The Matrix, as we know it in the Sixth World, is the third iteration of what used to be called the internet or World Wide Web. Around the turn of the millennium, it took off and grew incredibly fast, adding new technologies for enhanced stability and speed at an almost daily rate.
Then, in 2029, things took a turn for the worse. A fast-moving and destructive virus unlike anything the world had seen began taking down large swaths of network infrastructure, destroying software and hardware alike. The United States organized an elite squad of hackers, technicians, and network wizards and equipped them with newly developed techniques for direct neural interface, then sent them against the virus. Echo Mirage, as the “cyber-commandos” were known, took heavy casualties as lethal biofeedback from the Crash Virus shocked and cooked their brains. Undeterred, they pressed on, and eventually scrubbed the Virus from the network—but the damage had been done.
The demise of the old internet and the Crash of ’29 gave rise to the Matrix, an advanced network designed to run with the human-computer interfaces used exclusively by crack teams like Echo Mirage in the past. The direct neural links that at one point required psychoactive drugs, massive amounts of cable, and a sensory-deprivation tank to use now only took a much-smaller computer and a small piece of cyberware called a datajack. The datajack was implanted directly into a user’s head, acting as a port for a cable that would connect a computer to the metahuman brain.
As time went on, virtual space grew more and more complex, and it became commonplace for workers to spend their entire day “jacked in.” Not every technological leap forward was a boon, though. Pushing the envelope on advanced, semi-autonomous programs, Renraku stumbled into creating the first artificial intelligence. Later, born from the dissection of Renraku’s creation, another AI—one hostile to metahumanity—came into being. The shockwaves caused by this AI, in addition to a perfect storm of other factors, turned out to be too much for the Matrix. The network collapsed completely in 2064, an event now known as the Second Crash (or Crash 2.0).
Out of the ashes of the old Matrix came the Matrix as we know it today. It is primarily a wireless network, and corporations have taken extensive steps to stop would-be hackers through the implementation of the Grid Overwatch Division. Yet, despite the chokehold corporations hold over the Matrix, its mysteries run deep. Some infrastructure is decades old, and unknown to even the savviest virtual crusaders. Even more strangely, some metahumans are able to access the Matrix without using any sort of equipment at all. In the corporations’ eyes, these technomancers are both a security threat and a valuable commodity as a new evolution of metahumanity.