It’s the buzzword, pushed by Facebook, which has made it its new mission and even its identity. The company defines it as a set of interconnected virtual spaces in which users can share immersive experiences in real-time 3D.
It sees it as “the next Internet.” Other companies like Nvidia, Roblox or Epic Games with Fortnite also talk about it as the future. As well as the supporters of blockchain and NFT, who do not necessarily have the same definition.
So what exactly are we talking about? We will decipher for you the context surrounding this very vague buzzword.
Facebook is strongly contributing to the resurgence of the term, not only by renewing its mission around this concept, but also by changing its name to reflect this objective, becoming Meta.
This announcement is not really surprising: Meta has been investing heavily in virtual reality for seven years now. The company employs more than 10,000 people on these themes and will have spent more than 10 billion dollars on the subject in 2021 alone.
What does Metaverse mean?
The term is a neologism invented by the novelist Neal Stephenson for his book The Virtual Samurai (Snow Crash), published in 1992, from the word universe modified by the prefix “meta-” borrowed from Greek.
No need to go into etymological considerations without importance: the term serves as an alternative to “cyberspace” popularized by William Gibson.
Stephenson describes it as the successor to the Internet, which takes the form of a 3D digital world in which users evolve as avatars. The equivalent of a massively multiplayer role-playing game (MMORPG), in a way, but used globally as the sole source of entertainment in a dystopian world. The author imagines an immense avenue: tens of thousands of kilometers long, along which there are various public or private spaces.
In short, the vision of Facebook and other virtual and augmented reality players is that of a set of virtual spaces that are interconnected and in which different users can share immersive experiences in real-time 3D.
Basically, it’s like being able to move from one video game to another with the same avatar and the same interface, with the same simplicity as walking across a room in real life. You could play, work and learn.
Metaverse is inspired by video games
The idea of a permanent, massively multi-user virtual world is obviously reminiscent of massively multiplayer online role-playing games, and that’s the comparison everyone turned to after Meta was announced.
Many journalists and observers pointed to Second Life, an application released in 2003 that offered a virtual world in which anyone could build a space, create objects, customize their avatar and even buy and sell services.
The comparison is not without meaning in that the commercial aspect was very much put forward by Second Life and that its editor described it as an alternative reality and not a game.
It should be remembered that Second Life was never particularly well optimized and was not commercially successful. It was overshadowed even before its release by games like EverQuest, released in 1999 and World of Warcraft, launched in late 2004.
Meta’s vision is probably more inspired by video games, in this case Fortnite (developed by Epic Games), Minecraft (Mojang), Roblox (Roblox Games) or VRChat (VRChat Inc).
These titles, which are ultra-popular with the under-20 crowd, provide a communal online experience in which gameplay is often optional. They are in a way the heirs of the MMORPGs of yesteryear because of their use as a “chat room with a graphic interface”. And Epic as well as Roblox clearly say they want to create this famous metaverse.
Related article: Virtual reality is not only about video games