The Technology Behind IMVU: Web Services and REST

Interested in some advanced-level reading that discusses engineering and web technology like REST, web services APIs, and the internet scale issues behind their implementation?

At IMVU’s engineering blog, senior staff engineer Bill Welden discusses the technology behind our web services, which deliver the vast amount of assets and information needed to allow our customers to connect with each other, in real time, in the IMVU experience.

First in a series.

 

IMVU Turns September Into GIFTEMBER!

End of summer fun, back to school routines, and seemingly still too far away holiday season can bring one down during September. This year, IMVU’s team of product managers and engineers decided to make September a month to remember for its community members! A cross-functional brainstorming and planning session shaped into a new project – GIFTEMBER! -a 30-day celebration full of community events, contests, exclusive promotions, and of course gifts. Two fast-paced and intense weeks of design, coding, and testing work made this a reality on September 1st!

Its been barely a week and the fun is just getting started! IMVU customers have already enjoyed log in gifts, discounts in the Credit store, and a wildly popular Back To School themed party inside multiple 3D chat rooms. The highlight of the month is multiple day of our new “Give a Gift & Get a Gift” feature, where two sets of products have been created so that our customers can choose one friend to give that day’s free gift and in return get a free gift for themselves. Doing so on all days will complete their collections – a beach resort and a space club!

There are many more days remaining in the month and our customers have been invited to join us every day – those who do have an extra-special surprise in waiting for them on September 30th.

Here’s to Giftember!

Hack Nights & Hack Weeks = Happy IMVUers & Happy Customers

  • Food, drinks, music, and fun?
  • Bunch of engineers and non-engineers huddled together late into the night?
  • Everyone collaborating and working on something that they are passionate about – but not necessarily part of their ongoing planned project work?

Yes, yes and yes!

Must be another “mini” hack night at IMVU. There was one that took place just a few days ago as captured in these photos.

Hack nights, weekends and hack weeks are a routine and an integral part of IMVU’s work culture. They can involve several folks across multiple teams or a smaller group of individuals coming together to develop a specific idea. However, they are ALWAYS fun, productive and often result in customer-facing features such as Badge Canvases,  custom lists for closets, and Shop Together to name just a few.

Of course, “hack weeks and hack nights” have become a staple of the Silicon Valley start-up company culture. What makes the IMVU ones different is the participation from non-coders including executives, designers, marketers, customer service representatives and more.

Projects worked on during these self-organized hacking sessions can be strategic, technical, creative, or quite forward-thinking and visionary. They may end up in a customer-facing change the very next day, continued on as a regular project for a team,  or get filed under the “what happens in a hack night, stays in a hack night” category!

People at IMVU love these hack sessions as they give all of us an opportunity to work on ideas that we feel can benefit our customers – internal or external. It is also an opportunity for people who are not part of the same team to collaborate and work together. People enjoy taking a break from their longer-running projects to work on something different that they personally believe in.

Often though it is our customers that benefit the most – from bug fixes and removal of nagging hurdles in the path of full enjoyment of IMVU, to features and changes that are requested by them.

Let the hacking (the good kind) continue!

 

IMVU Summer Blood Drive

One of the “perks” IMVU employees get to enjoy is a regularly scheduled blood drive right in our parking lots. A couple days ago, we at IMVU had a chance to donate blood during our Summer Blood Drive. Donating blood is a worthy cause in itself and thanks to employers like IMVU it is easy to do when those well-equipped blood mobiles come to us right here to our offices.

IMVU partners with the Stanford School of Medicine Blood Center, so we can ‘get on the bus’ to donate for a good cause.

Bloodmobile1

Did you know that most people who are at least 17 years old, weigh at least 110 pounds, and are in good health are eligible to donate? Find out more by visiting national resources like the Red Cross or your local blood bank.

IMVU’s CEO Accepts The Ice Bucket Challenge

IMVU’s CEO – Brett Durrett – joined the Ice Bucket Challenge (#IceBucketChallenge) phenomenon ( that has gone viral – and making a big splash in raising awareness about ALS Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gehrig’s Disease).

Today, right in front of our offices here in Mountain View, CA, Brett got a bucket with 42 lbs worth of ice (plus water) dumped on him. Brett not only accepted the challenge but also donated to this very worthy cause. He has now challenged Eric Ries, Shawn Carolan and Tom Ball to do the same within the next 24 hours.

A picture (or in this case a video) is worth a 1000 words so here you go:

Take on the challenge, raise awareness and donate at: http://www.alsa.org/

UPDATE: By popular demand from our community members who wanted the same IMVU shirt that Brett was sporting in this video, we have now made virtual versions available! All proceeds from their sales will go to ALS organization. Get more details here.

