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The [m]etaverse is here to stay

Facebook’s Metaverse is just one part of the larger metaverse.

Facebook did not invent the term “Metaverse.” It’s a term that was coined in a cyberpunk book called Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson in 1992. Neal was a visionary in predicting what technology would bring into fruition.  

Facebook decided to take on the moniker “Meta” because it realized that the small-m metaverse is going to be huge for its own reasons. Meta is also a catchier name, and now whenever anyone talks about the small-m metaverse, they're effectively repeating Facebook's brand name. Facebook clearly wanted to hitch a ride on the Zeitgeist, but a messy roll out has made its Metaverse sort of a joke.

I think the small-m metaverse will be an interesting new way to communicate and have fun. More importantly, it will satisfy our constant craving to be more and more immersed in the media we consume — especially our nightly TV or movie watching. All of the enormous consumer TVs with peripheral vision are evidence of how much our viewing experiences are turning into immersive vacations from the real world.  

The ultimate in immersion is yet to come, but we’ve seen a glimpse of it with Apple’s new, $3,500 Vision Pro headset. I applaud Apple for their mastery of engineering and materials, but I might hold off buying until it can do everything with lightweight frames that are indistinguishable from eyeglass frames and the price comes way down.

Much of the enthusiasm for the metaverse is coming from the workplace. The idea of avatars has already been taken up by Microsoft Teams, and Zoom has introduced avatars as well. I think a lot of people slogging through meetings in the one photogenic corner of their home may actually prefer to exist as an avatar against a fictitious background in the future.  

Facebook was probably a little early in marketing their Metaverse — which, again, is part of the larger, small-m metaverse. The vendors don’t exist yet and, famously, the lower half of the avatars didn’t exist for a long time, either. Though the technology may not be quite ready, Facebook is sitting pretty on a great name.

Originally published: 08/31/2023

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