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Summary:

If you have a young niece or daughter, you’ve almost certainly seen her puttering with Zwinky, the pop-eyed cartoon avatar-based social network– sort of a cutesy MySpace for kids, run from a browser toolbar interface. Techcrunch just reported that InteractiveCorp, the company behind Zwinky, will launch […]

Zwinky.comIf you have a young niece or daughter, you’ve almost certainly seen her puttering with Zwinky, the pop-eyed cartoon avatar-based social network– sort of a cutesy MySpace for kids, run from a browser toolbar interface. Techcrunch just reported that InteractiveCorp, the company behind Zwinky, will launch a virtual world tie-in. Transitioning from toolbar to interactive world is an obvious technology leap; it’s also a savvy and unsurprising business move. Considering the impressive growth rate of Gaia Online, Club Penguin, Webkinz, and many others, virtual worlds for kids are exploding. The real surprise is how long it’s taken the tech and game industry to recognize how big this space has grown. (In March, Zwinky had 4.7 million unique visitors; Gaia Online, 2 million.)

At present, they’re actually the only reliably expanding niche in online worlds. After all, World of Warcraft remains the uncontested traditional fantasy MMORPG, dominating all its competitors (except in Asia), while Second Life remains unchallenged in the user-created 3D world sub-genre (though a number of rivals are coming soon.)

How did they become so popular?

Short answer: By being fast, cheap, and totally in control. Almost invariably, online worlds for kids are web-based Java apps, and don’t require a large client download (like Second Life and There), and are free, eschewing monthly subscriber fees (as with Warcraft) preferring advertising, virtual item purchases, and other alternate revenue models. More crucial to parents (as today’s WSJ reports), they’re tightly regulated safe zones for kids. (In Club Penguin, the Journal notes, “Penguins… [have] two chat modes: ultimate safe chat, which is limited to a predefined menu of greetings, and standard safe chat, in which all messages are subject to filters that screen for inappropriate language and personal information like phone numbers.”) Nothing worse than a foul-mouthed penguin.

Image courtesy Zwinky.com.

By Wagner James Au

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  1. There are already successful browser based games worlds for post-teens (e.g. Runescape) and over the next year you’ll see several more.

    In addition, there are a few companies working on platforms for web hosted spaces so we’ll see a lot of projects working up the stack on non-game applications like shared workspaces and media sharing. There’s my company, Transmutable, and Media Machines and Pelican Crossing are also coming along.

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    1. hey wats up me and my friend want 2 no how u do this its confusstion please reply!

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  2. Jay (living in First Life) Monday, April 30, 2007

    Congratulations to all of these companies. I don’t get the attraction but obviously the traffic data tells the story.

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  3. Quick, minor, correction — you say that almost “invariably, online worlds for kids are web-based Java apps”

    With very few exceptions (Runescape) these worlds are actually either Flash (Club Penguin) or Shockwave (Habbo-how could you leave out Habbo? :)

    I obviously agree with the point you are making, that these worlds run in-browser and do not require the downloads of SL or WoW.

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  4. Could catch, I should have just said “web-based apps”.

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  5. I posted on this topic last week based on Comscore data – there are a couple of additional sites worth noting not mentioned above, notable postopia and millsville, owned by Post Cereals and General Mills respectively. Postopia is more of a casual gaming site with over 2m UU/mth but Millsville is a full casual immersive world and have over 4m UU/mth. Click on my name in this comment to read the full post

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  6. I agree why you think she is so popular.

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  7. I love zwinky it is a really fun game.

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  8. is the Zwinky site safe to use?

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    1. if ya wanna have a blown up computer yeah stupid head

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  9. Can I play on zwinky.

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    1. Yes you just need to register

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    2. only if 13 and up or id recomend zwinky cuties

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  10. Ican’t get in zwinky games

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