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The soldiers who became social media stars during the fighting – Israel Culture

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The soldiers who became social media stars during the fighting - Israel Culture

Since the outbreak of the war, many videos of IDF soldiers have moved many people and managed to bring a smile to their faces. Now the fighters behind the videos are talking about their new status as network stars, about the surprise at the number of views, and the desire to make the people of Israel happy.

Osher Beniso (20), a fighter in the rescue and rescue brigade, last week did a routine shift at the entry gate at the Ofakim base where she serves. In the middle of the day, she opened the gate for singer David Broza, who had come to perform for the base’s soldiers, and had a small talk with him.

“David said that when he finished the performance he would come to sing for us at the gate, and indeed when he finished, he kept his promise and came to the gate,” Osher recalls.

“David asked who knew how to sing and play, and I told him that I know how to play the piano and sing since the age of 10 and he invited me to sing with him. When he started playing the song You’ve Got A Friend by Carole King, I recognized the song because I’d been singing it in a choir in Netanya for several years, and I started singing along. Suddenly he asked me to stop and suggested we film it. My friend Rachel took the phone and took a video of us.”

The performance of the soldier with Broza accompanying her on guitar, became viral but Beniso only discovered this later. “I didn’t notice that the video went viral until the next morning,” she reveals.

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IDF reserve Infantry and Merkava Tank soldiers train in a military exercise in the Golan Heights on October 23, 2023 (credit: MICHAEL GILADI/FLASH90)

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“I woke up to a flood of messages on Instagram, WhatsApp, and Facebook and I also saw that Yehuda Ader, the CEO of the ‘Rimon’ school, uploaded a video of the performance and I was completely shocked. It felt like a dream come true. That moment I sang with David was magical for me. All my life my dream was to be a singer and I also sing in a choir, I knew I wanted to do it, but when I chose to serve as a fighter I knew it would be difficult and challenging for me to do it during my military service, so singing with David reminded me how much I love to sing and how important and burning it is in me.”

Beniso was informed that Adar had chosen to grant her a scholarship to study music at Rimon for three years. “It’s a dream come true, I still can’t digest everything that happened to me,” she says. “David also called me and said: ‘Did you see how our video caught on in the network?’. He was really charming and encouraged me and supported me. I won. It’s joy mixed with sadness because we are in a very difficult time, but precisely in moments like this, in order to excite and make the people of Israel happy, we need to do everything to strengthen each other.”

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A tip for building a couple

Niv Israeli (26), a fighter in the Egoz unit, opened a TikTok account in the last two weeks and uploaded a video of himself giving a tip to girlfriends of fighters sitting at home, asking them to just inform them that they are fine, and testifies that it helps them to be more calm and focused in combat. The video went viral and garnered hundreds of thousands of views and thousands of shares within a few hours, to the surprise of an Israeli who, until before the war, had never thought about TikTok.

“In general, I don’t deal with Tiktok too much, even though I’m a marketer by profession, but when the war broke out, I felt the need to convey to viewers and followers on social networks what really strengthens me because no one really understands our angle, the soldiers,” he explains.

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“I decided to talk about all kinds of topics, including ones that upset me. This video resulted from a conversation with my partner and she told me that what I told her strengthened her, and gave her the strength to continue and not be sad. She suggested that I tell everyone what I told her.”

Did you think it would catch on like this?

“No, I thought it was a pretty dumb video. As a marketing person, it was very insulting to me that I created the most authentic video and also touched many more people, without planning. After that, I decided to upload more videos of our life in the reserve company. My goal is to strengthen the public, to show that we are fine and in a good atmosphere, and to create a hug between the fighters and those at home.”

The next video he uploaded, which has so far garnered tens of thousands of views, shows his company members drying their uniforms with balls instead of clothespegs: “This is what we do in practice and I thought that this funny vibe could also catch on online – and that’s what happened.”

How do you explain the virality?

