Metaverse has taken the world by storm with its promising features and vision for a decentralised future, backed with freedom of data, privacy and security.

Rome was not built in a day, so is Metaverse. Its history boils down to decades back and was quite differently perceived as to what it is now. 

So, get into the nostalgia cart and fasten your seatbelts as we put a back gear to trace the evolution and the earliest mentions and ideations on Metaverse. 

It all goes back to the ‘Sci-fi’ 

For the first time ever, metaverse was mentioned in the science fiction novel, Snow Crash, by Neal Stephenson in 1992. In it, people use digital avatars of themselves to explore the online world, often as a way of escaping a dystopian reality. The metaverse was basically a shared multiplayer online game to be played across the world’s fibre optics network and projected onto virtual reality goggles.

The metaverse is an escape, and the novel’s main character — a nearly broke computer hacker and pizza delivery driver, Hiro Protagonist — spends much of his time there. He enters the metaverse by wearing goggles and “earphones,” and appears within the digital world as his own customised avatar.

This 29 year old book predicted the metaverse and seems like we are leading the same path today. Seems like a thing of the past yet the impact that it has made is known to millions of people today.

5 Decades Old Existence of Multiplayer Games and ‘Avatars’ 

If you think this is it, then prepare yourself for something even more enticing. Check out a brief timeline of the events that led to the evolution of avatars. 

Source: DataScience Central

1970– The multilayer games and avatars that we have today trace even further back from these novels. Two visionary men Steve Colley and Howard Palmer invested in a multiplayer game called MazeWar that had avatars.

Wondering how the first avatar looked? It had a graphical eyeball that pretty much grabbed the user’s attention. It moved through the maze pointing in the direction it was travelling to shoot other players. 

1980– What followed was cartoon-like avatars walking around and communicating with chat bubbles in several games

1994– While the Internet spread like wildfire, WorldsChat created a space-station- themed virtual space. So that the avatars could have social interaction and explore the various rooms. 

Then came a more advanced programme, AlphaWorld that had 700 themed rooms or Active Worlds, with 12 different avatars. These numerous avatars enabled more interaction with the game and reached 250,000 cumulative users. Many others joined the league, including Worlds Away, Virtual Places, Comic Chat and The Palace, also offering these virtual rooms. 

The Rise of Communities, Services & Gaming Environments

Slowly and gradually, the concept of communities and immersive gaming experiences started developing. Well, it wasn’t a cakewalk yet the minds behind such projects left no stone unturned in shaping the roadmap of metaverse, as we know it today.

2000 – An online community named Habbo was created by Finnish company. It was able to amass 316 mn avatars since launch and has 800,000 active users.  

Its key feature is that the game is basically a hotel that lets people visit various public places and create their own guest rooms. The users can create their own character, chat with other fellows and also build their own rooms. 

2003 –  The concept of communities gained momentum when Second Life offered a virtual world for users to hang out together and buy/sell virtual items to each other without any goals or objectives, hence establishing a “proto-Metaverse” according to Matthew Ball. The users could interact with places, objects etc. through chat or voice, disguised as an avatar. 

However, it failed to see mass adoption as it was complex, restricted to PC-only, two dimensional, and pre-dated enabling technologies.

2004: Created by David Baszucki and Erik Cassel in 2004, gaming environments like Roblox boast hundreds of millions of users. Offer users goals and objectives to achieve in a virtual gaming environment.

Such comprehensive community experience allowed a variety of socialising, games, group activities, and opportunities to build, shop, create and trade property and services. The users could also use a virtual currency to buy, sell, rent or trade goods such as buildings, vehicles, clothes, art or jewellery, and services could include entertainment, custom content, or business management.

All these developments together combined can be referred to as the Web1.0

Key Takeaway

This is not all, as the history of the metaverse has a lot more twists and turns in its wake. Now that you know the earliest history of what. how and when was metaverse incepted, stay tuned to witness the unravelling of various other ideations that played an important role in developing various layers of it in the coming decades.

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