In an economy that's down, what's a sure way to make money? Well, there are several recession-proof industries that tend to make it through tough times, like movies, weddings and even cosmetics, but one new type of service that we might add to the list is, oddly enough, social media. Web surfers seem to be flocking to Web sites for escape and entertainment in games and online socialization, especially ones that highlight fun and self-expression.
One Web site in particular, WeeWorld, has proven that teens, or at the very least the parents of teens, are willing to spend money on online goods. While other businesses have struggled during the recession, WeeWorld's numbers have soared [source: Virtual World News]. The site also claims to have more than 26 million unique visitors, a number that's continuing to grow.
So what is WeeWorld? WeeWorld is an online community that does several things at once. It's essentially a social networking avatar service, where users go to create digital versions of themselves, inhabit a virtual world, make friends and chat with friends new and old, "shop" for gifts and personal items for their avatar, play online video games and earn points. Members can also use their personal avatars across other Web sites that support WeeWorld; it can be something as simple as a e-mail signature, where the image of your avatar is added alongside your name, e-mail address and phone number or the service can post your avatar onto other social networking Web sites like MySpace and import information as you update your status.
Originally WeeWorld was meant simply as an avatar design service. Users would design cartoon characters called WeeMees, and the objective was to design a cartoon character of yourself (or of someone completely different, if you decided to take on a new personality). If you've ever used an application to create your own personal "Simpsons" character, that's a close approximation of the way WeeWorld began. Actually, many people claim the cartoon WeeMees bear a resemblance to the animated characters in the television program "South Park" from Comedy Central.
So how does WeeWorld work?
To get started in WeeWorld, users visit the site's home page. In fact, you can start making your personal WeeMee avatar right there -- a big blue button that says "Create a WeeMee" begins the process. Users can choose their WeeMee's gender, skin tone and eye color. Avatars start off bald, but the introductory page lets you pick from several different hairstyles. You can also select a particular facial expression to begin: You can either stick with the generic happy face all WeeMees have in the beginning or go with a host of others, including sad, angry, confused, surprised, neutral and many others. And if you want to cover up your WeeMee's underwear, users can look through clothes like T-shirts, polo shirts, jeans and sneakers and put together an initial outfit.
Of course, users aren't locked into these initial choices -- it's possible to change your WeeMee's features later on, depending on your mood. For instance, if one day you're feeling a little glum, selecting a sad face might fit; a mischievous day, on the other hand, might merit a crooked smirk.
After you finish selecting all of your character's basic physical features, you'll be brought to another screen where you'll be asked to officially create a profile. The site requires the usual information, including first and last name, personal username, password, e-mail address, birthday, country and ZIP code.
Once you're done, it's time to explore. You can change your WeeMee's appearance as often as you like, create and edit your WeeMee's room, look for friends or wander around the virtual WeeMee world. WeeWorld, in beta form, is where the game shares a lot in common with other online communities like Second Life and Zwinky. You control your WeeMee avatar in a video game-like interface, interacting and chatting with other WeeMee users along the way.
There are several different places to go in WeeWorld, and each has its own function; we'll talk about that on the next page.
Benefits of WeeWorld
One benefit of WeeWorld is that, initially, using the service is free. If all you want to do is chat with friends online and play games, you don't have to pay anything. Many of the clothes, room furnishings and decorations and other items are also free to users. This allows people to put together an avatar and interact with other users.
However, some of the premium items, such as fancier clothes and more impressive hairdos, cost points. There are two types of points in WeeWorld: green points and gold points. They accumulate near the top of your WeeMee's page, and they're shaped in the form of a diamond. So, what's the difference between green and gold points? Green points are earned -- you can either rack them up by playing games on the site or simply earn them by exploring WeeWorld. For example, just bouncing around from page to page can earn you one point at a time. Gold points, on the other hand, are points you purchase with real money. This is merely an easier way to get points if you want to adorn your WeeMee with fancy items sooner rather than later. There's even a subscription service, where users can pay to get gold points.
Another feature that might be useful to members is the Export section of the site. This feature allows WeeWorld users to "export" their WeeMee avatars into other Web sites and services, particularly social networking sites. It's possible to export images of WeeMees into online communities like blogs and instant messaging services, e-mail signatures and mobile phones, too. To do this, members simply have to click on the "Export" button on the top navigation bar, and the site provides you with the specific code -- all you have to do is copy and paste the code snippet onto sites that accept WeeWorld. WeeWorld is compatible with several sites, but some of the best-known include AOL Instant Messaging (AIM), Windows Live Messenger, Skype, MySpace and Vringo. On top of that, users can even show off their WeeMee avatar on real-world physical objects like T-shirts, buttons and badges. WeeWorld uses an application programming interface (API), which makes it possible for the service to work smoothly with other ones. The moment you edit and save an appearance trait on WeeWorld, that information should instantly update across all other sites on which you've imported your WeeMee. So, if you decided to give your avatar a moustache, for instance, that information should update quickly on your MySpace page -- if that's where you've exported it.
For more information about WeeWorld, social networking and other related topics, follow the links on the next page.
Related HowStuffWorks Articles
- Kee, Tameka. "WeeWorld To Brands: Come And Play." MediaPost Publications. Oct. 5, 2007. (July 20, 2009) http://www.mediapost.com/publications/index.cfm?fa=Articles.showArticle&art_aid=68691
- Ostrow, Adam. "WeeWorld Opens API, Because Avatars Want Data Portability Too." Mashable.com. April 24, 2008. (July 20, 2009) http://mashable.com/2008/04/24/weeworld-api/
- Roush, Wade. "No Recession in WeeWorld: Teen Socializing Drives Growing Virtual Goods Revenues." Xconomy.com. May 14, 2009. (July 20, 2009) http://www.xconomy.com/boston/2009/05/14/no-recession-in-weeworld-teen-socializing-drives-growing-virtual-goods-revenues/
- Virtual Worlds News. "WeeWorld Survey: Teens Still Willing to Spend." July 7, 2009. (July 20, 2009) http://www.virtualworldsnews.com/2009/07/weeworld-survey-teens-still-spend-girls-are-major-influencers-.html
- WeeWorld.com. (July 23, 2009) http://www.weeworld.com