Historical Roots of the Metaverse

From Imagination to Reality: Uncovering the History of the Metaverse

The 70ties

From its early beginnings as a concept in science fiction, the Metaverse has been envisioned as a virtual world where people can interact and experience limitless possibilities. Take a look at its history and explore how this idea has evolved over the years, leading us to the world of virtual reality we know today. In September 1974, the episode "The Practical Joker" appeared in the Star Trek cartoon series. In this episode, the "Red Room", later called the Holodeck, was shown for the first time. The holodeck is a computer-generated virtual world in a physical room in the Enterprise. The Enterprise crew could walk into this room and run various computer simulations to be in the middle of a virtual world.


In 1991, the first version of the World Wide Web was published worldwide. It was based on the Hypertext Protocol of the inventor Tim Berners-Lee. The Mosaic web browser was created.

In 1992 the science fiction novel "Snow Crash" by the American author Neil Stephenson was published. That was the first time a Metaverse was described. In his novel, the Metaverse was created by one company as a very long street around a virtual black globe. Along with this street, companies were able to build and advertise. There were specific city areas where people can fight against each other but also parks and shows. Millions of real people connect to Stephensons Metaverse with a computer Terminal at home and special glasses that project the virtual world to the users...
This book inspired a lot of people in the silicon valley technology scene. After Stephenson coined the "Metaverse" a few companies took the inspiration and developed games and applications that inherited some of the concepts of the book, like "Avatars" or first-person gaming perspectives. 

In 1996 ID Software released Quake as the first Ego-shooter with a real 3D environment and virtual player opponents in real 3D. Michael Abrash one of the Quake developers told in a blog post: "It all started with Snow Crash".

In 1998 Google was launched


In June 2001 Google released Goole Earth. The popular application shows the virtual earth based on satellite pictures.

In June 2003 the Video Game Second Life was released. One of the first virtual games that came very close and incorporated a lot of concepts of Stephenson's Metaverse. Users could design their avatars, buy land, create buildings and pay or earn Linden dollars. In 2018 second life reported 57 million registered users. But only about half a million monthly active users.

In 2004, Facebook was created to better connect students at Harvard University originally.

In 2009, the very first Bitcoin was mined by Satoshi Nakamoto.


2010 The first prototype of the Oculus Rift virtual reality goggles was unveiled.

2011: The novel "Ready Player One" by Ernest Cline was published. 
It describes a metaverse called OASIS in detail and provided for many the template of what is imagined under a metaverse today.

In 2012, Google presented the Google Glass project. A pair of glasses that can deliver additional information to the real world through augmented reality. However, Google did not manage to commercialize Google Glass.

2012 Launch of the Sandbox project on mobile devices. Today Sandbox claims to be a virtual metaverse where you can play, build, own and trade virtual goods. 

2014: Facebook buys VR headset maker Oculus for $2 billion.

2016: Sony launches Playstation VR.

Apple releases the ARKit framework with IOS 11, allowing developers to create augmented reality apps.

Epic releases the game Fortnite. It is based on the 3D development environment Unreal Engine. Fortnite shows what is possible: millions of players participating in an online game via different devices and platforms. Fortnite is basically free, but you can buy in-game currency, which can then be used to buy virtual items and things. After one year, Fortnite had 125 million players. In 2020, there were already 350 million registered users, who played Fortnite for 3.3 billion hours in April 2020 alone.

In 2017, Decentraland released a closed beta version after two years of development. Only later, in February 2020, Decentraland became available to everyone. Decentraland is a decentralized virtual reality platform that uses the Ethereum Blockchain. Players can create and experience virtual content and also earn money from it. In 2021, as the popularity of NFTs increased, the price of virtual land in Decentraland exploded many times over.

2018: "Ready Player One" hit theaters as a blockbuster

Tim Sweeney, the CEO of Epic (Fortnite) mentioned in an interview with GamesBeat that every day at Epic they think about the further development of the Metaverse. On the other hand, he also realizes that it could probably take decades to create a true Metaverse. There are still many components missing.

In 2019, South Korea is the first country in the world to introduce the 5G mobile network on a large scale.


End 2020: Earth2.io launches as the first concept of a virtual world that virtually mirrors our Earth 1:1 through geo-mapping. The vision of Earth2 is to create a global, digital version of our Earth where everyone can find a place to stay, create, act, live, experience and interact with others. A special feature of Earth2 is its release at an early stage of development, long before the 3D virtual world is ready. Enabling many people to be there early on pays into founder Shane Isaac's vision of creating a metaverse for all people. After just over a year, in early 2022 Earth2 already has 150,000 monthly active users and over $14 million has been paid out to users, generated from trading virtual land and virtual assets.

2021: In a developer conference, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella describes Microsoft's Azure offering as the foundation for the Metaverse.

2021: Facebook changes its company name to Meta to cement a shift in company direction toward the Metaverse. 

End of 2021: Facebook's rebranding leads to hype among providers of Metaverse projects. Isolated virtual properties are traded for millions and the brand world appears more strongly in the Metaverse

This is a handpicked selection of milestones towards a metaverse and of course does not claim to be complete. Status January 2022
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