Updated on August 11, 2022
When Meta fka Facebook announced its change of purpose and name last year to become a self-described “social technology company,” it was widely seen as a signficant move in establishing the leading role in defining and enabling the metaverse as the next level up from current social networks, AR, VR, virtual worlds, the whole online shebang that is layered onto the current Internet.
Which gets to my point in this article – considering the question, “What is the metaverse?”
Some people talk about the metaverse as one of many singular places in the cloud where many metaverses will make up The Metaverse (initial capitals). Others see it as the final destination, a place you’ll go to online in the virtual persona presented by your avatar and meet friends, go shopping, travel to different places, do business, buy property, whatever you can imagine. That sounds a lot like Second Life seventeen and more years ago (and definitely, ahead of its time).
You could say it’s none of that and all of that, which is an entirely unsatisfactory explainer. Even if you searched online for ‘metaverse definition,’ you’ll likely be confounded and confused when you start on just the first screenful of the 46 million search results you’ll get.
Let’s try this:
People are misinterpreting Metaverse as a destination, a virtual world, a this or that. The Metaverse is not a place, it’s the network for the next version of the Web.Richard Kerris, July 2022
Note Kerris says the metaverse is the next version of the Web. He may be right although I’m not sure the Web is the right alignment. If the metaverse is the network that will connect things, then the better analagy is to see it as the next version of the Internet that’s best thought of as a decentralized network of networks.
Perhaps the new authoritatve voice in this matter is Matthew Ball, a Canadian venture capitalist who’s just published what will likely be the new defining work on the metaverse (as seen in mid 2022) with his book, The Metaverse: And How it Will Revolutionize Everything.
A concise and highly relevant explainer is this:
The Metaverse is a persistent and interconnected network of 3D virtual worlds that will eventually serve as the gateway to most online experiences, and also underpin much of the physical world.Matthew Ball, July 2022
This also suggests a state of incompleteness which makes sense right now. I think one confusing aspect for some people is this fact – the metaverse isn’t complete yet! And note Ball speaks of the physical world as well: this is not just about virtual.
In the For Immediate Release short-form podcast episode 273 published on 28 July, which you can listen to right here, Shel and I discuss this question, leading with Richard Kerris’ ZDnet interview and referencing Matthew Ball and his book. Both Shel and I have bought a copy.
While I think there will continue to be more questions about the metaverse and what it is than concrete answers for some considerable time, there is bright light at the end of the tunnel.
Also, take a look at this 43-minute video that captures Shel’s workshop presentation about the metaverse he gave at the IABC International Conference 2022 in New York in June. Bonus content :)