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= mix of business and online community


Charles Leadbeater:

'About the time I was dismissing this opportunity a young English couple were creating a site designed to appeal to bored young teenagers where they could adopt an online pet. Within six months of its launch Neopets had acquired almost half a million users. By 2006 about 30m people, about 80% of them below the age of 17, pets had been created. The average players spends almost three hours a week on the site. Once someone has created their pet, they endow it with skills and characteristics and then set off to engage in battle, take part in competitions, furnish a home or simply socialise. The land these pets inhabit, Neopia, has shops, a stock market and currency. There’s also a weekly paper, the Neopian Times, in which almost all the content is created by the site’s uses. The Neopian Times gets thousands of comic strips a week, poems and stories a week from users who can access it in 11 different languages. The community is not entirely self-organising. The backbone to the site is maintained by a staff of about 130 working in Los Angeles and Singapore. They set a few central rules that help to keep order: pets are not allowed to marry; some posts – about sex or Osama Bin Laden – are ruled out. There is no advertising but instead products are placed around the site. It is an odd mix of community and commerce, fantasy and banality." (