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|URL||See current services|
|Slogan||Hangout for teens|
|Type of site||Social networking service|
|Users||230 million (active Feb 2012)|
|Created by||Sampo Karjalainen
UK & Ireland (2001–10)
United States (2004–10)
(See full list)
|Alexa rank||17,026 (August 2012[update])|
Habbo (previously known as Habbo Hotel) is a Finnish social networking service aimed at teenagers. The website is owned and operated by Sulake Corporation. The service began in 2000 and has expanded to include 11 online communities (or "hotels"), with users in over 150 countries. In August 2012, the site opened to users from Turkey. As of August 2011, over 230 million avatars have been registered. There are an average 10 million unique visitors monthly.
In June 2012, a two-month investigation by Channel 4 News uncovered lapses in Habbo's online moderation, which subsequently led to withdrawals from two of the company's biggest investors. In response to the news, Habbo globally muted all chat, and launched The Great Unmute, allowing users to express their views on the company's future, their experiences with Habbo, and their thoughts on the Channel Four News report. Following this, launching The Great Go-Live, Habbo lifted the chat restrictions for Finnish users to allow testing on a new safety system. Chat restrictions were then lifted for users in Brazil and Spain, followed by France, Italy, Germany and the Netherlands. A Parental Advisory Summit also launched, to allow parents and users the chance to answer how Habbo can deliver a safer experience, and influence what content children view on other social media platforms. Restrictions on chat were then lifted in Norway, Denmark and Sweden, and finally in the English hotel on 6 July 2012.
Habbo stemmed from a 1999 hobby project by creative designer Sampo Karjalainen and technologist Aapo Kyrölä entitled Mobiles Disco, for a Finnish band. It was a virtual chat room running on Aapo's Fuse technology. After having been contracted to design a virtual game and chat called Lumisota (Snow Wars) for a Finnish internet service provider, they were contracted for another project. They developed Hotelli Kultakala (eng. Hotel Goldfish) with a small team of developers. It launched in August 2000 on the ISP's web portal.
Aapo, Sampo and Dee Edwards, an entrepreneur from the UK, wanted to create an international business based on the virtual hotel concept, drafting a plan in Autumn 2000 and raised finance. By the end of January 2001, Habbo Hotel had been launched in beta mode. The new hotel exited beta a few weeks afterwards, aimed at the teenage market, with marketing and payment partners in place, run from a HQ in London. It featured a new credits system with community and safety features. The next hotel was launched in Switzerland a few months later, in four languages. It has since been expanded to over 31 countries in five continents, including Hotelli Kultakala in Finland which was made into a Habbo Hotel and has been invested in by venture capitalists.
In May 2006, the service, along with its domain names, were changed from www.habbohotel.com (.co.uk, .com.au, etc.) to www.habbo.com (.co.uk, .com.au, etc.). In August 2007, Habbo's Chinese community closed down temporarily, the first time a Habbo website has closed. The challenging Chinese market and high operational costs led to the decision of closing the service. Customers in China were redirected to other Habbo communities. In December 2008, Habbo's Russian community announced it was closing in February 2009 as a result of low numbers. Those on the site with "furni" (virtual furniture that can be used to furnish rooms in the hotel that are bought with the use of Habbo Credits or Coins, that can be purchased with actual money) have been told they will receive credit codes for use on the USA Habbo community.
In late May 2009, Habbo opened a new beta version of Habbo, with a select group of Habbos acting as beta testers, before launching it officially. In the new version of Habbo, the client uses Flash instead of Shockwave, resulting in a change of hotel interface.
In January 2010, it was announced that Habbo US and Habbo Canada would undergo a merger, to be finalized in April 2010. However, in April 2010, it was announced that all English-speaking hotels will be merged as one. On May 5, the merger for Habbo US and Habbo Canada was complete. On June 2, the Australian site merge was completed. The Singapore site was officially merged on June 4. On June 10, the final Hotel, Habbo UK, was merged and that completed the set, making Habbo.com the only English speaking site.
In February 2012, it was announced that Habbo Hotel will be consolidating some of its manual processes and local operations. In showing the door to 25% of their workforce, Habbo will also close some of their local offices.
