The Metaverse: What Every Early-Stage Investor Needs to Know

You may not be familiar with the term metaverse, but if you’ve been a consumer of popular books, movies and video games over the past 30 years or so, you probably are aware of the concept.

Consider films like The Matrix or Ready Player One, set in vast virtual realities in which people live, work and play. In Neal Stephenson’s 1992 science fiction novel Snow Crash, believed to be the first work to contain the word metaverse, online inhabitants make transactions using digital currencies, as hyperinflation has all but destroyed fiat currency. No, really, Stephenson wrote this in 1992.

The reason I’m bringing this up now is because, like a lot of the best ideas from sci-fi, the metaverse could soon make the leap from page to reality.

If you listened to Facebook’s earnings call this week, you know what I’m talking about. CEO Mark Zuckerberg must have mentioned the word at least 20 times in his effort to describe the social media company’s plans to begin developing an immersive 3D internet-like experience.

Facebook, which reported record quarterly revenue of $29 billion, is in a very good position to bring such a high-tech, high-concept experience to consumers. Besides having a staggering 2.9 billion active monthly users, the company already sells the Oculus virtual reality (VR) headset and Portal smart display screen. It also will be releasing smart glasses in partnership with Ray-Ban.

“This is going to be the successor to the mobile internet,” Zuckerberg told shareholders on Thursday.

“You’re going to be able to access the metaverse from all different devices and different levels of fidelity from apps on phones and PCs to immersive virtual and augmented reality devices.”

If Web 1.0 describes the earliest days of the internet with static, one-way sites; and if Web 2.0 describes the period of the internet that emphasizes interactivity and user-generated content; then what Zuckerberg and others envision can only be called Web 3.0.