There has been a lot of talk lately about what to call "Virtual Worlds" or a "metaverse" (right off the bat, ironically, the wikipedia entry for "Virtual World" says "computer-based simulated environment" meanwhile metaverse on wikipedia says "The Metaverse is a fictional virtual world, described by Neal Stephenson)"
It was brought up last week at Metanomics Community Forum - The terms that floated around were "Virtual Environments" , or "Immersive Media" ... which led to "Virtual Synthetic Immerse Environments..."
It was brought up last Sunday at Metaverse Week in Review where Mal Burns has decided to change calling "Virtual Worlds" into calling them "V-Worlds"
Facebook even has a category under 'interests' called "Virtual Social Media" (which I'm quite impressed with so kudos to Facebook).
When I think of labeling a technology, I tend to think about how music genres became labeled. My example in it's simplest form "Rock-n-Roll".... what the hell does that even mean? Literally, it means stones and the outer breaded layer of a sandwich. As future moved onward, rock-n-roll dropped the buns, and became "rock" soon after that sub-genres emerged (alternative, metal, punk, etc). Lets say there's a band that categorizes themselves as "rap metal emocore electrofunk", the music stores will sell their CDs in the "rock/pop" section. Why? because people get what that means without having to use wikipedia... even if the term doesn't even fit.
Electronic music genres are the same. For example, there's a genre called "IDM" (Aphex Twin falls into this genre). What is IDM you ask? Well it stands for Intelligent Dance Music. If you've ever listened to Intelligent Dance Music, the first thing you think is 'there's no way in hell anyone can dance to this'. So Aphex Twin coined the term "Brain music". Sounds more fitting in my opinion... however, Aphex Twin to this day is the only one that uses the term... to everyone else, it's still IDM.
Basically every term in history came to fruition through a chain of small conversations and events which led to the terminology just STICKING. ... And that becomes the label... whether it fits or not. There's never been a strong enough campaign to change a label society decides to stick with out of convenience.
Well here's what I've decided, take it or leave it: I.... I am going with this one:
"Social Networlds" ... (Virtual Worlds + Social Networks is a nice simple play on words, and that is all we really need.)
Either way (and point being), the terms Virtual World and Metaverse are here to stay (with "immersive environment" as a runner up). Those terms already stuck, and there's not going to be a way to change it. But hey, call an inworld social universe whatever you wish... no one will understand what you're talking about until you describe what you mean anyway. The description and definition that comes along with the label is what matters most.
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Full Disclosure : I wrote this blog post in my underwear and my underwear is made by Hanes.