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EXPLAINER: What the metaverse is and how it will work

by Mary Sewell

The metaverse, which could spring up again when Facebook releases earnings Monday, is the latest buzzword to capture the tech industry’s imagination.

Plus, many have concerns about a new online world tied to a social media giant that could access even more personal data and is accused of failing to stop harmful content.

Here’s what this online world is all about:


Think of it as the internet brought to life, or at least rendered in 3D. Zuckerberg has described it as a “virtual environment” you can go inside of — instead of just looking at a screen. Essentially, it’s a world of endless, interconnected virtual communities where people can meet, work, and play, using virtual reality headsets, augmented reality glasses, smartphone apps, or other devices.

According to Victoria Petrock, it will also incorporate other aspects of online life such as shopping and social media, an analyst who follows emerging technologies.

“It’s the next evolution of connectivity where all of those things start to come together in a seamless, doppelganger universe, so you’re living your virtual life the same way you’re living your physical life,” she said.

But keep in mind that “it’s hard to define a label to something that hasn’t been created,” said Tuong Nguyen, an analyst who tracks immersive technologies for research firm Gartner.

Facebook warned it would take 10 to 15 years to develop reliable products for the metaverse, coined by writer Neal Stephenson for his 1992 science fiction novel “Snow Crash.”

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