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Destinations such as Club Penguin and Barbie Girls cater to children and pre-teenagers with their simple user interfaces, basic games, and cartoon graphics.
Other immersive worlds such as Second Life and Habbo Hotel shoot for a broader audience by providing more advanced chat capabilities, more realistic simulations of reality, and tools to design objects and surroundings.
The worlds meant for children are designed with a concern for the safety and security of their users.
However, children and pre-teenagers may also get something entirely different out of virtual hangouts than adults.
While adults are presumably drawn to these services because they provide the opportunity for escapism, younger audiences may treat these products as interactive cartoons and toys.
Others, such as Gaia (“the world’s fastest growing online world hangout for teens”) and Barbie Girls, use sprites (two-dimensional pre-rendered figures) to provide a bird’s-eye view of characters moving around in largely static settings.
Even further down the immersion scale, the “worlds” of certain services such as Cyworld and Neopets are produced simply using HTML images and Flash animations.