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“In the end, what unites people is a common enemy, and notice how this entire nation united in one moment as if there had not been a rift a few days before. With all the problems all together, and the same works in videos too – how do you want to touch as many people as possible? Present something that we are all fighting together and we are all fighting to get back to normal and not let the enemy destroy it for us, so people who share feel exactly what we feel on the ground and this is the reason in my opinion.”

Noam Tsuriely (28), formerly the national champion in youth athletics and now a musician, singer, rapper, and pianist, just before the war launched his debut album “Words for Music and Vision”, but just before further performances to promote the album the war broke out and as a soldier in the Dovdvan unit, he was directly drafted into the army and is now in the field. 

“By and large, music has always been and will be a part of who I am, and even when I chose a decade ago to enlist in the Dovdvan unit, the commanders very quickly discovered my writing abilities and used to assign me to write songs about things related to the army, and it was really part of my part in the regular service,” he says.

“I would always take a familiar tune and write new words on it. Now, when we joined the reserve, my life completely turned around and I ‘returned’ to being a total warrior. When the album came out I swore that every Thursday I would perform – and because of the war many performances were canceled so I performed in front of the company and the regiment.”

“In the last few days, my friends asked me to write a new song. One of the nights Hanan ben-Ari was supposed to perform for us, but because we came back late from an operation it didn’t come to fruition, so I wrote the song ‘Reserves’ based on Hanan’s hit ‘If You Want’. An hour before my performance, I sat on the sidelines and wrote what I felt and what we, the reservists as well as the people of Israel, needed to hear, and still do it with humor.”

“I went on stage with the song and it was uploaded to Tiktok and became viral on Tiktok, Facebook, and other social media. Suddenly I started getting a lot of comments and more people, who were exposed to me through the video, started getting to know my music and bombarding me with comments about songs from the album. It is exciting”.

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Along with the music videos, Tsuriely also uploaded videos to TikTok that became viral about himself and his bandmates, the most prominent of which was the “mustache challenge” that swept the country.

“Every crazy thing needs someone to dare to start it, so I put our guys with the mustache on Tiktok and suddenly it’s everywhere,” he says. “When someone does it and surprise – it sweeps people away.”

“Raise morale”

Eli Levy (33), a fitness trainer by day and a fighter in the Negev Brigade in the reserves, broke the internet a week ago when he uploaded to the special Tiktok account he opened for the reserves (“Armyreserves”) a video of him going into action with “Cpl Rachel” on his backpack – coffee, tea and cookies, and claims “to have something to offer”.

The video very quickly became a social media hysteria with millions of views on the various platforms. “I decided to upload all kinds of nonsense to this Tiktok because I saw all the people of Israel under stress and we are fighting,” says Levy. “Because the story of Rachel Edri from Ofakim became a talking point, I thought of making a funny video. I was debating whether to upload it because we are in a very tense and painful time, but I thought that in order to raise morale we also need something like this. We should be busy fighting and less concerned with pain, even though it hurts us all, and it exploded.”

Did you think it would blow up like this?

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“Not really no. My friends even told me not to upload it because it wasn’t appropriate, but only on my TikTok did it reach a million and a half views and later it exploded all over social media. I received a wave of responses from people who said that the video made them happy and it really strengthened me. It was crazy. I didn’t believe that such a stupid video, pardon the pun, would make an entire country happy in a time of sadness. It made my heart feel good and since then I decided to upload videos to make the people of Israel happy because the people of Israel are alive.”

Adu Alon (26) and Yosef Goldschmidt (26), fighters who served regularly in the Golani and now in a mixed battalion in the reserves, are far from the whole social networking thing, and according to them, except for glancing at Facebook once every few months – their activity on the networks is zero. When the war broke out, the two decided to upload a video of themselves explaining in exaggeration what they lacked in the unit – from pizzas to Assaf Granit, from diesel to Teslas – and it was quickly shared on every possible social media.

