The word meta is Greek (if you hadn’t already guessed) and describes a subject in a way that transcends its original limits. Perhaps more simply, anything pre-fixed with meta is considered ‘beyond,’ or ‘transcending’ even.
The Metaverse, however, was not invented by the ancient Greeks. So what is it? The best’ professional’ definition I’ve found, albeit a big long, is this one, from Matthew Ball, who’s written probably most extensively on the subject.
The Metaverse is an expansive network of persistent, real-time rendered 3D worlds and simulations that support continuity of identity, objects, history, payments, and entitlements, and can be experienced synchronously by an effectively unlimited number of users, each with an individual sense of presence.Matthew Ball, The Metaverse Primer
I prefer a more straightforward explanation. Today we often say we’re ‘on the internet but I would alter this a bit to say that the Metaverse is more like being ‘in the internet’. Not physically entering climbing into your computer of course (or just yet anyways) but living out experiences within a digital space, the most familiar example today probably being the gaming space.
Is the Metaverse just one place where all these different things exist? Not exactly. Just like you visit different websites or social media platforms today, the same goes for the Metaverse. There is no single fully operational Metaverse to ‘join.’ Many of the ‘Metaverses’ today are related to the gaming world. Fornite has their Metaverse; you can go there by signing up to play the Fortnite game. Minecraft has theirs, and so does Roblox. Beyond gaming though, how and why people will or would want to join a Metaverse is still unclear. It’s also still unclear how different companies’ virtual realms or platforms will interact with each other. Will there eventually be one mega-Metaverse to rule them all? or will we still have to ‘log in’ to access ‘walled’ Metaverses that exist on their own. Or will we have separate Metaverses that connect to other Metaverses somehow, similar to how we all use email and use it to communicate, even though one person may use gmail, another yahoo mail.
The bigger question may be why you would want to do any of this? And how, given all the challenges with moderation in social media, will the Metaverse be moderated, managed, managed? Gaming has probably been at the forefront of the Metaverse for this reason. Still, more and more brands, artists, and corporations are using the Metaverse as a new channel to do business. Perhaps it’s via this new digital, virtual economy that becomes the gateway for regular folks to venture into the Metaverse.
Rather than regurgitate, I thought I’d share the list of resources I’ve collected below. I’ll continue to update this list as I find more. If you are aware of any others I’d love to hear from you so I can add them.
There’s a lot of crap out there and most of them saying the same thing and pulling from these sources.
The Metaverse Primer, Matthew Ball. Probably the most comprehensive 9 essays you’ll find on the subject. If you have time for only one read on this list, read the first in his series, Framework for the Metaverse.
State of the Metaverse 2021, Eric Elliott.
The Metaverse Is Coming And It’s A Very Big Deal, Cathy Hackl. Cathy is a globally recognized tech futurist and writes extensively on on tech and the future. See everything she’s written for Forbes here.
The Open Metaverse OS, Jamie Buck – Outlier Ventures.
The Virtual Economy, L’Atelier BNP Paribas.
The Metaverse Explained, Loup Funds breaks it down into 4 parts – The overview, why it matters, economics and challenges.
The Economy of the Metaverse, this is an interview with Tim Sweeney, CEO of Epic Games.
The Metaverse Is Everything, Doug Thompson
The VR Metaverse of Ready Player One Is Just Beyond Our Grasp, Peter Rubin via Wired.
A Multiverse, Not the Metaverse, Eric Peckham via TechCrunch. A 7-part series on why gaming’s virtual worlds are the next stage of social media.