🌌 The Metaverse
The term "Metaverse" itself first appeared in Neil Stephenson's 1992 novel "Snow Crash", where it is described as the "cyberspace home to avatars and software demons, where anything and just about everything goes." You can see this as an imagined future development for the internet or as a metaphor to get a better grasp of the internet. The latter also reminds me of Disney's 1982 movie "Tron", which pictured the inner workings of computers as a three-dimensional world.
So much for the history. Fast forward to the 21st century and witness the Metaverse as a topic so complex it borders on chaos. It all starts with that there is no unified or even unambiguous definition of the term.
Wikipedia states that "the Metaverse is a collective virtual shared space including the sum of all virtual worlds and the Internet. It may contain derivatives or copies of the real world, but it is distinct from augmented reality."
The exclusion of augmented reality is in direct contradiction to a definition attempt from the Metaverse Roadmap, stating a "convergence of 1) virtually enhanced physical reality and 2) physically persistent virtual space. It is a fusion of both, while allowing users to experience it as either."
On the other hand, there are older definitions based on the original idea of a purely virtual world. The now-defunct IEEE P1828 working group for example states that "virtual worlds are intended for its users to inhabit and interact, and the term today has become largely synonymous with interactive 3D virtual environments, where the users take the form of avatars visible to others graphically." This may hold true for relaxation and recreation. Yet from a productivity point of view, 3D representations are inferior to 1D and 2D abstractions of the real world.
In "A Framework for the Metaverse", VC Matthew Bell describes the Metaverse as a "successor state to the mobile internet." He additionally describes eight core categories making up the Metaverse. I recommend reading Matthew's primer as an up-to-date entry point to the topic.
But enough for definitions. You get the confusion now. And so we are at a time when everyone and Facebook is claiming (part of) the Metaverse.
Then why am I writing about it when it's such a mess? Because this makes it an undiscovered country rich with opportunities. There are common themes among every attempt to describe the Metaverse:
- Diversity and interoperability
- Collaboration and interaction
- Personal and shared experiences
Each of these areas opens up opportunities both for content creators and tool makers. You can decide to search for gold or to sell the shovels.
As this special is already getting quite long, let's consider this part 1 and an introduction. In part 2, I'll pick one of the categories above and examine it deeper. If you are interested in one topic in particular, feel free to simply reply to this email and let me know!