Sometimes, reporting startup news can make a person feel old. Case in point: Woozworld, the virtual world maker for tweens, is launching a social networking service called WoozIn, which I’m saying with a straight face. I swear. WoozIn. It’s essentially a Facebook-lite/virtual world mashup that allows prepubescent youth to share, comment and like their friends’ updates, pictures, videos and more, while also meeting the protections dictated by the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA).
Yeah, WoozIn. Add me on WoozIn. Friend me on WoozIn. I’ll WoozIn…oh dear. Let’s not use it as a verb, shall we?
Silly names aside, the virtual world maker is notable for the fact that it raised $6 million this summer from Telesystem and iNovia Capital along with unnamed angel investors, and also has Bernard Gershon, former general manager and senior vice president of Disney, sitting on the startup’s board.
It’s seeing fairly good traction too. Woozworld now has over 15 million unique visitors per month from over 180 countries. The users have created over 8 million avatars and 16 million virtual spaces, and play for an average of 50 minutes per day. (Take that, Facebook). ”Uniques” is not the same as registered users, however, but the user count is now at 8.5 million+. And the number of users has tripled in the last 10 months. So as the kids say, Woozworld is blowin’ up. (Wait, do kids still say that?)
With the addition of the new social networking aspect to the service dubbed “WoozIn,” tweens and young teens (ages 9-14) can now create a virtual identity that allows them to connect with others while also showing off their achievements and virtual spaces. (For those unfamiliar with Woozworld, users build businesses or set up restaurants, hotels and games as they choose).
“Basically, we are melding a virtual world and social network – it’s like Facebook meets Second Life,” explains Woozworld CEO Eric Brassard. Users don’t post actual photos, though – just pictures of their avatar and the things they’ve built. But they get to test the social networking waters through posts to their “WallZ” and messages from their “FriendZ” about the hot “TopicZ” of the day. These hot TopicZ are selected by the company itself, to keep things tween-friendly. With parental permission, however, users can post YouTube videos to their walls, which could provide a loophole for more personal sharing.
The COPPA compliance, common to sites targeting children, like Club Penguin, Neopets, Webkinz, etc., is nothing unexpected, but it’s worth noting.
Previously in beta, the new social networking service officially rolls out on Tuesday here on www.woozworld.com.