Mark Zuckerberg puts a little more distance between his most famous creation and his big commitment to the future.
On Thursday, Zuckerberg announced that from next month users of the oculus Quest (now Meta) VR headset would no longer need a Facebook account to login. Instead, he said, the company will be rolling out separate accounts under the Meta banner that will be independent of the social media site.
“This gives everyone more choice about how you appear in the metaverse,” he wrote.
Users who do not want to set up a meta account can log in with their Facebook account until January 1, 2023, after which a meta account is required.
The news follows a backlash in October last year, after the company began requiring VR users to log into the devices with their Facebook account.
Zuckerberg has been working on separating the Facebook and Meta communities since late last year. The renaming the company to Metain fact, to many it seemed like an attempt to move away from virtual reality spaces like Horizon Worlds of the scandals that teased (and still teases) Facebook, including allegations that the company did little to fight misinformation about COVID-19 and vaccines, gave extremists a platform (which contributed to the January 6 attack on the Capitol), and was aware of the damage social media caused to young users.
Within the company, Facebook’s negative impact on other Meta brands is known as a “brand tax”, with some arguing that brands like Instagram and WhatsApp have lost their luster with young users, who have migrated to Snapchat and TikTok.
With the metaverse offering, Zuckerberg is trying to convince investors (and consumers) that the company is starting fresh and building a virtual world that can be accessed through virtual and augmented reality headsets.
And separating the former Oculus headset from a Facebook login gives Meta another chance to lead people into Horizon’s virtual world. After users create a Meta account, they will be prompted to create a Meta Horizon profile, which will act as their social profile in the metaverse.
And while the company says a Meta account “is” not a profile on social media”, there certainly seem to be parallel paths between the two.
“Your Oculus friends become your followers, just like it works on Instagram,” the company says said in a blog post† “This update offers more ways to be social and connect with others. You can choose whether to share your active status and activity updates, such as the apps you own and your achievements, with your followers. If you already own a Meta VR headset, your Oculus friends will automatically become your followers and you will follow them back by default. You can choose to unfollow or remove followers at any time.”
Privacy settings allow users to choose who follows them, but even with accounts that are locked, details such as profile picture, avatar, username and the number of followers/people you follow are visible to all.
Meta has already encountered a few bumps in his journey to the metaverse. Reality Labs, the Meta division responsible for developing Zuckerberg’s vision of the metaverse, lost $10 billion last year. In May, a report from the corporate responsibility group SumOfUs said that Meta’s VR platforms (Horizon Worlds and Horizon Venues) were rife with many of the same issues found in more traditional social media, including misogynistic, homophobic, and racist comments, along with the added horrors of virtual groping. (The company responded by: introduction of the “personal boundary” featurewhich is designed to prevent others from violating your avatar’s personal space, creating a circumference of approximately four feet.