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How to Build a Metaverse

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Over the past year, the tech world has been abuzz about the metaverse.

Facebook

parent Meta and

Microsoft

are investing billions. But there is a metaverse that has been up and running for decades. It is called Second Life and it was created by a small San Francisco company named Linden Lab. There, people have started businesses, built homes, and fallen in love—all as avatars.

In a new four-part podcast series from The Journal, producer Annie Minoff heads back into that largely forgotten virtual world to tell the story of the metaverse we already have, and what it reveals about the one that is coming. We hear from the founder of Linden Lab and early employees, and people who have had lives in this world for years.

Listen here to all four episodes of “How to Build a Metaverse:”

Part 1: Genesis

In part 1 of our series, we meet the programmers who built Second Life—a 3-D virtual world where users could be and do whatever they could imagine. And we meet the intrepid users who were the pioneers of this brave new world.

Part 2: Avatars Behaving Badly

When Second Life officially launched in 2003, it had one guiding principle for all new users: Be nice. But those users showed up with their own ideas about how to behave in a virtual world. In part 2, Linden Lab wrestles with how to govern its new world.

Part 3: Prime Time

By 2007, Second Life seemed on track for a commercial breakthrough. And then an opportunity came along to get in front of a truly mainstream audience: a starring role on one of TV’s biggest shows. In part 3: Second Life’s ascension to prime time, and the hurdles that threw its success into question.

Part 4: Why Build a World?

Second Life never went mainstream. But just because the platform wasn’t for everyone doesn’t mean it wasn’t for anyone. In part 4, we talk to longtime Second Life users about the lives they have built in the metaverse and what virtual worlds have to offer.

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