Facebook’s, or Meta’s recent rebrand and investments, triggered a new wave of interest in the metaverse. It’s all over headlines, corporate news, memes, gaming platforms, and social media. The word’s increased ubiquity is creating an impending sense of doom, as if, at any moment, our physical lives will be engulfed in corporate pixels and paywalled interactions.

The suffix meta- means “behind or beyond,” it can also mean “more comprehensive” and even “transformative” (like metamorphosis). The second half of the word, -verse, derives from the word “universe” and describes either a specific sphere or area (like Twitterverse). As a whole, the word “metaverse” generally refers to a virtual world that lies beyond, on top of, or is an extension of the physical world. The word was coined in a 1992 dystopian sci-fi novel, Snow Crash, written by Neal Stephenson.

We’ve seen a few rounds of metaverse hype throughout the years, but many of today’s evangelists will insist that for the first time ever, we have the technology, protocols, and infrastructure to step on the gas and make it real. They say it’s the next step after the mobile internet. The metaverse asks the big “what if” about combining virtual reality, augmented reality, Zoom meetings, social networks, crypto, NFT’s, online shopping, and wearable tech, artificial intelligence, 5G, and more. Today, Roblox and Epic Games’ Fortnite are often roped into metaverse conversations and some say are way closer to making the metaverse happen than Zuckerberg’s Meta.

The most important thing to know is that the metaverse is not real. For now, the metaverse is mostly the hope of a few, a speculation, a fantasy with many gaps to let the chill winds of the unknown to blow through.


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