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What is the Metaverse?

The short answer: "It's the Internet, except you can walk around in it."

The long answer: "An Internet-like system, except using a three-dimensional world metaphor with which you interact using a three-dimensional virtual representation of yourself (see Digital Avatar) instead of a two-dimensional hyperlinked-document metaphor with which you interact by clicking links and buttons."

The trope answer: The Internet becoming Cyberspace for real and everyone knowing about it and interacting with it that way.

The advent of Second Life and its open-source equivalent, Open Sim, may make this future arrive sooner than you think. Some might argue that it already has, what with real-world governments and businesses setting up shop in Second Life, people making real-world money entirely within Second Life, and successful experiments at teleporting avatars between the Second Life grid and various OpenSim grids.

This is a subtrope of Cyberspace where it's widely known and used as a replacement for today's Internet by the public at large, not just by a few lucky hackers, discoverers, or inventors' friends.

Examples of The Metaverse include:


Anime and Manga


Film


Literature

  • Snow Crash - the trope namer
  • Otherland, by Tad Williams.
  • The Sidebar Universes in Justina Robson's Living Next Door to the God of Love are a lot like this. Robson makes it difficult to tell where (or if) reality ends and virtual reality begins.
  • The Infosphere in Dan Simmon's Hyperion. Also the Megasphere, the true home of the AI Core, and the Metasphere, aka the Void Which Binds.
  • Inscape in several of Karl Schroeder's book, especially Ventus, Lady of Mazes, and Permanence.
  • Used in a few of Charles Stross's books, particularly Accelerando.
  • This Alien Shore, by C.S. Friedman.
  • Used on a massive scale in the Golden Age trilogy by John C. Wright.


Live Action TV


Tabletop Games

  • In White Wolf's Mage: The Ascension game, there's the Digital Web, and one faction is working on Reality 2.0 to boot.
  • Shadowrun's Matrix. Not related to the movie.
  • The D 20 Modern book d20 Cyberscape addresses this.


Video Games

  • Mega Man Battle Network - The Internet has evolved into just this, except the avatars are independent, sentient entities instead of just virtual images of the users. Also, it's been extended into everything from water coolers to vases.
    • In Star Force, the internet has grown out into a massive wireless world that overlaps the real one.
      • And yet manages to be both far, far less impressive or useful than the internet from something like a hundred years before.
  • The Nameless Mod: a meta example. The game (mod) is set in forum city-a fictional Metaverse based on Deus Ex where player avatars are based on Deus Ex characters.


Webcomics

  • Kid Radd has the digital protagonists living in the internet, which to them looks much like this trope.


Western Animation

  • Futurama - After clearing the Valley of Pop-Up Ads, you reach a huge metropolis where Google and Yahoo are in the big buildings. The porn sites are in the red light district.


Real Life

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