Mindspark plans to relaunch Zwinky this fall as a browser-based virtual world, according to new Mindspark Senior Vice President and General Manager Mike Goslin. Alongside the new Zwinky, Mindspark is launching a new division called Mindspark Worlds that will develop a portfolio of new virtual world products designed to appeal to users outside of Zwinky's core demographic.
The technology change for Zwinky is part of an ongoing trend away from requiring users to install clients or other software in youth virtual worlds. Goslin describes it as part of a general update to the service designed to make it easier to use and emphasize virtual goods as a revenue stream. He says that it was getting difficult to update the world with new content due to the sheer age of the Flash-based Zwinky client.
The new version of Zwinky will feature an expanded feature set, including a new user interface and the ability for users to create their own virtual goods. Goslin says it's part of a move to try and empower creativity in the Zwinky userbase, though details about how the user-generated content would work could not be disclosed. Going forward, Goslin also expects to see the revamped Zwinky sell branded virtual goods and engage in charity drives.
Zwinky launched in 2006 as part of IAC's FunWebProducts devision. Like other products in the divsion, Zwinky generated revenue by requiring users to install a browser toolbar that created a search box for Ask.com. By 2007, the FunWebProducts division was generating $100 million a year through ad revenue generated by users typing Web search queries into the Ask.com toolbar. In August of 2007 Zwinky served over 8 million registered users. Goslin could not disclose how many users Zwinky serves as of this writing, but hopes to grow the virtual world through the browser-based relaunch.
The Zwinky relaunch is expected to go live this fall, with more new features expected to roll out over the course of the next several months after that. Mindspark Worlds is already live, with an official announcement of the platform expected later this week. Goslin says that he plans to work with some talent he worked with in previous jobs to create new game, virtual world, and casual MMO experiences on the platform.
Prior to joining Mindspark, Goslin was a social gaming enterpreneur and Vice President of Virtual Worlds at Disney Interactive Media. There Goslin oversaw the development of Disney's portfolio of youth virtual worlds. Projects overseen by Goslin include Pixie Hollow, Pirates of the Caribbean Online, Toontown Online, and The World of Cars Online.
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