I just took Sharon Burns' virtual worlds tour and I recommend it, especially if you always wanted to know about the leading virtual worlds, but Second Life eats up all your time, and you couldn't possibly dare to enter another metaverse. She surveyed kids' and adults' virtual worlds (also referred to as: immersive worlds, merverses, the 3-D web and MMORPG) Here is a snapshot of the landscape of worlds she covers, and a few words on each one:
There.com-- Similar Audience to SL, not as much role playing, a few nonprofits are there, they have 1 million active users, and users can purchase There bucks (they have a currency).
Entropia-- Not much to say except that it is a MMORPG (Massive Multi-player Online Role-playing game) with fierce graphics and their users spend a long time on the game. She cited MMORPGs to the new way that people are having online community
World Of Warcraft-- They are the grand daddy of all MMORPGs. They have 10 million active users, nuff said.
Gaia Online -- They have an audience of 8-18 year olds. Most of their users are in the 14-16 year old range. The have art contests and poetry forums. It's a creative space. I think what makes Gaia online particularly compelling (and Sharron may not have known this, b/c she did not reference this) is that their accompanying discussion forum that is the online community companion to the virtual world is the number one forum on the Internet. with nearly 12 million members.
Club Penguin-- For kids, acquired by Disney for an enormous amount of money, it costs $5.95/month to play and there are 15 million registered users
Hi pi Hi-- Launched this year, in Mandarin, a chinese version of Second Life that has commerce, community and collaboration.
Y-ville-- Launched in 1999, it's an education-based virtual world that is mainly focused on science learning. It has the backing of orgs like NASA and the CDC. Mostly girls belong to Y-ville.
Webkins-- it was the first site to integrate a real-world purchase with a game or virtual world. You buy (adopt) a toy and then use the secret code on the product to access the world, where you can dress and house your pet. It's a kids' site, obviously.
Mokitown-- for 8-12 year olds, a community about traffic and safety. Although this tour was only 8 minutes, it provided a good fly-over of the landscape. There was very little mention of nonprofits, as most of the above virtual worlds do not have a nonprofit presence. The real tour that we are all on the edge of our seats for is the part 2, the Second Life tour. I am hoping for some serious coverage of the Nonprofit Commons, and I will be sure to let you all know about it, when it comes out.