What a 1994 Bill Gates keynote tells us about the metaverse - Deepstash
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The metaverse will probably not exist anytime soon

The metaverse will probably not exist anytime soon

We don't know anything for sure about the metaverse. Theoretically, it will be an open, shared experience like virtual reality or augmented reality.

But the metaverse is dependent on the entire industry settling on complex technical standards that are not work-in-progress yet.

Currently, discussion of life in the metaverse involves existing proprietary virtual worlds such as Roblox, or they are speculative. Still, metaverse supporters continue to tell us what it's going to be like.

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Treating an idea as if it’s a reality

Treating an idea as if it’s a reality

On November 14, 1994, Microsoft’s Bill Gates dedicated his keynote to “this next era that we’re moving into.” The buzzword was “information superhighway”—the national high-speed computing network that would revolutionize how consumers shopped, informed and entertained themselves. Gates showed in his on-stage presentation how he saw the futuristic year of 2005.

In October 2021, Zuckerberg showed a spectacular experience the metaverse would unlock, similar to what Gates had done with the information superhighway 27 years earlier.

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What Gates got wrong

What Gates got wrong

In his keynote, many of the ideas Gates spoke about became a reality, such as smartphones, Google Maps and other tools. Yet, there are ways in which Gate's tech ideas failed.

  • Gates was overly optimistic about when these innovations would happen. In many cases, it happened well after 2005.
  • The products Microsoft envisioned and made, like the Pocket PCs, Tablet PCs, and Auto PCs, were not enduring hits. Other companies did a much better job.

Dismissing Gate's visions as fantasy would have been a bad idea. But it would also be bad to confuse Gates's confidence with the ability to predict the future.

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Lessons learned from Bill Gates keynote

If Zuckerberg’s metaverse pronouncements turn out to have been vaguely on target, it will be an accomplishment. But it doesn't guarantee that Meta will be a major player. It is possible that the metaverse will be defined and dominated by companies that don't exist yet.

When the world envisioned in Gate's keynote became real, no one was talking about "the information superhighway," or "the information highway." It was just called the internet.

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