There’s a lot of media hype these days about the “coming of the metaverse” and a fair amount of hand-wringing about what it’s going to look like.
In computing, the term metaverse is defined as “a virtual-reality space in which users can interact with a computer-generated environment and other users.” This definition is both broad and vague. As a result, doomsdayers treat great sci-fi stories like Neuromancer, Snowcrash and Ready Player One as prophetic warnings of a dystopian future metaverse. Meanwhile, today’s tech visionaries have called the metaverse the future of computing and are promising a new VR/AR/IRL-blended reality and a total addressable market worth potentially $13 trillion by 2030. It’s easy to see why parents might fear for their children’s safety, attention spans and ability to socialize IRL.
As a tech strategist, investor and producer, I’m thrilled to be a part of this evolution toward a fully immersive metaverse. But with all of this hype, it’s easy to lose track of the fact that the metaverse has existed for decades in one form or another. Games like Linden Lab’s Second Life, Activision’s World of Warcraft and Zynga’s FarmVille are all metaverses given the definition above. (Full disclosure: Author was formerly SVP of Zynga’s global operations.) I heard a credible case made recently that Reddit and Clubhouse are highly engaging metaverses sans graphics. The argument is that the thousands of talented people who developed these products used software to create always-on virtual spaces for people to interact and express themselves in real time.