A Brief History of the Metaverse: Days of our Second Lives

In the second half of the 1990s, VRML became the platform of choice for ‘virtual worlds’ filled with ‘avatars’ – digital representations of real people. The Web goes big – and stays big – yet VRML crashes back to Earth, as Second Life becomes the last best hope for the Metaverse. It’s all melodrama, all the time, in ‘Days of our Second Lives’!

Tony’s Intervista Software had a very 1997 website. Check it out here.
Have a play with Jan Mallis’ Floops – an early VRML animation – here!
Watch the five episodes of ‘Bliss.com’ Jan and Mark created — in your web browser, here.
VRML: The LSD of the Internet” from the May 1996 Red Herring.
Mark Jeffrey co-created The Palace – a 2D avatar chat. It’s still going, here!
Christopher Caen co-founded OnLive – a 3D chat with audio streaming. He also has an amazing/hilarious Substack, “A Long Time Ago in a Valley Far, Far Away”, telling the tale here.
And Philip Rosedale created Second Life still going strong!

A Brief History of the Metaverse: DIY Metaverse

Tony and Mark – supported by a global community of technologists, enthusiasts and dreamers – brought 3D to the brand-new Web with VRML. This episode features Owen Rowley, Neil Redding, Linda Jacobson, Brian Behlendorf, John McCrea, Coco Conn — and Neal Stephenson.

Read the interview with Jaron Lanier in MONDO 2000 issue 2 that changed Mark’s life.

Homebrew VR“, written by Linda Jacobson, in WIRED magazine, issue 1.

Use Windows? Have a play with ‘Labyrinth’, the world’s first 3D Web browser, here. You can explore the ‘Cyberbanana’ – and ‘Daniel’s Room’, the first public demonstration of VRML, for SIGKIDS 1994.

“Coco’s Channel” a WIRED article about Coco Conn’s work creating SIGKIDS. Read it here.

Read ‘Cyberspace’, the paper describing VRML that Mark presented at the First International Conference on the World Wide Web.

Read the VRML 1.0 spec here.

A gallery of wonderful images from VERGE (thanks to Linda Jacobson for these!)

At the end of the episode, Neal Stephenson recounts the story of a panel he sat through – which inspired him to write Snow Crash. Read it here

A Brief History of the Metaverse: Military Metaverse

In our second episode, co-hosts Mark Pesce and Tony Parisi discover that the technology behind the Metaverse has its origins in the darkest days of the Cold War. This ‘Military Metaverse’ gave birth to the Internet, transforming warfare – and, a generation later, online gaming. Dr. Michael Zyda explains how he forged the connection between deep military tech – SIMNET – and the latest online games.

JCR Licklider – “Lick” to his friends and colleagues – is little-known but absolutely an essential figure in the development of modern computing.

Ivan Sutherland is probably the most influential computer scientist, full stop.

Here’s a video of Ivan Sutherland giving a demo of ‘Sketchpad’ the first interactive computer drawing program.

Bob Taylor is largely unknown outside the small community of individuals involved with the early Internet – but his work is profoundly influential.

Here’s an interview with Bob Taylor, talking about the origins of the Internet

Here’s an excellent documentary on the recreation of the “Battle of 73 Easting” – the first tank battle captured in real-time, then simulated endlessly using SIMNET.

A Brief History of the Metaverse: What is the Metaverse?

NEW SERIES! In episode one, Mark and co-host Tony Parisi travel back more than a century to uncover the roots of the Metaverse. From pioneers Chip Morningstar and Randy Farmer, creators of “Habitat”, the first massively multiplayer online environment, we learn the Metaverse has never been about technology – but always about people.

Have a read through Tony Parisi’s “The Seven Rules of the Metaverse” here.
Read E.M. Forster’s “The Machine Stops” here.
Listen to William Gibson reading an abridged version of Neuromancer here.
Wondering what Lucasfilm’s Habitat looked like? Watch the promo video here.
Read Chip Morningstar and Randy Farmer’s amazing, prescient paper, “The Lessons of Lucasfilm’s Habitat” here.
Want to play Habitat? You can – in your web browser. Just go here.

Big thanks to the wonderful folks who voiced those historical evocations of Metaverse: Genevieve Bell, Mark Jeffrey, Paul Godwin and David Baxter.

Episode 6.03 2022 Predictions: We ask the experts

We turn to the experts – Jason Calacanis, Sally Dominguez, Ramez Naam, Drew Smith, Mark Jeffrey and Tony Parisi – to learn their predictions for the future of work, sustainable energy, transportation, cryptocurrencies and the metaverse.

Episode 6.01 – New and Improved Futures!

A new series, a new podcast production partner – and a new theme: WORLDCHANGING, bringing together amazing talent, tools, and a driving need change the world in this decade! We’re bringing you WORLDCHANGING stories in series 6 of The Next Billion Seconds.

Have a look at Saul Griffith’s amazing new book, The Big Switch: Australia’s electric future

And – if you use Microsoft Windows – you can have a play with that early metaverse software that Tony Parisi and I wrote, nearly 30 years ago – just go here.