Meta is starting to test members-only worlds in Horizon Worlds, its social VR platform, which will allow people to build curated worlds for a select community of users.
These members-only worlds will offer something of a middle ground for creators on the platform. You can currently make public worlds for lots of people to go to, and the company is also testing what it calls personal spaces, which function like a private home in VR where you have tight control over who visits. Members-only worlds, on the other hand, are limited to 150 members and 25 concurrent visitors.
Meta suggests the new members-only spaces could be useful for groups like book clubs, gaming groups, a place for VIP creator supporters, or a spot to hang out with friends. “With full control over who has access to visit their worlds, creators can consistently offer a positive experience where people can build connections and foster a strong, thriving community,” Meta writes in a blog post attributed to Oculus Blog. “Our goal is to put design in the creators’ hands so that they can fully craft the experience they want to offer others.” To me, that all sounds like Facebook Groups or Discord servers but for VR.
Unfortunately, you may not have access to members-only worlds just yet, as they’ll be launching first in a limited beta with a “small group of trusted creators.” Meta will initially invite a group of “about a dozen” creators to use the feature, and expand the test group to “about 100” in the coming weeks, according to Meta spokesperson Peter Gray. Though if you’re not in the test and a creator who is invites you to their members-only world, you’ll be able to visit it, Gray says.
“The test will help ensure that we’ve set up creators with the tools they need to succeed and users see clear benefits before we consider expanding the availability of members-only worlds to more creators,” Gray said in a statement. However, if you’re waiting for a wider expansion of the test, that will “depend on the lessons and feedback we gather during the initial alpha and we don’t have a predetermined expansion time-frame to share.”
In its blog post, Meta buried a potentially big piece of information about the future of Horizon: it will be available on the web and mobile “soon.” We’ve known that web and mobile versions of Horizon were in the works, with mobile originally planned to release sometime last year. But later in the year, the company went into a “quality lockdown” to make Horizon Worlds better, which seems to have delayed the launch on new platforms. Gray said Meta has “no further details on timing to share.”
Launching Horizon Worlds on more platforms will make it significantly more accessible; right now, it’s exclusively available on Meta’s own Quest VR headsets. And recent new features like better moderation features and a more logical jump button show that Meta is committed to making the platform better. But it’s going to have to be great to succeed against other popular virtual social spaces like Roblox, and while I don’t know if Horizon Worlds is there just yet, being able to make a members-only space for your friends seems like a good step forward.
Update January 31st, 11:29AM ET: Added information from Meta spokesperson Peter Gray.