LambdaMOO is an online community of the variety called a MOO. It is the oldest MOO today.
LambdaMOO was founded in late 1990 or early 1991 by Pavel Curtis at Xerox PARC. Now hosted in the state of Washington, it is operated and administered entirely on a volunteer basis. Guests are allowed, and membership is free to anyone with an e-mail address.
LambdaMOO gained some notoriety when Julian Dibbell wrote a book called My Tiny Life describing his experiences there. Over its history, LambdaMOO has been highly influential in the examination of virtual-world social issues.
LambdaMOO has its roots in the 1978–1980 work by Roy Trubshaw and Richard Bartle to create and expand the concept of Multi-User Dungeon (MUD) – virtual communities. Around 1987–1988, the expansion of the global internet allowed more users to experience the MUD. Pavel Curtis at Xerox Parc noted that they were "almost exclusively for recreational purposes." Curtis determined to explore whether the MUD could be non-recreational. He developed LambdaMOO software to run on the LambdaMOO server, which implements the MOO programming language. This software was subsequently made available to the public. Several starter databases, known as cores, are available for MOOs; LambdaMOO itself uses the LambdaCore database. The "Lambda" name is from Curtis's own username on earlier MUD systems.
LambdaMOO can refer to the software, the server, or the community of users.
To join LambdaMOO requires a working email. Once you submit your email, you must wait a few days before you receive a randomized character name and password. In the meantime, you can play LambdaMOO as a guest.
Once you get your randomized character name you are able to log in to LambdaMOO and change your character name and password. After you choose your unique character name you are able to select your gender as well as editing your characters physical description and personality. LambdaMOO allows you a lot of freedom when it comes to customizing your character. You are offered a wide range of genders and are able to write anything you want in a paragraph about yourself. After you customize these settings you are equipped to begin exploring LambdaMOO.
LambdaMOO central geography was based on Pavel Curtis's California home. New players and guests traditionally connected in "The Coat Closet", but a second area, "The Linen Closet" (specially programmed as a silent area) was later added as an alternative connection point. The coat closet opens onto the center of the house in The Living Room, a common hangout and place for conversation; its fixtures include a fireplace (where things can be roasted), The Living Room Couch (which periodically causes players' objects to 'fall through' to underneath the couch), and a pet Cockatoo who repeats overheard phrases (which is often found with its beak gagged). From time to time the Cockatoo is replaced with a more seasonal creature: a Turkey near Thanksgiving, a Raven near Halloween, et cetera.
To the north of the Living Room is the Entrance Hall, the Front Yard, and a limited residential area along LambdaStreet. There is an extensive subterranean complex located down the manhole, including a sewage system.
Players walking to the far west along LambdaStreet may be given the option to 'jump off the end of the world', which disables access to their account for three months. To the south of the Living Room is a pool deck, a hot tub, and some of the extensive grounds of the mansion, featuring gardens, hot air balloon landing pads, open fields, fishing holes, and the like.
To the northwest of the living room are the laundry room, garage, dining room, smoking room, drawing room, housekeeper's quarters, and kitchen; a popular command allows players in the living room to push others into the kitchen and ask them to "fetch me a cup of tea"; since players can prevent themselves from being moved in such a fashion, this command is more often used on new users, who may have difficulty finding their way back to the Living Room. (There is direct access to the kitchen leading northwest from the living room, but as with the actual house you must head north, east, and then south from the Kitchen to return.)
To the east of the entry hall, hallways provide access to some individual rooms, the Linen Closet, and to the eastern wing of the house. In the eastern wing can be found the Library of online books, the Museum of generic objects (which account-holders may create instances of), and an extensive area for the LambdaMOO RPG.
Since the creation of the original LambdaMOO map, many users have expanded the MOO by making additional rooms with the command "@dig."
While most MOOs are run by administrative fiat, in summer of 1993 LambdaMOO implemented a petition/ballot mechanism, allowing the community to propose and vote on new policies and other administrative actions. A petition may be created by anyone eligible to participate in politics (those who have maintained accounts at the MOO for at least 30 days), can be signed by other players, and may then be submitted for administrative 'vetting'. Once vetted, the petition has a limited time to collect enough signatures to become valid and be made into a ballot. Ballots are subsequently voted on; those with a 66% approval rating are passed and will be implemented. This system suffered quite a lot of evolution and eventually passed into a state where wizards took back the power they'd passed into the hands of the people, but still maintain the ballot system as a way for the community to express its opinions.
While the population of LambdaMOO once numbered close to 10,000 with over 300 actively connected at any time, these days it is rare to see more than a few dozen actively participating connected players at one time.
As of November 13, 2005, LambdaMOO had 10 official wizards (administrators) and approximately 2,900 general users. Of these, approximately 1410 players reported themselves as male, and 916 as female; the remaining players either stayed with the default neuter gender, or deliberately chose another. (LambdaMOO supports custom designations of gender, and comes with the following presets: neuter, male, female, either, Spivak, splat, plural, egotistical, royal, and 2nd-person).