Note — Nov 07, 2021

Hey, Facebook, I Made a Metaverse 27 Years Ago

Not exactly, but Ethan Zuckerman did create a 3D MOO back when hand-coded HTML pages were still quite new. He shows that people have been metaversing for a while now, much has been widely forgotten, and Zuck’s version is not only boring, it’s not that good, and will of course end up as a walled garden. Many have said the same already, yet a fun read for the quick history lesson, and the ±three decades of experience behind the argument.

Stephenson, of course, wasn’t being entirely original either. His vision of the metaverse owed a debt to Vernor Vinge’s 1981 True Names and to a series of William Gibson novels from the ’80s. Both of those authors owed a debt to Morton Heilig’s 1962 Sensorama machine, and on and on we go, back in time to Plato’s shadows on a cave wall. […]

Facebook can claim originality in at least one thing. Its combination of scale and irresponsibility has unleashed a set of diverse and fascinating sociopolitical challenges that it will take lawmakers, scholars, and activists at least a generation to fix. […]

The metaverse isn’t about building perfect virtual escape hatches—it’s about holding a mirror to our own broken, shared world. Facebook’s promised metaverse is about distracting us from the world it’s helped break.