Sexual content allegation
On 12 June 2012 concerns about the site were raised by Channel 4 News (United Kingdom). A two-month investigation found users posting pornographic and violent messages – despite the fact that Habbo is intended for young teenagers. A reporter posing as an 11-year old girl claimed that explicit sex chats were common within minutes of logging on to the service, which she described as "very sexual, perverse, violent, pornographic." As a result of the allegations, Sulake immediately suspended all chat on the service. Speaking in a blog post, chief executive of Sulake, Paul LaFontaine, said that the firm "was reviewing the long-term plans for the Habbo community". The chat services were reinstated on June 20. Two leading investors, Balderton Capital and 3i, withdrew their funding from Sulake, and some UK retailers stopped selling Habbo gift cards.
Many activities and features are available on Habbo's website that do not appear in the Hotel itself. The community section of the website features the CEO's Twitter feed & 'Official' Habbo fansites - sites which support Habbo and post news about the website. Recommended chat rooms, popular group pages and user pages and user interest tags are also accessible from the website. The website has seen over five different versions. Over the past three years, the website has become more integrated with the hotel. Before 2006, users logged in on the hotel, now they log in via the website, which links them to the hotel. The website provides information on users' credit balance, safety tips, Habbo Twitter feed and news and updates in Habbo.
This is a feature allowing users to customize their own web page displayed on the website, colloquially named Habbo Home. The web page can be accessed from inside the hotel, and allow for user interaction with the home page of the user, as well as interaction within the Hotel. The web pages are displayed with the user's character appearance and motto. Users can customize their web page with a selection of widgets, stickers and backgrounds. Various widgets, stickers and backgrounds can be purchased with credits to add to the small default range of features.
Users can also download the Habbo toolbar. The Habbo community toolbar allows users to stay on top of what is happening in Habbo, even when they are not there. Powered by Conduit, the community toolbar lets users see their messages, friends, news, and links to groups.
Habbo's main feature is the "Hotel", and consists of a client made using Adobe Flash technologies. The Hotel can be accessed by logged-in users via the Habbo Homepage. When a user accesses the Hotel they are brought to a screen colloquially known as Hotel View. From this screen, members can contact one another via the Habbo Chat, which acts as the main form of communication throughout all areas of the Hotel, and use the Navigator to navigate their way to a chat room. Originally, communication was conducted through the Habbo Console, which was recently replaced by Habbo Chat and by Habbo Mail, which is accessible via the Habbo Homepage.
Public Rooms are rooms which are available to all members. They often depict scenes such as restaurants, cinemas, and dance clubs. Most Public Rooms contain automated robots which shout pre-recorded messages and can give members drinks and food items. Public rooms are designed by Sulake and are not customizable by users. Some rooms used to contain games called Battle Ball, SnowStorm, Wobble Squabble and diving, but these games were removed due to coding issues when they upgraded from Shockwave to Flash.
In June 2011, most Official rooms were removed from the hotel. Bots are now much less commonly seen. The popular games BattleBall and SnowStorm were replaced with Freeze and Battle Banzai to coincide with the new Flash client. By buying certain furni, players can build their own rooms for other players to play these games. In December 2011, SnowStorm made a return to Habbo in the new Flash client.
Guest Rooms are special rooms which users can customize to endless lengths with Habbo Furni, wallpaper and floor patterns, which can be purchased with credits. Users can also choose from a range of room templates that determine what shape the room is. Guest rooms can be created by any member and can be locked to allow access only to specific users or password holder. Many users create their own games in their guest rooms, which give furniture or coins as a prize. These rooms are categorized on the navigator in many categories such as "Trading", "Parties", and "Role Playing". Virtual pets can be bought and kept in Guest rooms. Users can interact with the pets, which will obey certain commands as long as they are kept happy and fed.
Users can access games made by Habbo to earn achievement badges and furniture prizes. The first major games to be introduced into the hotel were Wobble Squabble, BattleBall and SnowStorm. In 2009, all three games were removed in preparation for the hotel's move from the Shockwave to the Flash client. SnowStorm made a return to Habbo in December 2011, and a new Fast Food game was introduced in June 2012. In September 2012, the Habbo Speedway was launched, followed by the Habbo Pix in October 2012.
