Tuesday, 2 March 2010

There.com to Close Down!

Founded in 1998 by Will Harvey and Jeffrey Ventrella, and having suffered a major restructuring in 2004 that resulted in huge layoffs, There.com has finally succumbed and announced it is to close its doors forever on the 9th March.

There.com was always a bit too cartoony for me, but I know a lot of peoople enjoyed it, and it had over 1 million members.

In addition to customizing their avatars, members could create their own objects, such as clothing, vehicles, buildings and furniture, and sell them to others for use in the world, and was a direct competitor to Second Life.

There.com took copyright very seriously and every object created went through a rigorous submission procedure to insure its accuracy as well as compliance with international copyright laws.

The official announcement was as follows:

There.com is closing on March 9th, 2010

In 2003, There.com was launched as a 3D Immersive Virtual World for everyone.

Unlike other products, There was designed from the beginning to be a welcoming and comfortable place for everyone - not just gamers, not just people over 18, not just people with high end computers, and not just people on broadband. This principle extended far beyond just the technology: for example it led to our submissions review system, which ensured that user generated content didn't infringe on existing brands, or even other member's content. To that, we added socialization tools including 3D avatar chat, clubs, events, activity flags, card games, quests, virtual commerce, kinetic games such as paintball, buggies, and, of course, hoverboards. While many of these things sound commonplace today, in 2003 we were arguably one of the first places to "put it all together" in one package.

But all of that was just a big stack of technology and hardware. It was when we added people - our members - to There.com that it actually came to life. Through you, There has been known as a vibrant, welcoming place for people to come and meet other people, have fun, create, or just hang out. Over the years, millions of folks have passed through our doors, each of you bringing something new and different to There.com, and, hopefully, taking a little bit of the fun with you back into your "real life".

By adding developers to There, we made it possible for the world to becomes millions of time more interesting and creative than it possibly could have been otherwise. Of course, the talented artists and modelers at There created an amazing world to start with, but it was your content - clothes, vehicles, accessories, buildings, lawn furniture, gnomes, snowmen, etc, etc, etc - which really helped bring the world to life, and make There the special place it is today.

Finally, to this mix, we added brands, which had a lasting and important impact on There.com. We can't list them all here, but names like Coca-Cola, CosmoGirl, Bebe, K-SWISS, and SPIN all brought their own products and influence to the world, which in turn made it an even more interesting place for people to be.

We believe that all of this together made a world which was, well, like "real life", with just the right level of unreality thrown in. Standards for speech, interaction, avatar dress, and even the amount of "blood and gore" were pretty much what you'd expect in the real world, and we believe that it's one of the many things which made There special, accessible, and attractive to people from all over the United States and the world -- not just the privileged with high-end machines and broadband connections.

Unfortunately, this also meant that There.com's customers were hardest hit by the recession, and, so was There. While our membership numbers and the number of people in the world have continued to grow, there has been a marked decrease in revenue, which, in these economic times, is no surprise.

Throughout the last year and this quarter, we have fought the good fight by churning out new features and revisions as fast as we possibly could. Our hats have to go off to the team, which have in a very short time introduced a whole new suite of casual games, a completely new foundation for our user interface, improved internal efficiencies for the product, real estate, a whole new level of Community Involvement, etc, etc. On top of that, we've revised our first user experience several times, making the whole process for registering and getting into the world (and continued to be amused when the same features appeared in other worlds).

But, at the end of the day, we can't cure the recession, and at some point we have to stop writing checks to keep the world open. There's nothing more we would like to avoid this, but There is a business, and a business that can't support itself doesn't work. Before the recession hit, we were incredibly confident and all indicators were "directionally correct" and we had every reason to believe growth would continue. But, as many of you know personally, the downturn has been prolonged and severe, and ultimately pervasive.

We're very sorry to announce that There.com will be closing to the public at 11:59 PM on March 9th, 2010.

We'll be closing registration, billing, and member program upgrades immediately.

Developer submissions are closed effectively immediately.

Rental processing will be stopped, so no more rent will be collected for neighborhoods, lots, or There homes.

Paintgun refills will be free.

Portazone refills will either be free, or we'll "stop the clock" on Portazone minutes. We'll sort that out in the next day or so.

All purchases of Therebucks and member program updates made between midnight Pacific Standard Time February 1, 2010 and 11:00 AM Pacific Standard Time on March 2, 2010 will be refunded in full. Purchases made via PayPal or Credit Card will be refunded automatically. Purchases made via PayByCash or the Ultimate Game Card will need to follow the procedure outlined in the F.A.Q. to get your refund.

We will attempt to continue a Therebucks buyback for developers as we have been. If you are a There Developer, and have Therebucks you'd like us to buy back, please follow the procedure in the F.A.Q. to request a buyback.

It's been our privilege to play a small part in making the place that was There.com, and for that we thank you. We know that There will continue to live in our hearts and minds, and hope it does in yours, too.

Michael Wilson
CEO, There.com
A sad day indeed.