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

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.

The Next Billion Gadgets – AUGMENTED REALITIES

VR pioneer Tony Parisi tours CES to discover ‘cybershoes’, RealMAX augmented reality spectacles, Vuze+ 3D cameras — and explores how 5G mobile networks will transform media creation & consumption.

Tony gets excited by the Realmax augmented reality spectacles…

1968: When the World Began – RETURN TO A SQUARE

50 years later, both creators and keepers of the flame for the ‘Mother of All Demos’ reflect on how 1968 changed the world — for all of us.

On 9 December 1968, Doug Engelbart gave the ‘Mother of All Demos’ – and the world changed.

On 9 December 2018, some of the luminaries of the Internet gathered to commemorate the Golden Anniversary of the Mother of All Demos.

We had a chance to talk with some of them, weaving their stories together into one of our own…

Elizabeth ‘Jake’ Feinler ran the Network Information Center for SRI.

Marc Weber is a curator at the Computer History Museum.

Charles Irby walked into the Demo by accident – and it changed his life.

Jeff Rulifson was lead software architect for the oNLine System.

Bob Taylor was head of the IPTO at ARPA – taking over from Ivan Sutherland, who took over from JCR Licklider. The Demo was his idea.

Andy van Dam is a professor at Brown, and a luminary in the field of computer graphics.

Vint Cerf is the father of the Internet.

Howard Rheingold was so impressed by NLS that he talked his way into Doug’s Human Augmentation Research Center at SRI.

Sir Tim-Berners Lee is the father of the Web.

Tony Parisi is the Global Head of VR/AR Brand Solutions at Unity – and co-creator (with Mark Pesce) of the Virtual Reality Modelling Language (VRML).

Episode 2.08 The Last Days of Reality (Part Two)

Back in July 2016, Pokémon Go opened the doors to the brave new world of augmented reality – an overnight success fifty years in the making. With companies like Magic Leap and Facebook working hard to create augmented reality ‘spectacles’, the next billion seconds will see us put our smartphones down — instead placing the screen over our eyes. We’ll like what we see in our new, “improved” reality – but who’s creating and controlling that reality? That’s a question confronting all of us at the dawn of “The Last Days of Reality”.

Here’s a taste:

Listen on iTunes

Or listen to the whole episode here:


(May not work outside of Australia and New Zealand)

Here’s all of the media and links mentioned in the episode:

First, video of Pokémon Go players in Ryde – as the situation was tipping out of control:

The article from the Sydney Morning Herald about Niantic removing the ‘Pokestops’ from Ryde in a game update – pleasing the local residents.

Here’s some early footage of the ‘Sword of Damocles’ – the very first augmented reality system:

Sega’s VirtuaVR system – which I helped design:

Which led to the Magic Leap One AR spectacles – being released in September 2018. Here’s an video about that:

Mark Zuckerberg’s 2017 keynote at Facebook’s F8 Developer Conference, where he talks about how important augmented reality is to the future of Facebook:

Here’s that 2014 article from The Guardian about that infamous experiment where Facebook manipulated the emotions of 689,000 of its users – without telling them.

Finally, here’s HYPER-REALITY. You really want to watch all six minutes. It’s gold.

HYPER-REALITY from Keiichi Matsuda on Vimeo.