One of Meta’s VR Apps Is So Buggy That Even Its Employees Are Shunning It

Why do the majority of Meta's employees rarely use the company's VR social network, Horizon Worlds?
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Meta’s flagship “metaverse” app suffers from many quality issues. Internal memos obtained by The Verge reveal that not even the team that developed the VR social is making much use of it. Vishal Shah, VP of Metaverse, stated that the team would remain in a “quality lockdown” for the remaining months of 2022 to “ensure we fix our quality gaps and performance concerns before we open up Horizon to additional users.”

Meta’s Horizon Worlds

Like Roblox and Minecraft meet, Horizon Worlds allows users to create and interact in virtual worlds using legless avatars. It is a crucial move following Mark Zuckerberg’s decision to rebrand Facebook to Meta. The company invests billions of dollars annually to realize its vision of the metaverse. In December 2021, Meta’s Quest headset’s multiplayer platform was made available and was able to hit 300,000 users in the early months of 2022. While it’s supposed to be coming to desktop and mobile via a web version at some point, Vishal’s notes suggest that the web launch date may be delayed.

Since Horizon Worlds’ launched late last year, Shah said, “we have seen its power as a synchronous social network where creators may develop captivating worlds. However, feedback from our users, creators, play-testers, and many team members indicates that it is now too difficult for our community to enjoy Horizon’s magic due to the aggregate weight of paper cuts, stability issues, and bugs. Simply put, an experience must first be usable and well crafted to become retentive and delightful.”

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Meta has teased its work on more life-like avatars. Still, the current quality of Horizon’s graphics pales compared to some of its non-VR competitors like Fortnite. Mark himself was recently “memeified” after he had posted a screenshot of his Horizon avatar to commemorate the launch of Horizon Worlds for Quest users in Spain and France. He immediately posted a follow-up image of a more advanced avatar. He promised to share “major updates to avatar graphics and Horizon” at the company’s yearly Connect conference, scheduled for October 11.

Reality check ESA384313
Reality check ESA384313 by European Space Agency under CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO

Why are we not fanatic about the product we have built?

According to Shah’s internal memos, a vital issue with Horizon’s development to date is that the developers inside Meta appear not to be using it that much. In one of her several memos, Shah wrote to members on September 15, saying their dogfooding dashboards quite plainly demonstrate that many of them don’t spend much time in Horizon.

“For many of us, we don’t spend that much time in Horizon, and our dogfooding dashboards show this pretty clearly,” he wrote to employees on September 15.

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Virtual Reality by IAEA Imagebank under CC BY 2.0

“Why is that? Why don’t we love the product we have built so much that we use it all the time? We cannot expect our users to love and appreciate something if we, the developers, don’t.”

In a follow-up memo dated September 30, Shah said employees were still not using Horizon enough, writing that a plan was being made to “hold managers accountable” for having their teams use Horizon no less than once per week.

“It should be the goal of every employee in this company to fall in love with Horizon Worlds. You can’t do that without using it. Work out plans and create times to do it with your friends and colleagues – both in internal and public builds – so you can interact with our community.”

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Issues with Horizon Worlds

Shah went on to call out specific issues with Horizon. He said the team needs to “present new users to top-notch worlds that will ensure their first visit is a success.” This is because “our onboarding process is unclear and stressful for users.”

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One of Meta's VR Apps Is So Buggy That Even Its Employees Are Shunning It 4

Shah advised the teams working on Horizon to improve their communication and prepare for additional adjustments.

“To be clear, we are not currently operating with adequate flexibility. We are developing a product that has not yet found a market. I need you to accept change and uncertainty completely if you are on Horizon,” the memo reads.

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He said that employees working on Horizon “will” their targets for growing users in VR lowered and that the future 2D version of Horizon for the web wouldn’t likely have a user target but a “high-quality bar.”

Metaverse; the future of computing

Meta’s spokesperson, Ashley Zandy, said, “we are confident that metaverse is the future of computing, so it should be built with a focus on people.” “Meta consistently improves quality and acts on the feedback from our community of creators. As a multiyear journey, it will take us several years of constant improvement to improve on what we have built,” He adds.