Chalk this one up as a new virtual world that gives me the heeby-jeebies. Youniverse World is the newest virtual world to hit the market in beta, and boy, does it raise questions. The fact that it's based in Europe and hawked by an internet army of Eastern Europeans with "trust me" schticks only makes it more disconcerting.
The concept is simple: Youniverse World expands on the successes of Second Life as a commercial world by developing an entire virtual community geared towards providing real world goods and services through an entirely virtual interface. Need a pair of Nikes? Go to Bob's Virtual Nike Store and see if you can catch a deal.
It's a virtual world with entrepreneurs – both small and large – as a primary target. I'll break it down:
Once you're signed up for Youniverse World, which is being billed as a persistent virtual world interpretation of places like MySpace and Facebook, you can become a "tutor." This is basically the same as a Referral I.D., and new users can enter your name in upon joining to be pulled into your community. There is a benefit to this: Youniverse World offers to kick 10% of everything your referrals spend in-world back to you.
According to a poorly-scripted Powerpoint presentation, membership in YW allows for virtual travel worldwide, digital conferencing via avatars, opportunities for "new profit streams" and "multi-level marketing," and a "3D social business network." This is sounding less like Facebook and more like LinkedIn: the Game.
As mentioned, the game is based in the United Kingdom, with all currency using the Euro. Viral marketing has been taken over by a handful of forum-spamming power-users from Latvia and Russia. If you find a "tutor," their profile is likely going to be cyrillic.
4.1 – Member acknowledges that all intellectual
property rights comprised in the Products and Services (including
without limitation, any patent, registered design, copyright, design
right, trade mark, business name, application to register any of the
aforementioned rights…) (“Intellectual
Property Rights”) are…the
property of YOUNIVERSE WORLD
Will commercial culture blossom in Youniverse World when the potential exists for game developers to close down the virtual representation of a brick-and-mortar shop? Would the shop owner have a legal claim for damage to reputation if Youniverse World mistakenly bans them?
Without addressing these problems, it's going to be an awfully small Youniverse.