Google has announced it is to shut down Lively, its web-based virtual world. Lively, which will now never make it out of beta, allowed users to "create an avatar and chat with your friends in rooms you design".

Launched in July as a Google Labs project, the company says it was an experiment "but we've also always accepted that when you take these kinds of risks not every bet is going to pay off".

An official Google blog post reads: "That's why, despite all the virtual high fives and creative rooms everyone has enjoyed in the last four and a half months, we've decided to shut Lively down at the end of the year".

"It has been a tough decision, but we want to ensure that we prioritize our resources and focus more on our core search, ads and apps business. Lively.com will be discontinued at the end of December, and everyone who has worked on the project will then move on to other teams."

Lively users are urged to capture all their hard work by taking videos and screenshots of their rooms.