Meta has announced an expanded beta test of “members-only worlds” in Horizon Worlds, its social virtual reality (VR) experience, in which select creators are able to grow and moderate their own communities with new features like expanded visibility and member-reports.
This past January, Meta first began testing members-only worlds, in which creators were able to hand-select members and offer them exclusive experiences like book clubs and support groups, gaming sessions, or low-key hangouts with family and friends in a dedicated space closed off to uninvited Horizon Worlds users.
“Every community develops its own norms, etiquette, and social rules over time as it fosters a unique culture,” Meta wrote in the original announcement.
Now the tech giant is implementing the feedback it received from that original batch of creators.
In this new test phase, creators will be able to make visible members-only worlds to anyone with access to Meta Horizon Worlds who can now search for and request to join any world -- a move Meta says is intended to “help people grow their communities,” while noting that creators will still be able to keep their members-only worlds hidden if preferred.
Creators will also have access to member-submitted incident reports via a dashboard Meta says is compiled from “user feedback, engagement with external experts, and insights gathered during the alpha test.” However, the company has no more news on the report experience, planning to announce further details as the test continues.
Lastly, alongside creators who are already participating in the alpha test, Meta will “slowly roll out” the ability to create members-only worlds to a randomized group of people with access to Worlds, hoping to “continue learning and testing what's needed to empower them to moderate their own closed spaces.”
Since its initial launch in December 2021, Horizon Worlds has been widely criticized, most recently for Meta's decision to allow teenagers starting at 13 years old to join the VR experience. Until April 2023, the game had been limited to those 18 and up.
Critics -- many of whom are parents -- are worried that Horizon Worlds will be dangerous for younger users, especially considering reports of abuse, sexual assault, even virtual rape, on the platform. Meta has thus launched new safety features, including expanded oversight capacity for parents via Meta's Family Center for Worlds and personal boundary tools.
In addition, last week Meta did away with creators’ ability to make dedicated events in Horizon Worlds, saying that the feature did dot meet its standards. This decision is worrying creators invested in Meta’s long-winded metaverse vision, which is limited to Meta's VR hardware, low user count and unfinished web and mobile versions of the experience.