Exploring Worlds.com: First Day
I spent today exploring a 3D chat based program called Worlds.com . Established in 1994, Worlds is a place for users to come and chat with one another in a virtual environment largely of their own making. At its height, hundreds of people would interact and chat with one another in environments that ran from simplistic to surreal.
Comparisons to Second Life are almost unavoidable, but it's important to note that Worlds had existed for nearly a decade before Second Life was founded. This puts Worlds in a technological realm prior to Second Life, where the tools available were not quite as robust but the results were still unique. Many environments seemingly embrace and enjoy early limitations of 3d spaces, mostly rendering and fidelity limits.
However, not many users still remain. I was fortunate enough to have joined during a 'trivia day', where users would come in from their disparate worlds to play a game of trivia in the new-user area. I met many long-time users there as well as one man, whose conversation I'll share today. As we stood on a beach made for virtual weddings he talked about his life, interests, and fears. I was honored to be there to hear them and I feel compelled to share some of that with you.
If you'd like to join me in exploring this, just send me a message on facebook, I'm Robert Lorayn. I look forward to seeing you there.
Exploring Worlds.com: Second Day
There weren't many people online when I joined for the second day, nor was my new friend online. In his absence I took it upon myself to do a bit of exploring, starting from the landmarks he gave me the day before.
In my travels I was particularly struck by how tight-knit the community seemed to be. When exploring one world I'd see rooms or pictures devoted to other users, apartment buildings with apartments for friends, or altar-like tribute rooms. Avatars belonging to these other people would be added to rooms for effect and interacting with them would sometimes have them say something, presumably in their usual style of typing. Even after a short visit around a few worlds I got a sense of these people and their personalities, through the way other people saw them and created things for them. It made it all the more poignant when these tributes sat alongside links to their homepages that would no longer load. Their pages running the gamut of earlier 'free hosting' companies like Geocities, Homestead, Angelfire and Tripod. I felt like it was a strange kind of grave, where the avatar and room were as they always were, preserved, but the context and character of their tributes had passed.
One place in particular struck me personally. A library dedicated to a history of Worlds.com's users who specialized in avatar-making. In the words of its creator, "This is my tribute to the Worlds program past, present and future~~ Read the History of Worlds http://members.tripod.com/themindseye4u/worlds_history.html . These are the pioneers in customized avatar design...they brought about an evolution in Worlds Chat."
The page no longer exists, and the Internet Archive has no copy.
I felt a real sadness. I was sad that I had missed it. Missed this. I was online when worlds.com existed and was in its prime, but I'd not heard about it. I felt sad that the history they made for themselves and each other could only be viewed by me as a kind of alien, a different species of avatar from the user that felt compelled to build it. Nevertheless, I intend to explore further.
As always, if you'd like to join me just send me a message on facebook at Robert Lorayn.