The term “metaverse” has become one of the buzzwords of 2021 with players and observers in the technology industry describing the possibility of creating an immersive shared virtual world that would become the future of the internet.
has changed its company name to Meta Platforms
in October 2021 to reflect its intent to expand beyond social media and toward so-called social technologies.
But where did the term “metaverse” originate? When did it first appear? How was it used? Who invented it? And what does it mean? This concise article provides an overview of the origin of the term and the context in which it was used and introduced.
Neal Stephenson and Snow Crash: The Origin of the Term “Metaverse”
American writer Neal Stephenson wrote the 1992 science fiction novel “Snow Crash” that tells the story of Hiro Protagonist who works as a hacker and pizza delivery driver for the Mafia. The narrative is set in an imagined 21st-century Los Angeles.
The milieu is futuristic. People interact with one another in a shared virtual environment as avatars. Stephenson called this digital world the “Metaverse” and it represented his vision of the future evolution of the internet based on virtual reality
Nevertheless, it was the author himself who coined the term. Furthermore, through his novel, he described it as a realm that can be experienced from a first-person perspective. There is also virtual real estate that can be bought and developed by the users.
Users with one another and the entire virtual environment through the use of goggles that project a three-dimensional virtual reality. They can navigate through this environment either by foot or using available modes of transportation such as the monorail.
A Further Look Into the Term: Etymology and Modern Definitions
The etymology of the term “metaverse” comes from the prefix “meta,” which means “beyond” or “transcending,” and “universe,” which can be used as a representation of a space or location. When combined together, the term loosely means “beyond the location.”
However, in its modern usage, researchers C. Jaynes et al. define it as a “networked collection of inexpensive, self-configuring, immersive environments” in their 2003 conference paper for the Proceedings of the Workshop on Virtual Environments.
Mark Zuckerberg, chief executive of Meta Platforms and the creator of Facebook, defines it further as an “embodied internet” in which the user is in the experience instead of simply looking at it. The “feeling of presence” is its defining quality.
The general definition now centers on an iteration of the internet characterized by an always-on or persistent online three-dimensional and immersive virtual environments wherein interactions with one another and the digital contents are more life-like.
FURTHER READINGS AND REFERENCES
- Jaynes, C., Seales, W. B., Calvert, K., Fei, Z., and Griffioen, J. 2003. “The Metaverse.” In Proceedings of the Workshop on Virtual Environments 2003. ACM Press. DOI: 1145/769953.769967
- Zuckerberg, M. 2021. “Founder’s Letter, 2021.” Meta. Available online