Habbo Hotel : Reinforcing trust in a chatroom
Trust is as important as a secure environment for a shared-interest site.
Habbo Hotel is a “virtual hotel” where young people in its target age group, 14- to 20-year-olds, can create their own avatar (representation), kit out their own room and ‘chat’ to other registered guests. Started in the UK, the hotel has sister operations in Finland, Japan, Spain and Switzerland.
Safety advice, explanations of procedures and security measures and advice on acceptable use of the site are prominent and easily accessible throughout. On the home page, for example, Help & Safety is one of the four navigation tags at the top of the page (it features a ParentÃªs Guide, “Scam busters” and FAQs). An Online Safety paragraph linked to more information is highlighted with a hazard warning triangle within the main text panel; there is a banner link to InteractiveAgecheck; and, in the wake of Microsoft’s announcement that it is to close teenage chatrooms on MSN, a “breaking news” item in the Habbo Hotel Happenings box, linking to an answer to the question “Is Habbo to go?”.
Reinforcing trust in the chatroom environment – whether for teenagers, on a corporate intranet or a shared interest community – is as important to its success as the technology and systems used to secure the environment. Few companies know this better than Habbo, which has had its share of worrying publicity in the past.
So, as well as having live “moderators” and security software such as a “bobba” filter for offensive words and messages, Habbo Hotel addresses copious advice and explanations on how the site works – and how to use it securely – to its target audience. This acknowledges potential dangers, shows what technology or processes Habbo has in place to combat them, and explains how users can take precautions in the way they act on the site (don’t give away your password, and so on).
The latter is particularly worth emphasising as human error or gullability is potentially the weakest link in any security system.http://www.habbohotel.com
First published on 25 September, 2003