IMVU is a 3D graphical social network that includes instant messaging, games and virtual goods. Users select an avatar to represent who they are while online. It is developed by IMVU, Inc. which is based in Mountain View, California. It has been available since April 2, 2004 on Windows, August 2010 on iOS (Apple iPhone) and in October, 2010 on Mac. IMVU was founded by Will Harvey, a video game developer and founder of There and is now run by CEO Cary Rosenzweig, who was hired in November 2007. It is estimated that IMVU currently generates over $3 million in revenue per month, 90% of which comes directly from the sale of virtual goods.
Basic IMVU access is free, however, users may choose to buy gift cards, or pay with a credit card in order to obtain virtual credits. Free memberships allow users to register a “Guest_” avatar name, make use of the chat service, purchase virtual content and create a personal homepage. Buying your name, which removes “Guest_” from the avatar name and removes non-IMVU advertising, enables additional options such as becoming a content creator and access to additional Forum sections. However, some features require further payment such as access to adult material and the V.I.P to receive a monthly credit allowance as well as free virtual products.
Content creation program
A primary focus of IMVU is the member-developed content; consequently, IMVU actively encourages the members to participate in content creation. Members are able to create and sell virtual products. Developers have access to the IMVU software IMVU Previewer as well as the newly offered Creator Mode located in the 3D client itself are both used in creating and submitting new virtual products, and can sell their products by listing them in the online IMVU product catalog. A member must own his or her name and have enough credits in their account for “derivation” and submission fees in order to become a content creator. IMVU uses its own proprietary Cal3D format consisted of .xcf (eXperimental Computing Facility) subformats. 3D Max7 is the most used Meshing program for IMVU products however, Sketchup and Blender are used by many developers as well.
There are also a lot of derivations from the original product if the original product is left as derivable by the Content Creator. As long as the member, has bought VIP and has had Guest_ removed out of their name (by paying), they can become, a “dev”.
IMVU contains its own economy with a currency system based on IMVU “credits” and “promotional credits.” A third form of currency also exists for members who sell custom made items – “developer tokens,” which are earned when a user purchases an item with “promo credits” also known as “Predits.” Credits can be purchased online using actual currency either directly from IMVU or from third party resellers. Credits may also be purchased on IMVU gift cards available from retail outlets such as department stores. Credits may not be transferred back to IMVU for actual currency but can be sold to registered resellerswho will purchase them for real world currency. The credits are used by members to purchase virtual items like fashion pieces (hair, clothes, skins, and accessories), pets, and 3D scenes such as homes, clubs and open landscapes. Furniture can also be purchased the same way and placed into unlocked rooms, there are also rooms that have some furniture included in them as well as locked rooms that include furniture that can not be removed.
Promotional credits, abbreviated to “promo-credits” or “predits” are a second form of currency that is distributed to members by IMVU, and can be obtained by participating in various “Partner” promotions as well as a few activities the IMVU provides. With relation to a standard free or full member, promo-credits are similar to standard credits. A given number of credits equates to the same number of promo-credits. However, promo-credits cannot be used to purchase items as gifts for other members, and may not be traded back to an IMVU reseller for actual currency. Promo-credits used to purchase a virtual product are exchanged into “Developer Tokens” also known as “Dev Tokens.” The purchase transfers the Predits into Dev Tokens but the value of the Dev Token is not equal to the Predit. This inequality cheats developers out of income by netting only a single developer token per purchase when predits are used regardless of the price of the product purchased.
IMVU allows members that have paid for V.I.P. membership and have had guest_ removed from their username to participate in a ‘Content Creator Program’, which offers participants software utilities for creating custom, virtual, in-client items. They may then sell their items by listing them in an online product catalog. Content creators earn credits when their items are sold and are allowed to resell the credits they earn, though they cannot be resold to IMVU itself. Developer tokens only appear in the instance that a member pays a developer for a custom item, using promo-credits instead of standard credits. Once received by the content creator, promo-credits automatically translate into developer tokens. One developer token is technically worth ten credits, however, developer tokens may only be spent on developer related fees, such as the initial cost that must be paid when putting an item on sale or to buy advertising called a “Shout Out,” which buys the purchaser a certain number of placements in the scrolling ads that appears on the top of all IMVU pages.
Many IMVU users are content creators, creating and selling products in the IMVU catalog. Users also devote time to customizing their individual homepages, setting up public and private rooms, creating and participating in user Groups (similar to forums but personalized via the owner, participate in the Community forums. Additionally, there are numerous user produced third-party websites providing additional forums and resources to the IMVU community. IMVU users also do Peer Reviewing on Virtual Products waiting to be submitted into the IMVU catalog.
IMVU is known as one of the leading practitioners of the Lean Startup approach, releasing code upwards of 50 times per day. They credit their customer base for their ability to respond so rapidly to customer feedback.