Welcome To The Metaverse

From the distance of the future, we will remember 2021 as the year the metaverse began to take shape. As the building blocks of this new world come into focus let’s begin with the obvious and timely.

The ultimate Web 2.0 company, Facebook (FB), rebranded itself as Meta this past month to signal that it intends to lead the charge into Web 3.0, aka the metaverse. Meta owns not only Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp, but also importantly virtual reality firm Oculus. So they’ve got a nice head start on building this around us. 

One the one hand, the metaverse still feels quite science fiction-y. Science fiction writer Neal Stephenson, author of the 1992 novel Snow Crash (which I have not yet read) gets credit for inventing the word.

For a glimpse at this future, who among us did not love the movies Tron and The Matrix? And the books Neuromancer by William Gibson, or more recently Ready Player One by Ernest Cline? Sure, there were a few teensy-tiny issues in these fictional metaverses, but surely Zuckerberg will solve these problems on our behalf.

From the perspective of metaverse dwellers, what we might call “in real life” or “IRL,” this “flesh and blood” existence has a name. Our corporeal world, as distinguished from the metaverse, shall henceforth be known as the “meatverse.” Is this not perfect? Please, please, can we make the meatverse a thing?

The key transformation from meatverse to metaverse (besides the movement of 1 letter) can be captured by the concept of dematerialization. Future production of goods and services need not be physical or material. They will be digital. We will mostly and increasingly live our whole lives in this digital world. 

Long before renaming his company Meta, Zuckerberg was already on an acquisition tear to build our metaverse. He’s got not only a head start, but maybe has built a near-monopoly already. In 2021, Facebook/Meta bought virtual-reality game-maker BigBox VR, and game platform Unit 2 Games, which resembles the Roblox platform, a competing metaverse builder.

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