Swedish developer Mojang has announced the global launch of Minecraft Realms, their new online realm-hosting service. Shared multiplayer worlds have long been an integral part of Minecraft, and has made some of its most ambitious creations possible. Until now, however, setting up and hosting servers required a degree of technical expertise that many casual players lack.
Minecraft Realms handles all the complicated backend work for you, providing an easy platform to create and host worlds for an approved list of players. The worlds can be infinitely large, always online and are regularly backed up, allowing you to reset to a previously saved state in the event of a disaster. Maps can also be exported from Realms for regular play, although not currently the other way around. There is also not yet support for mods and texture packs.
A subscription can be bought in one, three, and six month blocks starting at $13 per month, with discounts for buying in bulk. Minecraft Realms is now available for PC/Mac and eventually for mobile platforms with Minecraft: Pocket Edition.