A place always imagined but never built
The term “metaverse” sounds like a new word but it’s older than you think since it was first used in the 90s in sci-fi to describe a virtual world on the internet, existing alongside the real world.
The word is a combination of a Greek prefix “meta” meaning “beyond”, and the stem “verse” from “universe”.
Many stories and movies envisioned this kind of universe as the evolution of the internet but nobody has ever managed to make this concept real ever since the term first appeared in a sci-fi novel called “Snow Crash” by Neal Stephenson in 1992.
However, the concept of metaverse maybe it’s better known under the term “cyberspace” and appeared in the story “Burning Chrome” by William Gibson but spread more with “Neuromancer”, a novel of him of 1984.
Nevertheless, with the birth of the World Wide Web, people started to use the term cyberspace as a synonym of the internet but gradually the term has been no longer used to describe the network.
So, cyberspace then became a synonym more of virtual reality while the concept of metaverse goes beyond a simple virtual reality because it involves a collection of information, services, and software linked together, made available to the public through a worldwide network, either as 3D virtual spaces, Augmented Reality, or in the form of 2D images. It’s not just a replica of a real-world but rather, as the same suggests, a universe where we cannot dismiss the presence of crypto ever since the evolution of the blockchain that has allowed users to trade virtual assets. It’s a place continuously live that cannot be paused and is always synchronous in real-time with anyone.
Mark Zuckerberg expressed his desire to build an actual metaverse and in an interview, he said: “It’s a virtual environment where you can be present with people in digital spaces”. “You can kind of think about this as an embodied internet that you’re inside of rather than just looking at. We believe that this is going to be the successor to the mobile internet” he then added.
From the moment the internet became what we know it to be today, there have been attempts at creating this kind of environment. Some of the most remarkable attempts are:
- Sim City (1989): This a city-building and urban planning simulator game still played and widespread today.
- Active Worlds (1995): An online virtual world allowing users to log in, assign themselves a name, and explore 3D virtual worlds created by others, as well as to create worlds of their own.
- There (2003): A virtual world allowing users to create avatars, explore, socialize, and purchase items and services using an in-game virtual currency, Therebucks.
- Second Life (2003): The project’s stated goal was to create a virtual world in which people could immerse themselves, interact, play, conduct business, and much more.
- Entropia Universe (2003): This video game is famous for being the first-ever MMORPG to feature a functioning real-cash economy.
- Fortnite Creative (2018): This game has a sandbox mode that allows players to interact with their environment and invite friends to their private island. Epic Games is increasingly redirecting Fortnite into a metaverse narrative.
- Facebook Horizon (2019): A social Virtual Reality world by Facebook.
- Earth2 (2020): The Earth 2 platform allows people to search, claim, purchase or bid on any piece of virtual land around the world.
Despite these above-mentioned games don’t completely depict a real metaverse, they give a hint of part of it. Even movies tried to predict how the evolution of the internet world could turn into a sort of multiverse such as Ready Player One which is the most explicative. But we cannot fail to mention previous films like Matrix or Tron who tried to show different points of view.
The future of the internet will surely be a place where so many digital services from different fields will be part of a unique universe with connected experiences where anyone can have their own space.