The First User Reviews of Facebook Horizon Are Mixed

Wuhao from the RyanSchultz.com Discord server alerted me to the Oculus page for the invite-only beta version of Facebook’s new social VR platform, Facebook Horizon, where (much as they do on Steam) the first users have weighed in with their reviews.

As of this morning, there are 93 ratings in the Oculus five-star rating system, which break down as follows:

Half of the earliest reviewers give Horizon 5 out of 5 stars

One common complaint is that, while people liked the ease of use of the in-world building tools, Facebook Horizon lacks in tutorials and documentation for its scripting abilities. One user said:

The tutorials don’t go deep enough into using Scripts and Gizmos, and I have had to resort to deconstructing scripts inside the script example room. This is a horribly inefficient way to learn for a newbie. I find myself having to Google what some words mean (like [what the f*ck] is a Boolean?), and I’m having to connect the dots to figure out how variables and logic work inside the tools. A YouTube tutorial series, or even a series of help pages is sorely needed.

I met a man with experience in the game industry that said someone helped him learn how to build in Horizon over the last few months (he was in the Beta beta). Not all of us will be blessed with that opportunity to have a mentor.

I had to laugh at the Boolean comment; most people who have done even rudimentary computer programming know what Boolean logic is (AND, OR, NOT). But, of course, the target audience for Horizon is not computer programmers; it is the soccer moms of America, the millions of people who post cat pictures to their Facebook feeds and like other people’s posts. (Make that billions of people; Facebook has 2.7 billion monthly active users worldwide. That is whom Horizon is squarely aimed at. They’re not aiming this at the Second Life crowd, either, many of whom will not doubt be horrified that you can’t hide behind an avatar identity.)

And (of course) there are the usual complaints that are common to any brand-new social VR platform: not a lot of people (yet), and the usual severe gender imbalance, with way more men than women participating. One woman wrote in her review:

I have never been in an online community before, so this was a treat. It was pleasant talking to people and getting help on how to do things. My one criticism is that the few people there were all male. I was the only female there, and it would have been nice to have some female company, especially more mature women. I am 65. I visited some of the worlds and had fun shooting at a monster and a dragon, once I figured out how to make the weapons work (not much help from the app, but another player showed me how). One of the worlds where you build things out of building blocks needed multiple players, and I was the only one there. That was my other criticism: hardly any people were there. I guess that will be rectified once the app hits the market.

There are a few less-than-positive reviews:

Maybe I’m missing something but this felt like just another Rec Room, only far inferior, with other people’s avatars wandering around tring to work out what to do.

and…

Wasn’t that impressed was waiting and waiting for this thought it was gonna be something totally different than what was delivered. I’m not a tech nerd or a genius I couldn’t get anything to work in building mode I don’t know anything about coding or scripting I feel like if you want more people to contribute worlds and items your gonna have to dumb it down a little I actually only found the boomerang throw entertaining in the plaza. I’ve checked out a few worlds I thought some were kinda ok but nothing wow I might continue to pop in once in awhile to see what’s new but this isn’t my go to for fun.

and…

For anyone that has played Rec Room, they know that [it] is much better.

1. When you grab anything in here, the physics are terrible. Almost everything is going through your hand or not feeling realistic at all.
2. The graphics aren’t anything to be in awe of. Many other games have better and smoother graphics.
3. Almost no options for avatars. The avatar options are VERY limited.
4. I tried playing multiple games and I was the only person in any of them. Very very very boring.
5. Facebook takeover…talking about how much they monitor you. It’s just unsettling how they will record and watch and listen in on you and you won’t know.

And some people were just downright cranky:

Interesting. I liked the interaction as I first met up with older beings. But I’m hoping there are some filter/settings? to limit age groups? I think it would be a good idea to keep adults out of kids playing. (obvious reasons) and personally as a older man I had fun working with others until a young man (maybe 9 yr old?) joined us and though he was over all nice… I still got a head ache quickly with his noises and yapping and all around high pitched voice. Nothing wrong with that but it ruined my experience and the two other people I was working with on a puzzle… left. (I think for same reason). So I suggest adding a limit (who you see/join?) maybe setting a low limit of 18 and a higher limit of 40… or older folks like myself might want to limit 40-70. It just keeps those with more in common together and doesn’t let a youngster ruin a good thing like we had happen today. Personally I’d prefer 20+ and prefer no profanity. (maybe a setting). There were a couple of f’bombs and though I’m no prude… I’d prefer no hearing cursing unless it’s a slip.

One user felt that the actual product didn’t really match up to the advertising:

After spending a couple of days doing a little bit of everything, I have to say it’s not at all what I expected. Last year’s commercials set a much higher bar. However, world creation tools exceeded expectations as it almost seems to be a 3D modeling community more than anything else. (The problem with that is the majority of community members today are not modeling artists, so I miss the ‘consistently’ rich environments I get in Bigscreen for example.) IMO if the worlds could be made richer by novices then that would be spectacular! To do that I would suggest you offer room templates and a variety of editable objects like furniture and room boxes that we could customize —but it would be good if you could beat Rec Room’s childish templates, and get closer to the standard of last year’s Horizon commercials.

Here’s the commercial he was probably referring to:

But there are also many positive comments in the user reviews (and half of the earliest reviewers gave Facebook Horizon the highly favourable rating of five stars out of five):

After going through a couple hours of what Horizon has to offer I must say I’m very pleased and impressed by what I’ve seen so far. This definitely has a ton of room for all types of possibilities. I got one am very excited to see what will be coming as more and more developers contribute to this great app!!!

