The Economist headline: In “The Metaverse”, Matthew Ball explains where the idea came from
And where it might be going
Do you remember the information superhighway? In the early 1990s pundits predicted that high-speed data networks would soon connect millions of people, letting them exchange information and linking them to “movies and television shows, shopping services, electronic mail and huge collections of data”, as the New York Times put it. Yet today millions use Netflix and Amazon, Gmail and Wikipedia, and no one talks of “cruising the information superhighway”—or ever did. The vision was prescient, but the jargon died.
Something similar may now be happening with the term “metaverse”. It is also the subject of feverish speculation—this time about the possibilities of 3d virtual worlds, and a sense that video-game technology and online communication are converging in interesting ways. But its definition is elusive, and none of the multitudes who congregate in virtual worlds today, such as players of the game “Fortnite”, actually use the word.
It broke into public consciousness in October 2021, when Facebook renamed itself Meta, signalling its ambitions in this new arena. People who had not previously heard the word “metaverse” assumed it was a new Facebook product. But the term has been used in tech circles for years, and other companies, including Microsoft and Roblox, had in fact already staked their own claims to be metaverse merchants.