 

 

 

 

Mobile Payments from Over 80 Countries

Our customers love IMVU because they get to meet people from around the world and make connections. The “from around the world” is literally 100s of countries and our global community continues to grow every day. We look for ways to support our international customers including offering them multiple ways to purchase Credits and other services from us to they can enjoy their IMVU experience fully. The ever-popular mobile phones offer an easy way for customers to make payments while on the go and from anywhere in the world as long as they have a phone.

We have been offering SMS and home phone payments to our customers for many years and. keep working with our partners to expand our reach. In February alone, we added 10 new countries to our list including Kuwait, Dominican Republic, Chile, Kosovo, Costa Rica and Morocco.

Want to know which countries are supported for phone payments? Just visit the phone purchase page and check out the complete list of countries as well as the Credit packages available for each country.

Community Spotlight – The January Edition

WHO IS ON IMVU?

By Varsha, Community Manager @ IMVU

I have been witness to IMVU’s progress as its community manager for the last four years. One question that I am often asked is who are the people behind the variety of avatars? Does the creative, avatar-based dress up and social chat experience that we offer appeal to only certain types of people? Is there a label I can put on those who make IMVU a vital part of their lives?

I directly talk to a lot of our customers or read their posts in our community forums. It is always an exciting, enjoyable, and educating experience.. Behind every avatar is a unique person representing a broad spectrum of cultures, faiths, values, languages, interests, hobbies, education levels, careers, ages, lifestyles, socio-economic backgrounds, and family lives. Every single IMVU user is unique and yet they all share one thing in their lives – IMVU.

We have amongst us – artists, musicians, dancers, writers, actors, role-players, romantics, adventurers, gamers, shoppers, entrepreneurs, interior decorators, and party animals. Some are introverts and escape to a quiet chat room in IMVU while others seek to make new friends from all over the world on a daily basis. Some are almost 24/7 on IMVU while others use it as brief and much needed respite from their daily routines. Some are here to put together the most amazing avatars and chat rooms while others are here to sell their own creations as a source of income. Some spend time with their real-life families inside IMVU and maintain the connections when they are physically separated while others form virtual families in IMVU with people they will never meet in real life. Some enjoy IMVU as a casual game while others form deep and meaningful friendships and romantic relationships which can extend into real life.

I am thankful to be a part of an experience that offers fun, comfort, a creative outlet and friendships to such a wide audience!

So my original question was who is behind an IMVU avatar? And, I have the answer – EVERYONE!

 

2013 by the Numbers: IMVU’s Year in Review

Over 3.8 billion chat room visits, more than 450 million friendships, a little over 145 million outfits, 5.4 million plus product creations, and in excess of 165 million product purchases! Yes, this is IMVU by the numbers..

During 2013 alone our community had a very impressive combined total of:

  • 3,885,465,147 chat room visits
  • 452,783,931 friendships
  • 405,938,368 badge grants
  • 271, 321,328 saved photos
  • 163,435,602 virtual product purchases
  • 145,734,844 outfit creations
  • 30,045,348 gifts
  • 5,420,024 catalog product additions

2013 for us and our customers was filled with new features, improved experiences, added platforms, awesome parties, fast friendships, romantic weddings, artistic creations, glamorous outfits, engaging chat conversations, and of course fun!

IMVU team was busy throughout 2013 launching brand-new ways for our customers to engage with our service and improving their experience. We launched our IMVU2Go app – already popular on iOS devices – for increasingly popular Android devices. We offered Daily Login Rewards to users new to IMVU so they can get to know IMVU a bit better. In response to all the stories we heard and continue to hear about people finding meaningful connections on IMVU, we launched the Marriage Package. Tens of thousands of couples have expressed their true love and commitment to each other by getting married on IMVU and celebrated their union with their friends and families. Many of our customers wanted to share the experience of decorating and managing their chat rooms – as roommates, best friends or partners. We responded recently with our new Shared Room package which allows them to do just that. Now, we sit back and enjoy all the friendships that are getting stronger thanks to this feature.

For our long-standing customers, we made sure their IMVU experience was enhanced with performance improvements to private chats, a conversation style messaging system to keep the dialog going, and new look-and-feel for public chat rooms complete with a newly themed section to showcase the best and diverse rooms for the general community. Many more projects are in the works to allow our community members to enjoy what they love – shopping with friends, collecting and displaying badges and chatting.

