We are excited to announce a new chapter for Mozilla Hubs that expands the capabilities of the platform and, frankly, really allows us to step into our name. Today, we’re launching a new subscription offering for Hubs that brings the power and capabilities of Hubs Cloud to a wider audience. With today’s release, you’ll be able to create and launch new Hubs that you can really make your own. Before we get into the details of what’s available today, though, I want to take a moment to explain a bit of our history and why today’s release is the next step in the way that we think about online virtual worlds.
What’s in a name?
We love the name Hubs. For us, it represents possibility, potential, and connection - all things that we believe to be vital as the internet evolves to become more immersive. We’re the Hubs team, but Hubs has never been a single product - Hubs is the ability to quickly create virtual worlds, to meet and connect online from anywhere, to share content and co-create spaces together. From a “launch announcement” perspective, though, having such a wide range of content covered under one name is a bit challenging, because we have to find some way to differentiate between “old Hubs” and “new Hubs”, right? So to do that - let’s talk a bit about how Hubs is built.
A brief look
In the past, when you visited hubs.mozilla.com, you were prompted to create a room. That room was yours - you could change the room settings based on what you wanted your guests to be able to do in the room, you could change the name of the room, the scene, upload content - that was your room. Rooms were designed to get people together in a virtual world quickly, without needing to install any applications. These rooms were all hosted on a ‘Hub’ - a collection of virtual rooms - run by Mozilla. So while hubs.mozilla.com has, for quite some time, been called ‘Mozilla Hubs’, it might have been more accurate to call it ‘Mozilla’s Hub’.
In 2020, we launched Hubs Cloud, an AWS Marketplace listing that gave developers the ability to host their own Hubs applications, essentially copying what we had built for hubs.mozilla.com and making it easier to deploy related virtual spaces. With Hubs Cloud, an individual’s Hub was hosted on its own dedicated architecture, managed and maintained by the AWS account owner, completely separate from Mozilla’s team. This meant that developers could modify the code to add or change capabilities, brand the site from the ground up, specify unique avatar and scene content on their own instance, manage access and accounts, use a custom domain, and run their own equivalents to hubs.mozilla.com for their own event or community.
From Rooms to Hubs (and Beyond!)
Rooms were powerful tools for meeting synchronously and collaborating with groups quickly - just create a room, share the link, and you were in. For groups that needed more capabilities, customization, and control over their meeting spaces, though, a single room wasn’t quite enough - hence, Hubs Cloud. But while Hubs Cloud provided a wide range of tools and infinite customization possibilities, it was tailored for a developer audience. Hubs Cloud as a marketplace listing on AWS enables full control of the infrastructure and keeps access completely separate from any other Hub that might be running, along with flexibility for running Hubs alongside other services and applications. It also comes with some challenges, including metered/use-based billing that can be hard to predict month to month, the requirement of a deep understanding of AWS, regular monitoring of the system, and consistent updates once a Hub was deployed.
With today’s new Hubs subscription service, anyone can harness the power of Hubs Cloud without having to go through AWS. When you subscribe to Hubs, you now get access to your very own Hubs instance, which you can customize based on your use case and needs.
A Hubs subscription gets you:
- Your own dedicated Hub that can hold up to 25 people
- A Hub home page that you can customize
- Access to a variety of environments
- Unique avatars and themed packs
- The ability to upload videos, documents, and images into rooms
- And more!
More Social, Less Media
Immersive virtual worlds aren’t new. The technology has been around for decades, but it’s only recently that the tools to create these worlds have been made widely available. Here at Mozilla, we see 3D being a big part of the future of the web, which is why we’re continuing on our mission to bring the best parts of face to face interactions online through Hubs.
Over the past several years, we’ve seen countless ways that people use Hubs, from hosting virtual events to creating immersive art galleries and building educational spaces to teach about topics ranging from the James Webb Telescope to paraceratheriums and the human heart. With today’s launch, we’re making it easier than ever to create an end-to-end immersive experience tailored to you and your community.
Starting today, you can subscribe to your own Hub by visiting hubs.mozilla.com. Our Early Access tier is a flat fee of $20/month (plus local taxes) with no minimum subscription requirement. As we continue to develop our new subscription offerings, we will introduce a free tier and other size subscriptions tailored to different use cases. And, we’d love your feedback on what to work on next! You can submit feature requests for the team’s considerations at connect.mozilla.org.
In the meantime, we have big ideas for how to make it easier for you to set up your Hub. We’re planning a significant refresh of our admin panel, which will be available to both subscribers and Hubs Cloud customers, and will be continuing to improve the developer and artist experience for Hubs. To stay up to date on the latest, make sure to join the Hubs Community Discord Server.
Q: How do I sign up for my own Hub?
A: To sign up for an Early Access Hub subscription, visit https://hubs.mozilla.com/#subscribe to get started. While we only have one tier, in the future, you will be able to select Hubs of various sizes and capacities with different features to best suit your use case. Select ‘Get Started’ and follow the steps to create (or sign into) a Firefox Account and start your Hubs subscription!
Q: Is this just a paid version of what I get on hubs.mozilla.com when I create a room?
A: No. Our new Hubs subscription service is a significant expansion of what you can do today by creating a room. With our new subscription model, rather than having to manage individual rooms on hubs.mozilla.com, you’ll have access to account management tools, privacy and security features to customize access to your Hub, the ability to brand your Hub’s home page and color theme, and upload your own avatars and scenes.
Q: I’m having issues with paying for my Hub! How can I get help?
A: Ack! Sorry about that. Head over to support.mozilla.com and they can help you get sorted.
Q: Is there a free trial that I can use to see if a Hub is right for me?
A: We’re working on it! For now, we recommend creating a room on hubs.mozilla.com/demo to see if Hubs is a good fit for your community or event.
Q: Is there a minimum subscription term?
A: Nope! You’ll be billed monthly for your Hub and can cancel at any time to avoid being charged for future months. When you cancel your subscription, all of the data associated with your Hub will be deleted, so you can rest assured that your information is safe.
Q: Can I make my own avatars or scenes for my Hub?
A: Absolutely! We have a number of resources for building avatars and scenes for Hubs, which can be found on the Hubs Creator Labs portal. You can also join our community Discord server to be connected with artists who build 3D content for Hubs.
Q: If I sign up for a Hub, will my rooms, scenes, and content on hubs.mozilla.com carry over?
A: Not automatically. If you have avatars and scenes that you have created, you can import them to your new Hub by following the instructions here.
Q: What will happen to my rooms, scenes, and avatars on hubs.mozilla.com?
A: At this time, we will keep hubs.mozilla.com as it exists today up and running, but we do plan to change our data retention policies for hubs.mozilla.com in the future to remove old content that is no longer in use. In the coming months, we will release a timeline for these changes and include instructions on how to migrate content to a free or paid subscription.
Q: What if I need more people on my Hub?
A: We’re working on new configuration capabilities that will provide more granular controls over the types of Hubs that you can subscribe to. In the future, you’ll be able to choose from different options that allow for more users, more storage, and other settings so your Hub can be tailored to your community’s needs. For now, you can email us to talk about your specific use case.
Q: Can I use custom code on my subscription Hub?
A: Not yet, but this is something that we're exploring for a future update. If you need to deploy a custom client or inject code into your Hub, you'll still need to use Hubs Cloud or self-host for the time being.