A graph showing the various terms for Metaverse, from Information Superhighway to Cyberspace to Virtual Reality and on. These go up and down over time, but the sum of the waves marches slowly up and to the right.

The Metaverse Hype Cycle

Past, Present, Future

Avi Bar-Zeev
Published in
5 min readApr 7, 2022

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We’ve seen a lot of ups and downs with various terms in Spatial Computing. Ironically that umbrella term has remained largely below the radar. I recall us first using it around 1992 in a startup, but who knows how far back it goes?

Screen cap from 1992, WorldDesign startup I joined. I don’t think anyone ever trademarked it.

The question du jour (or de la décennie) is how all this Metaversal stuff pans out in the public’s mind over time. What will we all call it in 5–10 years? More importantly, what does it do and not do?

To understand all that, it’s worth a look at the various other terms we’ve used and how they all tend to ebb and flow and are overtaken by something new, but always stay within some general boundaries. I’d argue the reality (the blue shaded area in the graph) is the integration of all these terms, high and low, not any single one of them.

In the 90s, The Information Superhighway lead the nightly news broadcasts the way Metaverse does on the modern equivalents, TikTok and YouTube. The level of depth reporting is the only thing that stayed the same.

Then as The Web formed in the 90s and early 2000s, saying WWW (or dub-dub-dub) was too cumbersome, so we picked Cyberspace for convenience, and “surfing the web” colloquially. Cyberspace apparently goes back to the 1960s and was popularized by William Gibson for another kind of vast shared 3D information space. Today “cyber” is more about security than spaces.

Virtual Reality has been around as a term for close to a hundred years, almost, but was more popularized in the 1980s with VPL and again around 2008 with the peak of Second Life, and again in 2014 with the acquisition of Oculus for 2–3 billion dollars.

We all know the literary origins of The Metaverse in 1992. But if you plug the term into Google Trends, you don’t see much traction until two years ago. Now it’s dropping off again.

Graph of Metaverse Queries via Google Trends from 2004 to present

Will Metaverse truly be the accepted term now and forever?

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Avi Bar-Zeev
Predict

XR Pioneer (30+ years), started/helped projects at Microsoft (HoloLens), Apple, Amazon, Keyhole (Google Earth), Linden Lab (Second Life), Disney (VR), XR Guild