The InterGrid and the Second Life Foundation

When the Metaverse Roadmap was released last year, people were excited. For the first time in history, several different technologies were planned out for the next 10-20 years, and their convergence — desired, or undesired — laid out and discussed openly, surveys were made, presentations were given, and a lot of documentation was produced. The Metaverse Roadmap is not a “prophet’s tool”. It sort of gave directions and guidelines; it tried to “define” what people’s expectations of a “metaverse” should look like, and how to slowly proceed to implement it. Although the Roadmap could and was criticised — for instance, it appealed to people’s participation on surveys; it extracted information from existing technologies; but it didn’t plan to implement anything — it was better than the alternative: having no information on what a “metaverse” should look like.

During Virtual World 2008, what suddenly happened was that the Metaverse went through an “identity crisis”, as Hiro Pendragon so aptly named it. Put into other words: apparently, the industry is not aligned with what the “Metaverse” is supposed to be. They have forked and gone different roads.

One or many Metaverses?

Neal Stephenson’s original idea of a Metaverse seemed to indicate a “single” environment, with differing uses. Although the Metaverse Roadmap tends to talk about “integrating separate technologies”, the ultimate goal would be a single, unified virtual environment, even if with multiple purposes — from socialising to gaming, from research to teaching, from simulation to augmented reality. What was expected was a certain “convergence” of technologies towards that ultimate goal, not unlike what happened with “online networks” that ultimately fused in what we broadly classify as the Internet today.

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