Reminder that virtual worlds start with community not technology

Many friends have asked me recently if I’ve seen Ameba? Apparently it’s a virtual world for older teenagers and young adults in Japan. Other than maybe it’s Japanese cute it isn’t much different from most virtual worlds, except it’s wildly popular. It’s thriving. But how can that be when virtual worlds, outside of MMOs and kid based worlds, are struggling? What’s different about Ameba?

Since Ameba is from Japan I wasn’t able to get much information going straight to the source. But it looks like any other consumer virtual world; you get your own virtual room, can dress up your avatar, even buy virtual goods. What’s so different? Then I learned a little about the history of Ameba, namely that Ameba started as a blogging community long before it started the virtual world piece.

I thought I would introduce Ameblo, the most popular blogging platform in Japan and talk about the culture and features surrounding Ameblo.

One thing my friends always mentioned about Ameba was how vibrant the community was, how whenever you were in world there were new and interesting people to talk with. That’s because they created that community long before adding 3D and the virtual world. Google Lively, like many virtual worlds, tried to create the technology first thinking that it was so cool people would rush to join. That strategy certainly didn’t work for Google Lively. Nor did it work for vSide. The technology doesn’t create the community however cool it is. It’s something we know in Silicon Valley but often forget – it’s not all about the technology.

This column first appeared on Justin Gibb’s blog.'
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