Stanford Media X Event: IMVU’s Online Community


Brett Durrett (@bdurrett), VP Engineering at IMVU, gave an interesting presentation at a Stanford Media X virtual worlds event.  IMVU achieves a $40MM annual run rate, primarily from the sale of virtual goods.  Several virtual worlds entrepreneurs were in attendance at the event, which meant that Durrett’s talk received a lot of attention and interest.

IMVU is NOT a Virtual World

Durrett began the presentation by stating that IMVU is not a virtual world.  Instead, they are an online community “where members use 3D avatars to meet new people, chat, create and have fun with their friends.”  Many members of the early management team came from There.com (including Durrett) and their experience told them that an expansive “world” may not be the best solution.

Instead, the team considered connecting (with one another) the core function of the experience, so they built rooms and spaces where members can meet, connect and chat.  IMVU has achieved large scale usage.  At any time of the day, there’s usually 100,000 (or more) users logged into the system.  And while there’s no single “world” connecting them all, a user can find and connect with any other user who’s online.

User Generated Content as Key Enabler

How has IMVU achieved their current run rate?  User generated content.  IMVU generates very little of the virtual goods for sale in their marketplace.  Instead, it’s the community that creates the virtual goods for sale.  Durrett noted that IMVU could have hired a staff of developers to create the 100,000+ pairs of womens’ shoes available in IMVU.  But at the end of the day, they wouldn’t know if users liked those shoes.

And, that would have covered just shoes.  The way to scale to the wide assortment of goods now available is to open up the creation to the users.  With so many goods available, how do users find the items they want to purchase?  Durrett noted that like any online retailer with a large inventory, intelligent tools need to be built, a la Amazon’s recommendation service.  IMVU can recommend new items to you based on your past purchase patterns.

Competition Drives Engagement

Durrett described how IMVU creates daily contests based on pre-determined themes.  Users dress up their avatars in the particular theme and then submit a snapshot (image) of their avatar.  The community votes and the top avatars are displayed on a leader board.

To appear on the leader board, the reward is “virtual” (i.e. recognition, rather than cash, virtual credits, etc.).  And yet, the contest creates an intense amount of interest and competition from the community – a great thing from IMVU. If members happened to admire a particular user’s outfit, they could purchase all the items in that outfit with a single click.

Expanding the Inventory

Expansion of virtual goods inventory will be a key driver to IMVU’s continued growth.  They already make user generated music available (in MP3 form) and they recently launched games.  For games in particular, it will be interesting to see if IMVU creates inventory items around game status and advancement, as is common in many of today’s social games (e.g. FarmVille).

While IMVU does not support user generated games today, that could  be an interesting avenue of growth.  They’d probably want to review and certify submitted games, to prevent malicious activity from occurring.  In this manner, they could create a sort of iTunes App Store for games.

Related Links

  1. Interesting and related presentations from Brett Durrett (SlideShare)
  2. TechCrunch: IMVU’s Virtual Cash Cow: Doubling Revenues, Focused On Gaming (Video)
  3. Virtual Worlds News: IMVU Hiring, Anticipates $60M Run Rate

Tweet this posting:

Advertisements

8 Responses to Stanford Media X Event: IMVU’s Online Community

  1. […] Media X Event – Summary of IMVU Presentation from Brett Durrett, VP Engineering at […]

  2. […] an entire virtual world.  Interestingly, at a Stanford Media X event, IMVU noted that they’re “NOT a virtual world“, either.  Chris Platz noted that he refers to the technology as a “real-time 3D collaborative […]

  3. […] virtual world.  Interestingly, at a Stanford Media X event, IMVU noted that they’re “NOT a virtual world“, either.  Chris Platz noted that he refers to the technology as a “real-time 3D […]

  4. […] Stanford Media X Event: IMVU’s Online Community […]

  5. […] an entire virtual world.  Interestingly, at a Stanford Media X event, IMVU noted that they’re “NOT a virtual world,” either.  Chris Platz noted that he refers to the technology as a “real-time 3D […]

  6. […] an entire virtual world.  Interestingly, at a Stanford Media X event, IMVU noted that they’re “NOT a virtual world“, either.  Chris Platz noted that he refers to the technology as a “real-time 3D collaborative […]

  7. […] phenomenon may explain why IMVU is thriving, while other services (e.g. There.com, Google Lively, Vivaty) have folded.  IMVU brings the world […]

  8. David says:

    Imvu is not good, you can often get easily banned, what they called disabled, many have complained of being on there some years, having spent thousands of dollars and suddenly one day they can not access their account.
    Another worrying thing is the amount of accounts that get hacked, so a lot of them claim on the forums. If you complain to much you get banned and later disabled.
    Finally you have no realy safety on there, so despite the minimum age being of 13, anyone young can get access to the site. There is often naked graphic porn images too, which makes it very unsettling given the fact there are young teens on the site. IMVU removes the naked images of men, but often avoids and leaves those of the women, for whatever reason, who knows.
    If I had to rate the site over all, give it 1 out of 10, better ringing them for someone decent to answer you, but then having said that, just given the run around as you are told to take out a ticket on the site, thus one can wait days or weeks, if they respond to you at all.
    As for the offers to get credits, most are a con, surveys all about getting your details off you, to bug you constantly, a serious privacy risk, especially for kids, which it appeals a lot to. And not only that, when you gone through them, often then say sorry at this time not qualified etc. We then have those free things one downloads, and these are often full of spyware or virus.
    For a company making so called millions of dollars now, to not be accountable to even paying customers is truly shocking to say the least.

    ++++++++++
    As a long time user of imvu I feel I need to point out a management flaw in the way the service is run. Instead of fixing long standing existing bugs in the client, they continue to add new features, many that the users scream they do not want. Until imvu gets their act together, it is not a wise investment of anyone’s money. If someone needs to try it out, do not waste any money upgrading to an AP account, the experience is the same. Safety appears to be a secondary concern to imvu also. They have a report for abuse system for the users, but all they ever do is give copy and paste responses to support requests that they obviously have not read. Every time you file a ticket to report abuse and you state all of the steps you have already taken to stop it, they will send you a copy and paste message back telling you to do what you have already stated you have done. They have inadequate age confirmation systems in place, so that children can get access to the more adult portion of the site, and predators can and do easily pose as minors.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: