Active Worlds


For our latest Wednesday Gridstalking, Merry and I set out for ActiveWorlds.

I’m going to apologize in advance, because five whole, long, busy days have passed since we went into ActiveWorlds, and, to tell the truth, this afternoon I couldn’t remember the name of the world. I called it Alphaworld or some such. Maybe I’m that old. Maybe we only spend about 2 hours in a world, so we never get past the stage of trying to find our shoes. Maybe, because many of these worlds don’t have a Mac version, I have to use the PC in the living room, which is regularly invaded by leprechauns demanding to try the world for themselves, and asking if there are motorbikes.  Or maybe, just maybe, it wasn’t all that memorable. Read on and judge for yourself.

Activeworlds has a very small download, basically a sort of internet viewer that works in the 3-D world. Its fast to download, open, and voila! You are rezzed in the “immigration” area, which feels like a nice bus station, complete with soothing background music. Everyone starts out as a “tourist,” with a Hawaiian shirt clad avatar to match. For a small fee you can upgrade to a “citizen,” which gives you the functionality you really need to operate in a virtual world, such as keeping a friends list, teleporting places and people, etc. Hopefully, becoming a citizen also gives you an inventory, because I didn’t seem to have one.

I did, however, have the ability to customize my avatar quite extensively, and I ditched the tourist garb in favor of a neutral shirt and pants, as did Merry.  They were very neutral, as we didn’t feel like taking the time to select a color for each of our body and clothing parts. We were anxious to get out and explore the world! So Merry and I were grey people for the duration of our time in Activeworlds.

Merry :

Activeworlds ( has got to be the oldest surviving virtual worlds in existence and the sheer size of it’s flagship Alphaworld speaks volumes; it’s over 400 square kilometers in size (no sims here). ActiveWorlds can trace it’s roots back to 1994 when Ron Britvich created WebWorld in his spare time.

A user can enter the world for free as a ‘tourist’ which gives you a basic but usable avatar and also some basic rights. For a small monthly fee you can up your membership to ‘citizen’ which gives you the right to unlimited access to hundreds of virtual worlds, Reserve a unique citizen name for your use (as a tourist, your name is not yours to own), build and own property in any of the many worlds open for building , your property remains under your control and ownership, and cannot be deleted by other users which can happen when you are a tourist, send telegrams and files to other citizens (private messages), locate and join other citizens anywhere in Active Worlds and use Voice Over IP to talk to other users in real time.

ActiveWorlds appears to make it’s living from hosting and creating ‘worlds’ for users to rent from them; these start at 4,000 metres square to an amazing 4 million metres in size, mind boggling to those of us who use 256 metre square sims. And that is thier small offering, the universe servers can, in theory be unlimited in size.

But enough history, let’s go roaming.

The ActiveWorlds viewer is a paltry 8Mb in size, and can run in a webpage or standalone so  it takes no time at all to dive right in.

The starting point for a visitor is an airport like room, very spacious with rooms off to the sides with tutorials and information pasted to the walls. But the first thing that his me was the awful tongue-in-cheek avatar they land you with as default;


Yep, that’s me. Note the hourglasses in the background, that’s how objects are ‘placed’ before they resolve into objects, which is neat.

A mouse across the toolbar tells you that custom avatars are available, and judging by the other avatars available, they don’t look too bad;


Although selecting the custom avatar menu item is a bit of a shock


However, after finding the right button you can customise your look, and here’s how your heroes looked after working their way through the drop down menus that come up. Interestingly, the ‘look’ of the avatar is saved on your local machine, in fact neither Jodi or I could find a personal inventory at all.


The blue and green teleports behind us are for tourist use. One of the constraints to tourists is that they can’t go to any world, only those that are open to them.

So which one to look at first? After much discussion we plumbed for a ‘fantasy’ world created by one of the residents.


Although quite pretty, the world seemed crude when compared to some of the modern worlds we have been to before. This carriage looked the part but you couldn’t sit in it or ride around.


But ActiveWorlds, like Blue Mars does use robot avatars and has special scripts which enable them to act as greeters or do nothing, like these two.


Most of ActiveWorlds builds appears very square, mostly right angles and no curves – the only place that bucks the trend being the start area. But with a little imagination and good use of textures, it can still look quite stunning.


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