“It’s hard for me to publish things in public and even respond to people on Facebook, but one day Yosef and I were sitting in the north in the reserves somewhere, I was with Tefillin and I had a general idea to shoot a video, so we shot all kinds of sketches to build a kind of script about the fact that we saw so many donations everywhere, nonsense that people write about reservists looking for pampered things and it made me laugh, so I thought it should be taken to an extreme,” says Alon.

“Yosef edited the video a bit and I uploaded it to Facebook when the last post I uploaded before that was in 2010. After that, we had a shooting incident and I wasn’t online for a few hours. When I opened my cell phone – my WhatsApp and Facebook crashed from so many messages. Suddenly I found out that the video had reached people abroad and my sisters and family informed me that Hanoch Daum and Shani Cohen also published it and it became hysterical.”

“The first time, in a long time, that I logged into Facebook was to see the comments on this video,” adds Goldschmidt. “Adu uploaded the video to Facebook and I sent it to my friends on WhatsApp and on both of these fronts, it probably caught on like wildfire. In no way did I imagine that it would catch on like this. It was intended Mainly for friends.”

How did you feel about its publication?

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Alon: “I don’t know, it’s still weird. I received dozens of messages from girls who flirted with me, but it’s irrelevant because I’m religious and they’re all secular and 19 years old, but it’s strange that suddenly people stop me at the gate and want a selfie. Even a married couple wanted Yosef and me to take a video for them.”

Goldschmidt: “It got out of proportion and I received messages from people from the Chabad house in Vietnam, from the Jewish community in Vienna, etc. We stopped following all the buzz because we didn’t know enough about the social media platforms to understand. So, our sisters, who are more knowledgeable than us on social media, keep us updated.”

Will there be a sequel?

Goldschmidt: “We were debating about this because it is difficult to exceed the expectations that were built after this video, but because of the amazing responses we received, including a response from a friend who studied with us in yeshiva and whose brother-in-law fell to our sorrow and said that we made the mourners laugh, we understood the importance of this nonsense we did, and it gave us direction for a follow-up video Because if it makes someone happy – then why not?”.

Alon: “Basically my instinct was no, but when you get responses from people who tell you that the video made them smile for the first time in five days, you understand that such a video is important. We will think about it and do not rule out uploading another video.”

Every Israeli knows the unforgettable scene from the movie “Stolen Father” in which Chico, who is Yehuda Barkan, reunites with his son, Ben, at the airport after not seeing each other for a long time. This week this scene was given a spontaneous IDF version as Amir, a fighter in a reserve battalion from the northern division, was photographed coming to visit his son Ilai in the kindergarten, and his son recognized his father and jumped on him with shouts of enthusiasm.

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The video was shared on all networks and went viral with millions of views.

“On the cursed Saturday of October 7th, I went to the reserve and last Thursday, after 13 days, we went on a 24-hour retreat, and I managed to fix the cell phone and take Ilai out of kindergarten,” says Amir. “When I came to pick up Ilai, one of the kindergarten teachers said she had to take pictures and I didn’t even realize she was filming. I entered the kindergarten and Ilai’s reaction completely surprised me, he ran to me and gave me a crazy hug with a twinkle in his eyes.”

When did you realize you were viral?

“I’m really not a media person. I have Facebook and I am quietly active there without too much posting or commenting, and my wife told me that the video has over four million views and it warmed my heart to see that this thing reached so many people, a personal family moment of reunification with my son. My phone didn’t stop ringing and it proved to me how exciting and embracing this nation is.”

Translated by Yuval Barnea.



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Christian family goes in hiding after being cleared of blasphemy

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Christian family goes in hiding after being cleared of blasphemy

LAHORE, Pakistan — A court in Pakistan granted bail to a Christian falsely charged with blasphemy, but he and his family have separated and gone into hiding amid threats to their lives, sources said.

