|Web address||See list of websites|
|Slogan||Hangout for teens|
Type of site
|Social networking service|
|Users||278 million (as of August 2012)|
|Created by||Sampo Karjalainen
|Launched||See full list|
|31,389 (April 2014[update])|
Habbo (previously known as Habbo Hotel) is the world's largest Finnish social networking service and online community aimed at teenagers. The website is owned and operated by Sulake Corporation. The service began in 2000 and has expanded to include 12 online communities (or "hotels"), with users in over 150 countries. As of August 2012, over 273 million avatars have been registered with an average 5 million unique visitors monthly. 90% of Habbo's users are between the age of 13 and 18.
Habbo allows users to create their own Habbo character and design hotel rooms, meet new friends, chat with other players, organize parties, look after virtual pets, create and play games and complete quests.
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 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 June 12, 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 2012. Two leading investors, Balderton Capital and 3i, withdrew their funding from Sulake, and some UK retailers stopped selling Habbo gift cards.
In August 2012, Habbo announced its new hotel, Habbo Turkey, fully localised for Turkish-speakers. The then CEO of Sulake, Paul LaFontaine comments, “We’re thrilled to announce we have launched in Turkey. This is a very important market for us and we expect Habbo Hotel to be a big success there, with many teenagers joining to converse with friends, meet people with similar interests and enjoy access to the global Habbo Hotel network. Our launch in Turkey is the next big step on our global roadmap.”
In May 2014, Sulake released a Habbo application for the iPad for App store worldwide.
Various pieces of information are on Habbo's website that do not appear in the Hotel itself. The community section of the website features the official Habbo social media feed as well as a page for the 'Official' Habbo fansites - sites which support Habbo and post news about the website. Safety tips, the 'Habbo Way', Parents Guide as-well as staff-written articles also appear on 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.
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.
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/Landing View. From this screen, members can navigate to rooms via the Navigator and browse the rooms of the hotel, look for items to buy in the catalogue, read user-made stories on the Habbo Stories widget, private message friends on their Habbo friends list or enter their preset Home room.
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 tips 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. 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.
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 pre-made room templates, or create their own. 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 and bots can be bought and kept in Guest rooms. Users can interact with the pets and program bots, which will obey certain commands you throw at them.
Users can create their own games in Habbo by buying furniture from the shop - from Puzzle Boxes to ice skating to football. Users can build an ice rink, Battle Banzai arena, or even an never ending maze. Users can also check out the Hotel's Navigator and select the Games & Mazes category under the Rooms tab to play in other peoples user-created rooms hosting games like Battle Banzai, Freeze, Ice Tag, and more!
There are 3 main types of currency on Habbo. Credits (or coins) which are used to buy furniture in the catalogue and Duckets (free currency earned by completing achievements such as logging in X days in a row) which enables users to buy effects and 'Rentable furni' (furniture to decorate rooms for a period of time, before it is then removed). Diamonds are used to buy rewards such as exclusive furniture items or Habbo Club and are gained by buying credits (1 diamond for every credit you buy). As well as that, seasonally themed currencies (E.g.: "Snowflakes" for Christmas) are given out to players by staff 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 prepaid 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 clothes and outfits for a player's avatar, more friends on your friends list, the ability to create groups, and a free piece of furni exclusive to club members every month.
Duckets are part of a new Habbo currency which were introduced in February 2013. Users earn Duckets by completing certain achievements and quests.
The Duckets currency can be used to purchase effects, room promotions, rentable furniture and even as far as pets to enhance the style of rooms with wallpaper, flooring and landscapes.
Diamonds are a new currency on Habbo. It was introduced in early July 2014. Diamonds are received through purchases of Credits with real money. Diamonds are used to buy Habbo Club, buy rare furniture items or they can be redeemed for credits in furniture form.
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 organizations and local police forces to address inappropriate behavior. Habbo’s moderation and safety systems were recognized as making the service one of the safest social networks in a 2011 European Commission report. In 2011, 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.
Users in Habbo can report users breaking the Habbo Way (the set of rules on Habbo that everyone must obey) by clicking on the offending avatar and clicking report then highlighting the offending pieces of chat. Users can also ignore the user by clicking on them and pressing ignore, this will block every action and chat line that comes from that user into your view.
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.
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 modernized 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.
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 has been a frequent target for organized raids by Anonymous. In 2006, unsubstantiated rumors began circulating on 4chan boards regarding allegations of racist conduct by Habbo moderators and arbitrary banning of players with darker-skinned avatars. As a result, 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, Jamelia, Akon, 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 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 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. Most recently, Habbo has associated itself with the company DitchTheLabel which hosts various anti-bullying sessions on Habbo
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 studying 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. In 2009, Habbo won the Most Innovative Launch Campaign 2009 in The Media Guardian Innovation Awards.
There are currently 9 websites in operation, with as many as 12 up until 29 April 2015. This date saw the closure of the Danish, Norwegian and Swedish language hotels, having been in operation from December 2004, June 2004 and December 2003 respectively.
|English-language||habbo.com||May 5, 2010|
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