There were two types of currency on Habbo. Credits (or coins) which are used to buy furniture in the catalogue and Pixels (free currency, you get 10 every 15 minutes) where you can buy effects and 'Hello Furni' (furniture similar to a new user's "starter" furni) Also, seasonally themed currencies (E.g.: "Snowflakes" for Christmas) are given out to players by the hotel for completing certain quests which can then be used to buy seasonal Furni for a short time.
Credits, (also called Coins on some hotels) can be purchased using a variety of different services, such as credit card, a telephone service, a Ukash card and via SMS. They can also be redeemed into Exchange, which displays the Credits as an item of virtual furniture; the furniture can then be traded among users, and redeemed back into Credits. Users can join Habbo Club (HC), which is a premium subscription purchased using Credits. Features of Habbo Club membership include a badge, new selections for a player's avatar, new room designs, and a free piece of furni exclusive to club members every month. In April 2010, a new group called VIP was implemented, which has upgraded many of the features of HC, and costs more credits.
Pixels, now outdated, were introduced in November 2008. Unlike credits, they are not purchased with real money, and cannot be traded in any form. They are given out when users satisfy certain conditions (such as logging in, being friendly, etc.). They can be used to purchase effects for avatars and rent special furniture that causes "effects" in their rooms for a short time. Pixels were removed from Habbo on 25 June 2012.
Habbo’s parent company Sulake employs 225 moderators, tracking some 70 million lines of conversation globally every day, blocking inappropriate users and filtering links to black-listed sites.
Sulake also works with child safety organisations and local police forces to address inappropriate behaviour. Habbo’s moderation and safety systems were recognised as making the service one of the safest social networks in a 2011 European Commission report. Last year Habbo was also awarded the commendation of ‘Safer by Design’ from the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (CEOP). Sulake encourages users to take responsibility for reporting any abuses on the site, providing education and rapid-response support to users who may experience uncomfortable conversations.
As well as working within the Habbo online community, Sulake actively contributes to campaigns like Insafe and Safer Internet Day on relevant user safety issues and collaborates in more than 30 charitable partnerships around the world to educate teens about a wide range of topics including safe internet use, the dangers of drugs, bullying etc. Partners include NSPCC (ChildLine), UNICEF, the Red Cross, Frank, Child Right, Power Child as well as many other market specific organisations.
Automatic moderation exists in Habbo's language filter, the "Bobba Filter", which replaces offensive text with the simple word "bobba". Replacement applies to anything from mild to highly offensive words, phrases, and websites. A feature added on February 27, 2008, enables users to turn the Bobba Filter on and off; with this feature enabled, however, users should not report to moderators any other users who may be using offensive language unless it's harassment of any kind. In December 2010, the word 'bobba' was replaced with the more internationally recognized '*****'.
From August 2000 to 31 December 2005, there existed a program for experienced members of each Habbo community to become a 'Hobba'. Hobbas were non-paid, volunteer moderators with limited powers that acted as Hotel Guides. On December 31, 2005, Sulake suspended the Hobba program due to major security issues and the rapidly growing Habbo community. It was decided that Habbo needed a stronger, more professional moderation team, that would be employees of Sulake. Following requests for the program to be revived, in June 2012, it was announced that modernised Hobbas, called Guardians, would be introduced into Habbo. These users will have limited moderation powers and will be closely monitored to ensure safety is not compromised.
Habbo has been a frequent target for organized raids by Anonymous. The raid was due to the news of an Alabama RV park banning a two-year-old toddler affected by AIDS from entering the park's swimming pool. Users signed up to the Habbo site dressed in avatars of a black man wearing a grey suit and an Afro hairstyle and blocked entry to the pool, declaring that it was "closed due to AIDS," flooding the site with internet sayings, and forming swastika-like formations. When the raiders were banned, they complained of racism.
As a website geared towards teenagers, Habbo often attracts sponsorship from outside entities and organizations. This sponsorship includes visits by musicians (such as The Veronicas, Gorillaz), Skye Sweetnam, Little Birdy, Stephanie McIntosh, Operator Please, Chingy, Evermore, Avril Lavigne, Ashlee Simpson, Dylan and Cole Sprouse, and more recently David Archuleta, Tokio Hotel, The Ting Tings, DJ Ironik, Alesha Dixon, The Take, Same Difference and Eoghan Quigg as well as various corporations. Sulake has also recently teamed up with Fremantle Media, the company that produces American Idol. Contestants that are voted out of the final 12 (final 13 this current season) were invited to the hotel for an interview following their departure from the show. American Idol furniture was also added to the hotel. Habbo has recently sponsored Night at the Museum 2 on Habbo UK releasing the rare "Golden Tablet" exclusively. Habbo AU has recently signed up with wrestling giant WWE holding events to win merchandise and live tickets to shows, featuring wrestler Dave Batista as a guest to Habbo AU.
