IMVU is one of those virtual worlds that is constantly being compared to Second Life. IMVU was started in 2004, just one year after Second Life opened its doors to the public. Through the years, there has been a friendly (and sometimes not-so-friendly) rivalry between the two platforms. IMVU folks tend to put down SL, and vice versa.
The biggest difference between the two platforms is that in Second Life, you can move your avatar around freely, whereas in IMVU, you can only have your avatar jump from node to node in a room, where a node may be a pose, an animation, or just a simple place to stand or sit. You can’t move around freely, and it’s one of the reasons I never liked IMVU or got into it, personally.
But apparently, a lot of other people do like it. According to this IMVU FAQ, the platform has over 50 million registered users, 10 million unique visitors per month and three million monthly active users (December 2016 statistics). Those figures would place IMVU behind only Second Life as the second most popular virtual world. (Second Life has 57 million registered user accounts, according to statistics released for their 15th-anniversary celebration.)
One thing that sets IMVU apart from Second Life is that you can also run it on mobile devices (iOS and Android) as well as on the desktop. Being able to access IMVU from your cellphone is a big reason why IMVU is still so popular.
One thing that both Second Life and IMVU do have in common is a creative, healthy avatar fashion market. Here’s a snapshot of my IMVU avatar, which I created late last year on a lark, who has got that whole Miami Vice look going on:
Basically, IMVU is a series of three-dimensional chatrooms. You select a chatroom from the list (e.g. a nightclub) and join in the conversation that is taking place there. That’s really pretty much all there is to it. Here’s an example of a chatroom in IMVU:
(Yes, like Twinity, you have the word “Guest” prefixed to your username unless you pay to become a VIP member. Most people don’t seem to bother.)
Now, you could argue that Second Life is basically a glorified chatroom too, but that omits the many rich subcultures—everything from motorcycle clubs to pro wrestling—that currently exist in SL. I would argue that you can do a lot more in Second Life than just chat!
If you’re interested in exploring IMVU, visit their website and download a client for your desktop or mobile device (you can also run IMVU from your web browser). The company website features an active community forum as well as a blog called IMVU Insider, which covers news and events in the virtual world.