Of course, like every other service that caters to such a vast and global audience using an enormous infrastructure, we had a few bumps along the way. Our biggest challenge lasted a few weeks during May and June with a series of malicious attacks on our Internet services which in turn caused service outages. Our team worked day and night to not only restore our service for our customers but also put in measures to prevent such situations from affecting them again. In November, we had a major database failure – entirely due to technical reasons and not due to any external factors – which caused about 10% of our customers to lose access to all the information in their accounts. Again, our team rallied to work 24/7 to restore full service for those affected users.

We are grateful to our community members who supported us through the outages and participated in many in-world events with our team members. We had a blast hosting day long parties to celebrate Mardi Gras,  LGBT Pride Month, Halloween, Small Business Saturday, and Ugly Sweater Themed Winter Holiday. MIngling and chatting with our customers is an inspiration for us and plans are underway for more such events in the new year.

2014 is off to a great start and we are working on ways to make IMVU the ultimate place where people can hang out with their current friends and make new ones. Making this fantastic experience available to everyone – no matter where they are or what device or platform they are on – is our goal and we are marching toward it full speed.

We are thankful for our millions of new and future customers and are looking forward to being a special part of their lives not just in 2014 but for many more years to come.

We also want to congratulate our top-ranking customers who showed us how much they truly love IMVU! These most-engaged customers from 2013 chatted the most, were the friendliest, were most generous or most productive!

We salute:

  • “Shopping Queen” BellezzaRaven – Purchased over 25,000 products from our Shop
  • “Shutterbug” Honeybearblueeyes – Captured over 20,000 photos
  • “Chatterbox” EmpsBaikenSeshinoAoi – Had over 17,000 chats
  • “Best Friend” Llion54 – Made more than 60,000 friends
  • “Creating Machine” Nevoir – Submitted over 10,000 products
  • “Bestseller” Whims – Had over a million catalog sales

Happy 2014….

Community Spotlight – The December Edition

IMVU ended year 2013 with a blast – with brand-new features, parties with its community members, and a gift-laden countdown to the New Year! December is the month to celebrate the holidays, spend time with family and friends, enjoy winter activities – or escape from the chilly weather in cozy settings, and of course have a gala party on NYE to ring in the next year in style. IMVU users did it all…. and we loved joining in the celebrations.

December 18th was our very own Ugly Sweater Party where community members dressed up their avatars in virtual versions of crazy, silly, outlandish holiday outfits and joined the party taking place in various chat rooms – decorated to the hilt for the season. There was nothing “ugly” about the fun had by all.

Ugly sweater partyThe IMVU team was determined to make chatting and connecting with friends even better for our customers and just in time for the holiday break when everyone is spending lots of time on IMVU with their friends. We launched a completely revamped look for our very popular chat room experience – complete with a new feature called Themes to showcase the variety and creativity of of our community members as they set up and decorate their rooms.

Themed rooms

Shared Rooms was another feature that we launched in December – in response to a popular request by our customers. The new feature allows friends, business partners to set up, decorate and manage chat rooms together using scenes and furniture from both their collections. Hundreds of rooms have already been purchased and shared by our users to make their friendships and connections even deeper.

Shared Room

To say goodbye to 2013 and hello to 2014, we had a “10-day Countdown to 2014” event where our customers could log in every day and get a free gift. All the collected gifts were perfect to decorate the ultimate winter scene we gifted on January 1st. We are now gearing up for another joyous year for IMVU and its community!

Countdown gift

Have a wonderful year filled with fun, friends, and family!

Community Spotlight – The November Edition

November is a month of giving thanks and we do – to our community! We celebrated it in our usual creative style with contests, special seasonal bundle promotions and of course a monumental Black Friday sale!

For our Holiday Gathering photo contest to celebrate Thanksgiving, we invited our users go gather with their friends and family in a fall-themed setting, enjoy a feast and share the photos captured during the event to their photo stream. Our members came together for the festivities with a gusto and we were the real “winners” of the contest as we got to enjoy the moments they captured and shared with us.


Continue reading
The best part of November was IMVU’s very first Small Business Saturday event that took place on November 30th.  Just as people around the country rallied to shop at their local businesses, our community members shopped for items to dress up their avatars and decorate their chat rooms in the catalogs of our own local content Creators. Hundreds of our Creators set up special boutiques and showrooms to mark the occasion and our members loved visiting these exclusive shops and meeting the designers!

We are thankful for our loyal and engaged customers and are looking forward to spending the holiday season with them in the coming weeks!

Happy holidays everyone!