Virtual worlds at UTR: social networks, or experiments?

Escape the real world with these social networks that feature expansive 3-D environments.

Wrapping up the group presentations at Under the Radar's Entertainment & Media conference is the virtual worlds group. Only two of these companies (Doppleganger and Kaneva) offer what most would consider "virtual worlds" or a replacement for real life interaction with others. The other two consist of user avatars, and a video gaming platform.

Doppleganger is a 3-D world similar to Second Life. It survives through a mix of micropayments, and partnerships with various companies who want branded areas and appearances for celebrities, movies, and music. We checked it out a few weeks ago and came away impressed, albeit a little bewildered.

The service currently has 150,000 users, and CEO Tim Stevens says it's growing by 10% weekly.

Kaneva is part social network and part 3-D virtual world. I looked at the service in early February, shortly before the site went public beta in April. Despite the fact it's incredibly similar to social networks like MySpace, Kaneva's creators view its competition as movies and television programs. Like Doppelganger, Kaneva makes its money on the sale of virtual goods and sponsorship from content creators.


Meez is one of the more interesting virtual worlds services due to its specialization. Instead of trying to re-create real life, Meez focuses on user avatars. They recently partnered with Photobucket, and provides user avatars for several other services. The site has 2 million registered users, and is now getting 425,000 new users a month.

The site makes its money off partnerships and micropayments, where users use their virtual currently on clothing items. One of their competitors Gizmoz recently launched a face mapping tool that will take a digital photo and stick it on a 3-D avatar.

Multiverse is a development platform for anyone who wants to make their own massive multiplayer online game (MMOG). They've built the system to work with a "world browser" which co-founder Corey Bridges compares to a Web browser since users can visit a network of different games built on the platform.
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About the author

Josh Lowensohn joined CNET in 2006 and now covers Apple. Before that, Josh wrote about everything from new Web start-ups, to remote-controlled robots that watch your house. Prior to joining CNET, Josh covered breaking video game news, as well as reviewing game software. His current console favorite is the Xbox 360.

 

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