These days, LunarStorm claims more than 1.3 million active members (82% of the people aged 12-24 in Sweden, 88% in ages 12-19), with up to 50,000 of them online at any one time. The entire population of Sweden is less than 9 million, so LunarStorm’s market share is like having 10 million teens out of the USA’s 300 million people online in the same virtual community at all times. Between 300,000 and 400,000 users visit Lunarstorm daily; the Web site receives a staggering one billion page impressions per month.
As commercial virtual communities go, LunarStorm is an oldie — even if the same can’t be said of its membership. LunarStorm founders have succeeded to a degree in building a successful walled garden, in a sense: who needs the Internet when you can get a personal page, with your own blog, photo album, chat room and message board, with access from mobile phones as well as PC? When I asked Johan Forsberg, LunarStorm’s information director and partner, for an update, I learned that other features now include Friendster-like social networking, clubs, classmate directories, friend (and enemy) lists, music, music videos and movie clips, employment information and a reputation system that enables members to vote on each others’ profiles, diaries and lists. Intra-community advertising is a profitable premium service: members can publish own banner ads for their clubs or their own profiles for around $2. Kollage, Lunarstorm’s digital photo album, another premium service, holds over 3 million pictures.