A chat program works by using a web browser or program to connect multiple users' computers, allowing the users to communicate through text or voice. An avatar chat program adds a visual character to represent each person in the chat, so that it appears that the users are communicating in a virtual space.
Popular avatar-based chat services such as IMVU.com and Second Life work through a specific program installed on the user's computer. This program connects to a company's web server, linking the user with other users. Many services offer language translation programs, allowing users to communicate regardless of location or native language. Most sites allow a user to choose and deeply customize an avatar. These services are often free to download and play but offer advanced customization options at a price.
Although some chat services are limited to just communication between users, many others allow users to control their avatar in a virtual space. Second Life, for instance, allows users to build their own worlds and interact with players within those worlds.
Many avatar-based chat programs provide a mass selection of customizations for a user's avatar. Some of these are user-created, which the user may design and sell to other players. A third-party modeling program such as Blender may be required to create objects. Some programs, such as Second Life, include an internal object creator.