Haroon Shahzad (right) with attorney Aneeqa Maria. | The Voice Society/Morning Star News

Haroon Shahzad, 45, was released from Sargodha District Jail on Nov. 15, said his attorney, Aneeqa Maria. Shahzad was charged with blasphemy on June 30 after posting Bible verses on Facebook that infuriated Muslims, causing dozens of Christian families in Chak 49 Shumaali, near Sargodha in Punjab Province, to flee their homes.

Lahore High Court Judge Ali Baqir Najfi granted bail on Nov. 6, but the decision and his release on Nov. 15 were not made public until now due to security fears for his life, Maria said.

Shahzad told Morning Star News by telephone from an undisclosed location that the false accusation has changed his family’s lives forever.

“My family has been on the run from the time I was implicated in this false charge and arrested by the police under mob pressure,” Shahzad told Morning Star News. “My eldest daughter had just started her second year in college, but it’s been more than four months now that she hasn’t been able to return to her institution. My other children are also unable to resume their education as my family is compelled to change their location after 15-20 days as a security precaution.”

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Though he was not tortured during incarceration, he said, the pain of being away from his family and thinking about their well-being and safety gave him countless sleepless nights.

“All of this is due to the fact that the complainant, Imran Ladhar, has widely shared my photo on social media and declared me liable for death for alleged blasphemy,” he said in a choked voice. “As soon as Ladhar heard about my bail, he and his accomplices started gathering people in the village and incited them against me and my family. He’s trying his best to ensure that we are never able to go back to the village.”

Shahzad has met with his family only once since his release on bail, and they are unable to return to their village in the foreseeable future, he said.

“We are not together,” he told Morning Star News. “They are living at a relative’s house while I’m taking refuge elsewhere. I don’t know when this agonizing situation will come to an end.”

The Christian said the complainant, said to be a member of Islamist extremist party Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan and also allegedly connected with banned terrorist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, filed the charge because of a grudge. Shahzad said he and his family had obtained valuable government land and allotted it for construction of a church building, and Ladhar and others had filed multiple cases against the allotment and lost all of them after a four-year legal battle.

“Another probable reason for Ladhar’s jealousy could be that we were financially better off than most Christian families of the village,” he said. “I was running a successful paint business in Sargodha city, but that too has shut down due to this case.”

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Regarding the social media post, Shahzad said he had no intention of hurting Muslim sentiments by sharing the biblical verse on his Facebook page.

“I posted the verse a week before Eid Al Adha [Feast of the Sacrifice] but I had no idea that it would be used to target me and my family,” he said. “In fact, when I came to know that Ladhar was provoking the villagers against me, I deleted the post and decided to meet the village elders to explain my position.”

The village elders were already influenced by Ladhar and refused to listen to him, Shahzad said.

“I was left with no option but to flee the village when I heard that Ladhar was amassing a mob to attack me,” he said.

Shahzad pleaded with government authorities for justice, saying he should not be punished for sharing a verse from the Bible that in no way constituted blasphemy.

Similar to other cases

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Shahzad’s attorney, Maria, told Morning Star News that events in Shahzad’s case were similar to other blasphemy cases filed against Christians.

“Defective investigation, mala fide on the part of the police and complainant, violent protests against the accused persons and threats to them and their families, forcing their displacement from their ancestral areas, have become hallmarks of all blasphemy allegations in Pakistan,” said Maria, head of The Voice Society, a Christian paralegal organization.

She said that the case filed against Shahzad was gross violation of Section 196 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), which states that police cannot register a case under the Section 295-A blasphemy statute against a private citizen without the approval of the provincial government or federal agencies.

Maria added that Shahzad and his family have continued to suffer even though there was no evidence of blasphemy.

“The social stigma attached with a blasphemy accusation will likely have a long-lasting impact on their lives, whereas his accuser, Imran Ladhar, would not have to face any consequence of his false accusation,” she said.