As Habbo is targeted at teenagers, and 90% of its users are between the age of 13 and 18, it receives much attention from youth organizations, who educate users on many topics.
In November 2001, The Daily Telegraph listed Habbo as a top-10 chat and instant messaging site, describing it as "great-looking" and "proving popular with teenagers." In 2005 and 2006, Habbo Australia received the NetGuide Online Web Award for "Best kids’/youth website". In September 2006, Sulake won Deloitte's Fast 50 competition.
Common Sense Media, a non-profit association advocating for children and families, and studiing the effects that media and technology have on young users, reports that foul talk and sexy chat rooms dominate [this] virtual world, giving it one star on five and don't recommend it for kids of any age.
There are currently 19 websites in operation, serving 30 local communities.
|Country||URL||Opening date||Closing date||Country||URL||Opening date||Closing date|
|Argentina (links to Habbo Spain)||habbo.es||—||—||Bolivia (links to Habbo Spain)||habbo.es||—||—|
|Australia (links to Habbo English due to the Merge)||habbo.com.au||November 2004||June 2, 2010||Malaysia (links to Habbo English)||habbo.com.my||July 2006||—|
|Austria (links to Habbo Switzerland)||habbo.at||May 2006||—||Mexico (links to Habbo Spain)||habbo.com.mx||July 2006||—|
|Belgium (links to Habbo Netherlands)||habbo.be||May 2006||—||Netherlands||habbo.nl||February 2004||—|
|New Zealand (links to Habbo English)||habbo.co.nz||August 2006||—|
|Canada (links to Habbo English due to the Merge)||habbo.ca||June 2004||May 5, 2010||Norway||habbo.no||June 2004||—|
|Chile (links to Habbo Spain)||habbo.cl||July 2006||—||Philippines (links to Habbo English)||habbo.com.ph||October 2008||—|
|People's Republic of China (Closed/Bankrupt)||habbo.cn||July 2006||August 24, 2007||Portugal (links to Habbo Brazil)||habbo.pt||March 2006||—|
|Colombia (links to Habbo Spain)||habbo.com.co||July 2006||—||Russia (used to link to the Habbo English)||habbo.ru||September 2007||February 6, 2009|
|Denmark||habbo.dk||December 2004||—||Singapore (links to Habbo English due to merge)||habbo.com.sg||December 2004||June 4, 2010|
|Ecuador (links to Habbo Spain)||habbo.es||—||—||Paraguay (links to Habbo Spain)||habbo.es||—|
|Finland||habbo.fi||August 2000||—||Spain||habbo.es||September 2003||—|
|France||habbo.fr||November 2004||—||Sweden||habbo.se||December 2003||—|
|Germany||habbo.de||March 2004||—||Switzerland (links to Habbo Germany due to merge)||habbo.ch||August 2001||October 4, 2010|
|Italy||habbo.it||September 2003||—||United States (links to Habbo English due to merge)||habbo.com||September 2004||June 10, 2010|
|Japan (links to English)||habbo.jp||February 2003||April 16, 2009||Venezuela (links to Habbo Spain)||habbo.com.ve||July 2006||—|
|Netherlands||habbo.nl||February 2004||—||UK & Ireland (links to Habbo English due to the merge)||habbo.co.uk habbo.ie||January 4, 2001||June 10, 2010|
|Peru (links to Habbo Spain)||habbo.com.pe||—||—||India (links to Habbo English)||habbo.com||February 2011||—|
|English-language UK & IE, US, CA, AU, NZ, SG, RU, MY, JP and PH merged into one||habbo.com||May 5, 2010||—||Poland (links to Habbo English)||habbo.com||February 2011||January 2012|
|Romania (links to Habbo English)||habbo.com||February 2011||January 2012||Panama (links to Habbo Spain)||habbo.es||—||—|
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