Selected Timeline—When Was the Metaverse Invented?
The metaverse arrived without us noticing it.
We don’t realize it now, until we look back:
“Snow Crash” came out in 1992, thirty years ago.
But that is also when The Internet became a thing.
Ten years later, Second Life came out in 2003.
But that is also when The Internet of Things became a thing.
Another ten years later, Zoom came out in 2012.
But that is also when The Oculus Headset became a thing.
And another ten years later, Facebook renamed itself as Meta.
Which brings us back to today.
What If… You Are Creating the Metaverse?
In concept, the metaverse exists in our minds and imagination.
In practice, the metaverse exists in the infrastructure and apps with which we create, communicate, and participate.
Who owns reality in the digital age? I feel that we all have a say in what the metaverse is, and where it is going.
I have said that:
An Operational Definition is the translation of concept into measurement.
And There Can Be More Than One.
A Canonical Metaverse is an Immersive, digitally embodied, 3D, computer-generated universe.
An Extended Metaverse is an evolving ecosystem of digitally and physically connected apps.
We all have a say in what the metaverse is, and where it is going.
Zoom is an Example of an Extended Metaverse
It drives my Second Life friends crazy when I say that Zoom is a metaverse.
So I say Second Life is a Canonical Metaverse, and Zoom is an Extended Metaverse.
How do we resolve that Second Life is not the One True Metaverse?
We expand the (operational) definition.
Deming would be proud! humor
“What is the Metaverse” became a hot topic in public awareness and media because of
A) The Pandemic in 2019 forcing people to communicate using “2-way” “instant access” apps like Zoom, and
B) Facebook in 2021 renaming itself to “Meta”
In response to the new “buzz”, Scott Stein, a senior technical editor at CNET, published a contemporary definition of metaverse in 2021.
Think about the apps and games you use or see used, every day, as I read his definition.
“The definition of metaverse, now, is sort of a future-forward social hub, a space where avatars can meet, an ecosystem for connected apps.
“A VR- and AR-ready dream of bringing people into some sort of virtual universe that’s as creation-friendly as a Minecraft, as popular as a Fortnite, and as useful as Zoom, Slack and Google Docs.
“The future of tech doesn’t lie just in VR or AR, but in a mix of many devices accessing a shared online world, which may be more immersive and 3D than the internet you’re currently using to read this story.”
Notice the operational elements:
. Connected Apps? Yes / No
. Space Where Avatars Can Meet? Yes / No
. VR and AR Ready? Yes / No
. Creation Friendly? Yes / No
. Popular? Yes / No
. Useful? Yes / No
. More Immersive and 3D? Yes / No
How many of these criteria do Zoom and Second Life meet?
. I give Zoom 5 out of 7
. I give Second Life 5 out of 7 as well.
They do not forgive me yet *humor*
Second Life is an Example of a Canonical Metaverse
Second Life is the Ur-Example of a Canonical Metaverse.
It is Canonical because there is a book about it, “Snow Crash”, written in 1992.
Look around where you are, right now, in Second Life and in Real Life, as I read what Neal Stephenson said back then…
“He’s in a computer-generated universe that his computer is drawing onto his goggles and pumping into his earphones.
In the lingo, this imaginary place is known as the Metaverse.”
“He is not seeing real people, of course.
This is all a part of the moving illustration drawn by his computer according to specifications coming down the fiber-optic cable.
The people are pieces of software called avatars.
They are the audiovisual bodies that people use to communicate with each other in the Metaverse.”
The most obvious visual aspect of Second Life as a Canonical Metaverse is
. Digital Embodiment—3D, fluid, free camera view of recreated self, environment, and others.
The most obvious economic aspect of Second Life as a Virtual Economy Metaverse is
. Second Life Marketplace and
. Tilia—software and services for virtual economies with ability to convert real-world money into in-world currency and back.