this? With two separate communities, Family and Adult.

The Family community will have rules for acceptable behavior designed to make it family-safe and free of undesirable "adult" content, and the rules will be strictly enforced.

The Adult community will be much less restrictive. We mean "Adult" in the sense of a bar or nightclub, not necessarily XXX porn, though that element will likely be present. The Adult community is intended for responsible adult members who don't want or need a lot of rules and restrictions. They can take care of themselves. However, it won't be "anything goes" ... illegal activity will absolutely not be tolerated, nor will offensive activites such as harassment or stalking.

Your membership entitles you to use either (or both, at different times) for a single price. Your basic membership includes two names, so if you decide to use both communities you can have a different identity in each.

People in one community cannot Locate nor send IMs to people in the other community, so separation of the two groups is assured. For family accounts, parents will be able to specify which names can only be used in the Family community.

But What About Privacy?

We understand you may be uneasy about providing credit card and personal information to a chat community.

We are very concerned about privacy of personal information. That is one of the reasons we are using the PayPal service. PayPal is one of the most widely used, trusted Internet payment services.

If you don't already have a PayPal account, please sign up for one. It costs you nothing to do so, but you will need this account to use our service.

When you register for an account in our community, we send you to PayPal web page when it's time to pay. Your web browser will show you that it is a secure PayPal web page, and there's no way we can fake this (ask your ISP if you want to confirm this).

You will give your credit card and billing information to PayPal, and they will not share your personal information with us for any reason.

How does that work? We will tell them the name(s) you are registering, and they will tell us one of two things, Accept or Decline. If they say Decline it means you changed your mind, or your credit card was expired, or whatever -- but you didn't pay so you don't get to come in to our community.

If they say Accept it means that you paid and you are now welcome to come in and join the fun!

If you turn out to be a repeated trouble maker, we'll tell PayPal "Don't accept any more payments from the person who registered the name xxx".

If you try to do something illegal, we'll tell PayPal "Wnen the police call, tell them how to find the person who registered the name yyy".

So that's how it works. We'll enjoy better security with assurance of privacy.

OK, So How Much Does It Cost?

Account Type Names Included Montly Cost
Basic 2 $10
Family 5 $12
Sybil 10 $15

How About A Discount For Paying In Advance?

Months Discount
3 10%
6 25%
12 33%

Paying for a year at a time brings the cost of a Basic account down to $80, or $6.67 per month.

Ten friends can share a Sybil account for $1.50 per month each, and the one year payment discount takes it down to $1 per person per month !

Note for customers outside the U.S. PayPal transaction fees are fairly high for international customers. You can reduce the bite of these fees by paying for 3, 6, or 12 months at a time. Also, we are looking for partners in other countries (specifically Australia) who can accept payments locally, which will further reduce the transaction fees.

Can I Earn A Discount For Referring New Members?

Certainly !

You can register your name with our referral program. Then, whenever someone signs up for service, and refers to your name, you will receive $1/month. You will continue to be paid as long as that person remains a paying customer.

Sign up 10 friends, and your Basic account is paid for ! And, if you sign up more people we'll be sending you a check each month !

I Don't Have a Credit Card, How Can I Pay?

PayPal can accomodate other methods of payment. See the PayPal website for more details.

So When Do You Open For Business ?

We plan to open our community in November.

Is The New Service Really VP Or Is It A Replacement?

Our service is genuine Virtual Places. You can use the chat program that you use now for Excite or ZDnet chat, you don't have to download anything new.

Do I Need To Register For A New Name ?

Our service is not affiliated with Excite@Home so yes, you will need to register for a new name.

The good news is -- all names are up for grabs, people who sign up earliest will get the best picks.

Don't worry about a few people grabbing all the good names -- since you have to pay to register, this will limit how many names people take. Also, we won't accept payment for more than 10 names per customer account.

Will the VP Games Work? Will There Be New Games?

Yes, the VP games will still work (backgammon, battleship, checkers, chess, and yahtzee).

We won't have any new games at first, but we are working with the original developer of VP to see if we can get more games. We hope to have more information soon.

Will There Be Chat Hosts?

As part of our guarantee of better quality, we plan to have staff members and volunteers online to assist with questions or problems, and to organize events and games.

We will likely call them by a different name, probably Guides. We'll do this to emphasize their different role in the new VP. The main role of the Guides is to help new users and to help build a lively, enjoyable community.

What Happens If I Get Banned By Mistake ?

In a free chat community, banning a name is no big deal since you can easily get a new one. When you are paying to chat, and you have an identity in the community, your name is far more valuable. We simply cannot eject people without justification. It is our commitment to you that we will uphold high standards of fairness when applying the rules.

Of course, there's always a chance that mistakes will be made. Since people are paying for their names now, there will be ways to correct mistakes. You will be able to contact Customer Service (yes, we'll actually read the email :-) and there will be a phone number too) to straighten things out.

How Do I Apply To Be A Guide?

We are not ready to accept applications yet, but more details will be available soon.