Matthew Warner

A Crisis of Faith with Meta’s Horizon Worlds

I just posted the following on the official Discord server for Horizon Worlds. Since it’s the most writing I’ve done in months, I thought it was worth sharing here. I’ll report on developments in the comments below.

I’ve had a crisis of faith lately with Horizon Worlds, and I would be interested to hear your thoughts. This is a long post.

I threw a temper tantrum on the official forum on Friday concerning a bug. I appreciated others’ support on that, particularly Hyperjoule, who spoke from a wealth of software development experience to put my concerns into perspective and to deliver some richly deserved scolding to Meta. Today’s update fixed the bug. I even received a private message from a HW software engineer about it. So I’m thankful for that. It means the world I spent all summer on could be republished. I’m glad some other things were fixed, too.

For all I know, that huge letter about bugs a couple months ago, signed by Wafflecopters and other prominent HW creators, had an effect as well. Still, their letter, which hinted at a coming exodus of creators—a crisis so bad that folks as prominent as 5andw1ch complained about the countless hours wasted in chasing down bugs, totally unnerved me.

The press about Horizon Worlds has been unbelievably bad lately. It’s impossible to ignore. I haven’t read a single positive article about Horizon Worlds in months. People still harp about that photo of Zuckerberg in front of the Eiffel Tower because it’s an easy target. And now the Wall St. Journal has reported about the leaked internal memos of HW staff: about how they aren’t properly dogfooding the app, the loss of billions of dollars, the high turnover, the missed user retention goals, and on and on. Of course the negative press is fed by ignorance and profit motive. Horizon Worlds is not the metaverse any more than AOL was the internet, and the primitive avatars are probably due to the computing power necessary to render 3D interative shapes in VR. But the press doesn’t care about all that. Horizon Worlds, Meta, and Facebook have a hideous PR problem.

Which all brings me back to my own crisis of faith. I would like to go on using Horizon Worlds as a creative outlet. I love its potential, not just in gaming but in virtual learning, commerce, and film development. I applaud and respect its community builders, people like OcuLos410 and Unemployed Alcoholic. I admire its educators, people like Laex, Sensei Jay, Wafflecopters, and Janimator. I cheer the service industry that’s already developed, the people who have found full and part-time employment, either directly for Meta or as gig workers, creating and testing worlds for others. I’ve done some gig work too, and until this week I planned to apply for my Vidyuu certifications—but then I started to wonder: will HW even be around in a year? In light of the negative press and huge financial losses Meta is suffering, I wouldn’t be surprised if they discontinued HW in 2023, saying they’re focusing on their other VR technologies, which are significant. The R&D, the new headsets, the advancements to the SDK supporting third party VR companies who make apps for the marketplace—they’re all incredible. Those things earn money. Horizon Worlds, which only gets Zuckerberg personally attacked on a daily basis, does not.

I’m thankful for today’s update and for the special attention to me personally. But I wonder what it will be like next month, when a new wave of bugs again combs our fur against the grain. Will joint letters from HW’s creators be necessary every time? Will other temper tantrums be necessary? If so, then I am reluctant to hitch my professional and psychological wagons to this horse. I so, so don’t want to feel this way, but I do. Meta should be very concerned when its users get upset and think about leaving. Without us, Horizon Worlds will not grow.

Thanks for reading this far. I would appreciate your thoughts. I would particularly like to hear that I am wrong.