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Virtual Worlds

Social Media Portal Landscape - Virtual Worlds


A virtual world is an immersive 3D environment where users meet and interact with each other via ?avatars? ? a computer animated figure commonly (though not always) modelled after its ?owner.?  Virtual worlds create a social playing field in which individuals build and maintain new environments to immerse themselves in; very like and unlike the real world in which we live in. 

A virtual world caters for shared experiences, and is often an online multi-player game (some of the most popular of which are World of Warcraft and Runescape).  Most worlds have their own laws / rules and currency, where users can purchase houses, clothes, items and services ? the most famous for which is Second Life, who boasts users that have become millionaires (in the real world) after buying and selling virtual property and other retail items and services.

The most common form of communication between participants in a virtual world is text based, however voice to voice conversations through voice over internet protocol (VoIP) and face to face exchange through the use of a web camera are becoming more and more popular with the increased penetration and speeds of broadband. 


Maze War is widely accepted as the first networked virtual world launching in 1974.  It was played on Arpanet (the first version of the internet) but could only be played on a specific type of computer ? the Imlac.  Maze War was very advanced for its time; it was a multi-user environment that had bots, different view points, shooting, scoring, chat and instant messenger (IM). Four years later, a text-based virtual world, MUD, launched using a TELNET program which could be played by anyone.  Other early virtual worlds include WorldsAway, Dreamscape, Cityspace and The Palace.  Virtual world from 1987, Habitat, is often credited as being the first online virtual world which was for the Commodore 64 computer.


Virtual worlds are being used more frequently for educational purposes, as it has been shown to encourage greater levels of student participation and provides the means to do activities and tasks that are somewhat restricted IRL (in real life) due to budgets, location etc.  Virtual worlds are being used extensively in outback Australia, allowing children that live thousands of miles from the nearest school to attend a virtual classroom.  In 1999, a virtual world called Whyville launched which was designed specifically to engage students in education, and has a user base of over three million.

Businesses are also investing in the virtual world space, where it is being used to reach customers, train and connect staff and network.  Sony Entertainment Corporation?s (SEC) launched social network for its PlayStation 3 users ? Home and the Louvre also lets fans have a virtual look around.  Many companies such as Nike, Apple, Reuters and Toyota have created online stores, hold meetings (both internal and external), training sessions and advertise to consumers in popular virtual worlds such as Second Life and Habbo Hotel. 

Virtual Worlds are also more and more often being used in rehabilitation, giving disabled and chronically ill people the opportunity to socialise and free themselves of their illness and/or disability through their virtual avatar.

At the time of publishing these observations (July 2009), the most popular virtual worlds include Second Life, Habbo Hotel, World of Warcraft, Gaia, Runescape, The Sims, Neopets, Club Penguin and Meez.

The benefits of adding your virtual world service to SMP

  • Better communicate your service to your audience
  • Reach brands, marketers and advertisers that are looking to connect with your target audience
  • Connect with potential stakeholders, media and researchers raising the visibility of your virtual world
  • Update your stakeholders and target audiences with case studies, events, press releases and/or whitepapers about your software or technology
  • Differentiate your approach, products, service and virtual world from your competitors
  • Submit news scoops about your app through SMP to be considered for social media news
  • List other assets of what your virtual world possesses that relate to the social media Landscape and demonstrate the other relationships that it has
  • Share your expertise through opinion and thought leadership articles published on the SMP site reaching your audiences

Run a virtual world you want people to immerse themselves in?

Become part of the SMP Landscape by adding your virtual world