metaplaceOn Jan. 1, some 70,000 virtual worlds will vanish from the Internet. That’s because Metaplace, the company that made the open platform for the virtual worlds, will be closing its site.

San Diego, Calif.-based Metaplce had created a site over the past few years that could host virtual worlds that users created by themselves. The quality of the worlds ranged from the simple to the elaborate. But it wasn’t working as a business.

The company told its users today, “Unfortunately, over the last few months it has become apparent that Metaplace as a consumer user-generated content service is not gaining enough traction to be a viable product, requiring a strategic shift for our company.”

metaplace 2While the site is closing at 11:59 pm on Jan. 1, the company that owns the site says will continue on another, as-yet unannounced path.

Metaplace had raised $9.4 million from Charles River Ventures, Crescendo Ventures and Andreessen Horowitz.

“We are losing some friends and colleagues here as part of this strategic shift,” the company said.

The company says it will turn off billing immediately and refund any fees paid for virtual items or subscriptions in the month of December. Users will be able to retrieve some assets from their worlds so they can conceivably reconstruct them on some other platform. But there is nowhere for them to migrate the worlds to, as is. Users can capture their worlds with screen shots, data downloads etc., and they can commisserate at a forum site.

raph kosterMetaplace was started by former Sony online games veteran Raph Koster (pictured). As recently as October, Metaplace was still investing in technology as it announced audio chat features in its platform. It was also working on a way for users to access the worlds from Facebook. The company isn’t saying yet what its new business will be.