The judge who granted bail noted that Shahzad was charged with blasphemy under Section 295-A, which is a non-cognizable offense, and Section 298, which is bailable. The judge also noted that police had not submitted the forensic report of Shahzad’s cell phone and said evidence was required to prove that the social media was blasphemous, according to Maria.

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Bail was set at 100,000 Pakistani rupees (US $350) and two personal sureties, and the judge ordered police to further investigate, she said.

Shahzad, a paint contractor, on June 29 posted on his Facebook page 1 Cor. 10:18-21 regarding food sacrificed to idols, as Muslims were beginning the four-day festival of Eid al-Adha, which involves slaughtering an animal and sharing the meat.

A Muslim villager took a screenshot of the post, sent it to local social media groups and accused Shahzad of likening Muslims to pagans and disrespecting the Abrahamic tradition of animal sacrifice.

Though Shahzad made no comment in the post, inflammatory or otherwise, the situation became tense after Friday prayers when announcements were made from mosque loudspeakers telling people to gather for a protest, family sources previously told Morning Star News.

Fearing violence as mobs grew in the village, most Christian families fled their homes, leaving everything behind.

In a bid to restore order, the police registered a case against Shahzad under Sections 295-A and 298. Section 295-A relates to “deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs” and is punishable with imprisonment of up to 10 years and fine, or both. Section 298 prescribes up to one year in prison and a fine, or both, for hurting religious sentiments.

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Pakistan ranked seventh on Open Doors’ 2023 World Watch List of the most difficult places to be a Christian, up from eighth the previous year.

Morning Star News is the only independent news service focusing exclusively on the persecution of Christians. The nonprofit’s mission is to provide complete, reliable, even-handed news in order to empower those in the free world to help persecuted Christians, and to encourage persecuted Christians by informing them that they are not alone in their suffering.

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Individual + Team Stats: Hornets vs. Timberwolves

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CHARLOTTE HORNETS MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES You can follow us for future coverage by liking us on Facebook & following us on X: Facebook – All Hornets X – …

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What went wrong with ‘the Metaverse’? An insider’s postmortem

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What went wrong with 'the Metaverse'? An insider's postmortem


It’s now two years since Facebook changed its name to Meta, ushering in a brief but blazing enthusiasm over “the Metaverse”, a concept from science fiction that suddenly seemed to be the next inevitable leap in technology. For most people in tech, however, the term has since lost its luster, seemingly supplanted by any product with “artificial intelligence” attached to its description. 

But the true story of the Metaverse’s rise and fall in public awareness is much more complicated and interesting than simply being the short life cycle of a buzzword — it also reflects a collective failure of both imagination and understanding.  

Consider:

The forgotten novel

Ironically, many tech reporters discounted or even ignored the profound influence of Snow Crash on actual working technologists. The founders of Roblox and Epic (creator of Fortnite) among many other developers were directly inspired by the novel. Despite that, Neal Stephenson’s classic cyberpunk tale has often been depicted as if it were an obscure dystopian tome which merely coined the term. As opposed to what it actually did: describe the concept with a biblical specificity that thousands of developers have referenced in their virtual world projects — many of which have already become extremely popular.

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Snow Crash.

You can see this lack of clarity in many of the mass tech headlines attempting to describe the Metaverse in the wake of Facebook’s name change: 

In a widely shared “obituary” to the Metaverse, Business Insider’s Ed Zitron even compounded the confusion still further by inexplicably misattributing the concept to TRON, the original Disney movie from the 80s.

Had the media referenced Snow Crash far more accurately when the buzz began, they’d come away with a much better understanding of why so many technologists are excited by the Metaverse concept — and realize its early incarnation is already gaining strong user traction.  

Because in the book, the Metaverse is a vast, immersive virtual world that’s simultaneously accessible by millions of people through highly customizable avatars and powerful experience creation tools that are integrated with the offline world through its virtual economy and external technology. In other words, it’s more or less like Roblox and Fortnite — platforms with many tens of millions of active users. 

