The metaverse does not yet exist, but everyone is talking about it. Domain investors have had their eye on the metaverse for some time, particularly since the domain name metaverse.io was sold by Andrew Rosener’s MediaOptions for $175,000 in March, 2021 at ParkIO. Metaverse interest among the general public and business leaders has skyrocketed in recent weeks. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced in late July that Facebook would be transformed into a metaverse company. But what exactly is the metaverse? Origins of the Term Metaverse Many explanations of the metaverse note that the word is a combination of the prefix meta, that can mean beyond, with verse, a contracted form of universe. In astronomy, the universe is ‘all of space and time.’ That is, the universe includes all galaxies, estimated at about 125 billion, and the stars, planets and other matter they contain. Everything. Universe is used in everyday life to mean all things in some category. So what exactly does ‘beyond everything’ even mean? A good question. At time of writing, the Merriam-Webster dictionary does not even recognize metaverse as a word, although I expect that will soon change. The origin of the term metaverse is usually credited to the science fiction novel Snow Crash, published by futurist author Neal Stephenson in 1992. Google Books Ngram Viewer shows that popularity of the term metaverse in books increased steadily from 1992 until 2010, and then decreased somewhat, before the recent explosion of interest. That probably reflects that the Open Source Metaverse Project ceased operation in 2008. Ngram Viewer only allows one to look up to 2019, and is how frequently the term appears in Google Books only. But What Is The Metaverse? The metaverse depends on technologies such as augmented and virtual reality, high-throughput fast networks, cloud computing, artificial intelligence, online commerce, virtual meeting technology, and online gaming concepts. But it is more than a collection of those technologies. The metaverse includes the existing Internet, but it is not simply an upgraded Internet. The division between your real experience and your online experience will become fuzzy with the metaverse. You will have an identity in the metaverse, and will interact with others, including in online commerce. In that sense, Second Life could be considered a forerunner of the metaverse. The idea of the metaverse was simply explained by Mark Zuckerberg in this quote. Another insightful view on what the metaverse is was provided in a recently published metaverse legal backgrounder by the law firm Norton Rose Fulbright: A number of features of the metaverse are agreed by most experts. It will have persistence, an existence over space and time. It is a synchronous environment, where you will interact with others in real time. The pervasive digital meeting spaces of the last few years helped establish this framework. Corporate interest in the metaverse is largely related to the fact that there will be a diverse online economy in the metaverse. Blockchain digital contracts and cryptocurrencies helped set the stage for this aspect of the metaverse. To some degree platforms such as Roblox have been testing aspects of user experience and a user creative economy, and Roblox CEO Dave Baszucki has been a strong proponent of the metaverse for many years. As summarized in this account, new forms of online marketing and commerce will be important parts of the metaverse. An Example Perhaps a specific example can illustrate how the metaverse would work, at least as I understand it. Let’s say you and a group of friends fancy a visit to Italy. In an instant you can be transformed on the metaverse to Italy, visit the streets of Rome, drop in for virtual visits at museums, all enhanced through high quality video, virtual reality and particularly augmented reality. In some senses you will be in Italy, including the ability to interact with your friends while there, to share your experience. You will also be able to interact with other simultaneous metaverse visitors to Italy, as well as those who live there in real life, if they are also on the metaverse. The robotic visits to museums and art galleries that emerged during the pandemic were testing grounds for certain metaverse concepts. You will be able to interact with artisans and purchase digital items, perhaps NFT-backed artwork, right within the metaverse. Powerful hyper-personalized marketing will individualize the opportunities offered to each participant. You will be able to purchase a wide variety of types of items, and those will stay with you in the metaverse. During the visit it will be possible to purchase tickets to music or theatrical virtual performances, or even performances on demand. If prior to your trip you bought an eGuide, that will be naturally integrated as you tour the country. You can take selfies and pictures via augmented reality, or do your own artwork to help remember your experience. After you ‘return’ perhaps your local school will ask you to share your trip with students. You will be able to visit the school virtually, as long as it is on the metaverse, share the images and items from your metaverse trip. But more than that, you and the students can instantly go to the Italy section of the metaverse together, and you can guide them through your favourite places. Is Metaverse The Right Term? While I think the term metaverse is so ingrained that it will probably continue to be the name everyone will use, it did strike me as possibly not the best term, however. Is there one metaverse, as the futurists perceived, or multiple metaverses? The latter seems more likely, as companies move to establish themselves as major metaverse players, each with their own focus. How integrated will multiple metaverses be? If fully integrated, then the futurist dream of one metaverse will have been achieved. In astronomy, while the term universe means everything, there is also the theoretical concept of a multiverse of parallel universes. This is related to the idea of an observable universe. There may be multiple universes, each invisible to the other. The multiverse is the hypothetical collection of these universes. I wonder if multiverse might be a more appropriate term for how the metaverse is set to evolve. However, since multiverse is a well-established astrophysics and science fiction term, that is a reason not to use the term for something else too. The word multiverse has not had significant reported domain name sales yet. The term multiverse is registered in 201 TLDs according to dotDB. Potential Legal Obstacles Whatever we call it, the metaverse has many legal challenges to overcome. Issues such as privacy and data protection, consumer rights, safeguarding minors, competition and monopolies legislation. This article provides a readable and comprehensive account of some of the legal issues related to the metaverse. Metaverse Showcase on NamePros @DomainBarracksRob started a Metaverse Showcase on NamePros back in March. As well as sharing acquisitions, members discuss what types of names will be in demand. Will it be exclusively exact matches, and if so in what extensions, or will dual word domain names find a market? What about acronyms, like MV, or simply the word meta? Will interest in the metaverse spur renewed interest in domain names related to the required technologies such as augmented reality? Metaverse Hand Registrations Gone One thing is clear, if you have not yet secured an exact match metaverse name the going is tough. DotDB indicates the the exact term metaverse is taken in 579 TLDs, while Dofo Advanced Search shows that 387 are currently listed for sale. The only unregistered exact metaverse domain names are either high-price premium names or a few obscure extensions. Not So Many Sales, Yet So far, recorded on NameBio at least, there are not a large number of metaverse sales. Here are a few in the exact term. metaverse.io $175,000 (it also sold previously) metaverse.one $20,000 metaverse.xyz $9888 metaverse.tech $3000 metaverse.world $675 (but back in 2017) The domain names metaverse.com and and metaverse.org do not resolve, metaverse.net is developed. If we look at longer names including metaverse, there are a few additional sales, but not many. MetaverseMarkets.com $2401 MetaverseArt.com $1050 There are also a few smaller value sales. The exact word meta has sold a number of times. meta.io $100,000 meta.cloud $5000 meta.one $4550 meta.be $2835 meta.us $2500 There were also several sales at about $500 and less. Will Metaverse Negatively Impact Domains In Long Term? If one or more metaverse deployments are successful, might that ultimately be bad for domain names? With a powerful integrated user experience, new and more effective marketing, all right in that metaverse, will the need for domain names decrease? Or will it possibly increase, as even more commerce turns online, better enabled by the metaverse? Please share your thoughts in the comments section. It is fun to think about what a metaverse NamePros, or perhaps domain world more generally, would be like.