Second Life remains both the first and the most successful manifestation of a so-called metaverse.
Zuckerberg first outlined his vision for the Metaverse, the “successor to the mobile internet”, in 2021. According to Nick Clegg, Meta’s president of global affairs, the project would take a decade to revolutionise the way we browse the web. But less than two years and $36bn later, the project has stalled, with little to show for it. User numbers for Horizon Worlds – Meta’s first draft of an interconnected world entered via a VR headset – have steadily declined during the past year. According to internal documents, most visitors do not return after the first month and a feature to reward users who have created content within Horizon Worlds generated just $470 globally in revenue in its first year. Zuckerberg recently announced 21,000 redundancies and hinted that all Meta employees may soon be required to return to physical offices, a rather self-sabotaging policy at a company committed to erasing the distinction between the physical and digital. As it sheds employees and investor focus impatiently shifts to the get-richer-quicker possibilities of generative AI, the vision fades. Almost every national newspaper has run a variation on the article: “Whatever happened to the metaverse?”
Yet Second Life – and its more modest vision of an Internet World – persists.
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