The Big Picture, from

Tuesday, September 05, 2006


Neal Stephenson's seminal novel, Snow Crash, made a splash in the science fiction genre back in 1992 when it was first published. While William Gibson used the term cyberspace to describe his fictional depiction of an three-dimensional representation of an online world in Neuromancer, Stephenson chose "metaverse" for the same purpose. Between them, the books were central to introducing the concept of a 3D online environment to readers worldwide. As the Internet exploded into the public's consciousness at large in the 1990s, both books were often referred to by young entrepreneurs describing business plans for online ventures.

Years later, in the post-Internet bubble world, the metaverse is again part of the online buzz, as immersive 3D environments are actually available to netizens. While World of Warcraft now boasts more than 7 million users, another environment, Second Life, has been created by Linden Labs specifically to resemble Stephenson's fictional creation. As in Snow Crash, people are represented by avatars and interact with an online world that has been entirely created by other users. Second Life has now seen appearances by U.S. presidential candidates (Mark Warner), a virtual marketing conference, a virtual version of an Adidas store and is the recipient of plenty of offline buzz, as evidenced by this cover story from Newsweek earlier this year.

To learn more about the timeline of the creation of 3D environments related to the metaverse, visit the


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