History of the Metaverse (2004–2008)

4 min readSep 3, 2021

This is the second article in the series about the metaverse history. The first one is an intro with a discussion on a bunch of the most prominent examples from when the story began. Let’s start!

IMVU (2004)

That one is interesting, since many IMVU users are content creators, creating and selling products in the IMVU catalog. Users also devote time to customizing their individual homepages, setting up public and private rooms, creating and participating in user groups (similar to forums but personalized via the owner), and participating in the Community forums. Additionally, there are numerous user-produced third-party websites providing additional forums and resources to the IMVU community. IMVU users are also able to conduct peer review on virtual products waiting to be submitted into the IMVU catalog, with a reward of 10 promo-credits per product review. So, summing everything up, IMVU is an online metaverse and social networking site that was founded in 2004. It contains its own economy with a currency system based on IMVU “credits” and “promo credits” and pretty creative community!

Croquest Project (2005)

Now you will see an example that is somewhat different from most of the metaverse projects. It is a software development kit for use in developing collaborative virtual world applications. This efficiency, combined with the ability to deploy Croquet-based virtual worlds on consumer-level hardware, makes it possible for developers to deploy large-scale and highly participatory collaborative worlds at very low cost compared with virtual world technologies that are entirely dependent on server-based infrastructures to support the activities of their users.

Making a bottom line, it is platform and device independent project where users and developers may freely share, modify and view the source code of the whole system, due to a liberal license. Likely, the key aspect is that Croquet based worlds can also be updated while the system is live and running.

Roblox (2006)

None story on metaverse can be comprehensively described without Roblox. It allows players to create their own games using its proprietary engine, Roblox Studio, which can then be played by other users.

Games are coded under an object-oriented programming system utilizing a dialect of the programming language Lua to manipulate the environment of the game. Users are able to create purchasable content through one-time purchases, known as “game passes”, as well as microtransactions which can be purchased more than once, known as “developer products” or “products”. Revenue from purchases is split between the developer and the Roblox Corporation 30–70, in favor of Roblox Corp. The majority of games produced using Roblox Studio are developed by minors, and a total of 20 million games a year are produced using it.

Community is quite sparse. Users of Roblox have been noted for their efforts against racism, with numerous regular users and co-founder Baszucki having declared their support for the George Floyd protests and Black Lives Matter. In August 2019, an investigation by NBC News revealed over 100 accounts linked to far-right and neo-Nazi groups. After being contacted about the accounts by NBC, Roblox moderators removed them.

This is the one that is likely one of the most popular even now, so we have a lot to learn from yet!

Google Lively (2008)

Google. This word is known to each and everyone. So what kind of experience does it have in metaverse? Frankly, not that much.

Google Lively was a virtual-world plug-in for websites and blogs. After installing it on their browsers, people could interact online in a new, engaging way. Users could create 3D chat rooms, choosing from pre-existing designs and elements, set different themes and conversation topics, and build avatars.

It was only supported on Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox, using Windows XP or Windows Vista. It required a special download as well as Flash. The program was designed to be integrated with the Web and provided a new way to access information. This was enabled through the embedding of Lively “rooms” into any HTML webpage — which meant content could be provided in a two-dimensional format, and communication surrounding the topic of that content could be made in the three-dimensional room without the need to enter a separate program.

Against Google’s intentions, people were predominantly interested in using the tool for sex and violence. Hence, Google couldn’t properly integrate its advertisement platform with Lively, which was another blow against further development.