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But then again, the tech media can’t be fully blamed for following Mark Zuckerberg’s lead.

Rather than create a vision for its Metaverse iterating on already successful platforms — Roblox’s 2020 IPO filing even describes itself as the metaverse — Meta’s executive leadership cobbled together a mishmash of disparate products. Most of which, such as remotely working in VR headsets, remain far from proven. According to an internal Blind survey, a majority of Zuckerberg’s own employees say he has not adequately explained what he means by the Metaverse even to them.

Grievous of all, Zuckerberg and his CTO Andrew Bosworth promoted a conception of the Metaverse in which the Quest headset was central. To do so, they had to overlook compelling evidence — raised by senior Microsoft researcher danah boyd at the time of the company acquiring Oculus in 2014 — that females have a high propensity to get nauseous using VR.

Meta Quest 3 comes out on October 10 for $500.
Meta Quest 3.

Contacted in late 2022 while writing Making a Metaverse That Matters, danah told me no one at Oculus or Meta followed up with her about the research questions she raised. Over the years, I have asked several senior Meta staffers (past and present) about this and have yet to receive an adequate reply. Unsurprisingly, Meta’s Quest 2 VR headset has an estimated install base of only about 20 million units, significantly smaller than the customer count of leading video game consoles. A product that tends to make half the population puke is not exactly destined for the mass market — let alone a reliable base for building the Metaverse. 

Ironically, Neal Stephenson himself has frequently insisted that virtual reality is absolutely not a prerequisite for the Metaverse, since flat screens display immersive virtual worlds just fine. But here again, the tech media instead ratified Meta’s flawed VR-centric vision by constantly illustrating articles about the Metaverse with photos of people happily donning headsets to access it — inadvertently setting up a straw man destined to soon go ablaze.

Duct-taped to yet another buzzword

Further sealing the Metaverse hype wave’s fate, it crested around the same time that Web3 and crypto were still enjoying their own euphoria period. This inevitably spawned the “cryptoverse” with platforms like Decentraland and The Sandbox. When the crypto crash came, it was easy to assume the Metaverse was also part of that fall.

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But the cryptoverse platforms failed in the same way that other crypto schemes have gone awry: By offering a virtual world as a speculative opportunity, it primarily attracted crypto speculators, not virtual world enthusiasts. By October of 2022, Decentraland was only tracking 7,000 daily active users, game industry analyst Lars Doucet informed me

“Everybody who is still playing is basically just playing poker,” as Lars put it. “This seems to be a kind of recurring trend in dead-end crypto projects. Kind of an eerie rhyme with left-behind American cities where drugs come in and anyone who is left is strung out at a slot machine parlor or liquor store.”

All this occurred as the rise of generative AI birthed another, shinier buzzword — one that people not well-versed in immersive virtual worlds could better understand.

But as “the Metaverse” receded as a hype totem, a hilarious thing happened: Actual metaverse platforms continued growing. Roblox now counts over 300 million monthly active users, making its population nearly the size of the entire United States; Fortnite had its best usage day in 6 years. Meta continues plodding along but seems to finally be learning from its mistakes — for instance, launching a mobile version of its metaverse platform Horizon Worlds.  

Roblox leads the rise of user-generated content.
Roblox.

Into this mix, a new wave of metaverse platforms is preparing to launch, refreshingly led by seasoned, successful game developers: Raph Koster with Playable Worlds, Jenova Chen with his early, successful forays into metaverse experiences, and Everywhere, a metaverse platform lead developed by a veteran of the Grand Theft Auto franchise.

At some point, everyone in tech who co-signed the “death” of the Metaverse may notice this sustained growth. By then however, the term may no longer require much usage, just as the term “information superhighway” fell away as broadband Internet went mainstream.  

Wagner James Au is author of Making a Metaverse That Matters: From Snow Crash & Second Life to A Virtual World Worth Fighting For 

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