What is the Metaverse?

And should other retailers follow Nike’s lead into this new world?

Clark Boyd
10 min readNov 7, 2021


🤔 So, what is the metaverse?

Well it’s not really anything yet. It’s an umbrella term for a collection of digital technologies, with a rough sense that they will reside within a virtual, alternate reality.

Author Neal Stephenson coined the term in his 1992 novel Snow Crash. Now lots of companies are calling anything vaguely futuristic a “metaverse strategy”.

In general, the imagined metaverse has these properties:

  • Virtual: Right now, you’ll need a VR headset to “get into” the metaverse.
  • Social: You will meet other avatars there, some of which might actually represent real people.
  • Consistent: In the sense that you can drop in and out of the metaverse and things will be where you left them. This means you can build over time, as you would in a game like Animal Crossing.

The name itself is intended to connote an all-encompassing environment, not just an isolated experience.

Facebook is dead set on creating the metaverse for all of us, but it is unclear whether they will be part of a broader infrastructure or if each Big Tech company will create its own “world”. We are loosely led to believe that “Web 3.0” will play a role in creating the infrastructure, but details are scarce.

These technologies and platforms could fall under the metaverse aegis:

  • Augmented Reality
  • Virtual Reality
  • Roblox (plus Fortnite and many other games).
  • NFTs
  • Smart glasses
  • Digital twins

Which… is just a collection of things.

We like to make connections and “the metaverse” allows us to link new technology into a narrative.

That has some benefits.

It gives us a common way of understanding this new world and allows for articles such as this. It’s also broad enough to encompass new developments that we have not counted on, of which there will be many.



Clark Boyd

Tech/business writer, lecturer (Columbia), and data analyst. >500k views on Medium. I used to be with it, but then they changed what ‘it’ was.