Of course, Facebook Horizon is still in an invite-only beta test mode, and is still very much a work-in-progress. Once Facebook adds to and refines the features of the product, and decides to open the doors to the general public, it will be very interesting to monitor this page over time, to see if the overall tone of the user reviews changes over time. (For example, Sansar has been absolutely crucified in its Steam reviews.)


Thank you to Wuhao for the heads-up!

My Projects for November

Have you joined the RyanSchultz.com Discord yet? You’re invited to be a part of the first ever cross-worlds discussion group, with over 460 people participating from every single social VR platform and virtual world! More details here


I tried.

I mean, I really, really tried, people.

My vow today was to spend the entire day (a vacation day) cleaning up both my spectacularly messy apartment and Vanity Fair’s overstuffed inventory, and assiduously avoiding any social media and any news media for any snippet of U.S. election news, good or bad.

My resolve lasted an hour. First, I peeked at my Twitter, just to see what hashtags were trending. Then, I opened up Google News, just to check the coronavirus headlines. After that, the floodgates were wide open. It looks like I, like so many other people, are going to be glued to their news media today and tomorrow, just to find out what happens.

*sigh* Oh well.

Image by Lena Helfinger from Pixabay

You should know that I do have two projects to work on over my holidays.

First, it is time—far past time—for me to reorganize and categorize my popular Comprehensive List of Social VR Platforms and Virtual Worlds. It’s waaay overdue. (And I’m curious to see what projects and platforms have thrived or folded.)

It’s also time for my annual November update of my Comparison Chart of Popular Social VR Platforms (and yes, I know, “Popular” is subjective). I do plan to draw on the readers of my blog and the 460-plus members of the RyanSchultz.com Discord server to crowdsource a lot of the information contained in the updated comparison chart. (Expect a separate, more detailed blogpost on this topic later this week.)

I will also have to rely on others to help me fill in all the details in the updated comparison chart for Facebook Horizon, as I intend to continue my personal boycott of all Facebook/Oculus products and services (as protest against the company forcing Oculus VR device users to set up accounts on the Facebook social network).

I am not naïve; I full well realize that the Oculus Quest 2 is gonna sell like hotcakes anyway, and no doubt I will continue to feel pressure (both from myself and from my readers) to cave in and buy one, just so I can report directly on the social VR platforms that will inevitably find fertile ground on the headset. I have zero doubt that, much like vibrant communities like Bray’s Place which have sprung up in Second Life over the seventeen years of its existence, healthy communities will spring up within Facebook Horizon (in face, Facebook is counting on that fact).

The Facebookening of Oculus: Taking a Look at the Updated Oculus Terms of Service (Part 2 of 3)

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg

Housekeeping Notice: Part 1 can be found here, where I examine the Frequently-Asked Questions section of the notice I received. There will be a Part 3, where I look at the updated Oculus Privacy Policy. (UPDATE Oct. 14h, 2020: Here is Part 3.)


So, this afternoon, I decided to dive into the legalese of the updated Oculus Terms of Service and Privacy Policy documents, which all Oculus VR device users who choose not to merge their Facebook and Oculus accounts need to sign before they can continue to use them. As I wrote last week, and I repeat here now:

I AM NOT A LAWYER, AND YOU SHOULD CONSULT A REAL LAWYER IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS ABOUT THIS. In fact, I would welcome comments from actual lawyers who deal with this sort of corporate legalese every day, and can explain it far better than I ever could to your average consumer. Most end-users simply scroll through such documents and sign off on them without reading them thoroughly (and Facebook is not alone among large companies that count on that).

Note that if you do elect to merge your Oculus and Facebook accounts, you will be asked to sign off on different documents than these. Since I have deleted my Facebook account in protest of this move, I do not fall into this category of user. Note also that new Oculus device users (including the Oculus Quest 2) will required to set up Facebook accounts in order to use their headsets:

A quote from the Frequently-Asked Questions website (source)

The Updated Oculus Terms of Service

If you click on “Oculus Terms of Service” link in the announcement I received, you are taken to an Oculus page with the bold title of LEGAL DOCUMENTS:

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Legal-Documents-1024x673.png

First, a few stats: I ran the ToS text itself (without the title and the headings on the left-hand side) through a word counter program called WordCounter, where it came in at 8.978 words arranged in 326 sentences, with an average sentence length of 28 words. Lots and lots of long-winded legal sentences to parse here! This means that it would take a little over half an hour to read for the average reader. (Good thing I brewed a vat of black coffee to power through this! I’m gonna need it.)

The reading level is calculated by WordCounter to be “college graduate”. Since only a third of U.S.-born Americans have a four-year college degree, it means that roughly two-thirds of Americans will likely encounter some difficulty in reading and understanding the Terms of Service (provided that they would be willing to set aside half an hour to read through the whole thing from beginning to end in the first place).

The preface reads as follows:

On 11 October 2020, we are updating the Oculus Terms of Service to reflect that Facebook, Inc. (or Facebook Ireland Limited for European Region users) will become responsible for the Oculus platform and your Oculus information. Below you can find a preview of the updated Terms of Service, and we recommend that you review them. It will be available to review in other languages soon. By continuing to use an Oculus account after 11 October 2020, you agree to the updated Oculus Terms of Service.

Right up front, in all-caps bold, is the following warning (which I cut and pasted into Microsoft Word, using the case change feature to make it more readable here):

These terms of service contain important terms and conditions that affect you and your use of the oculus products, including, unless you choose to opt out, a provision regarding binding arbitration of disputes (other than certain specified intellectual property claims and small claims) and a waiver of certain rights to jury trials and/or class actions. Please read the “Dispute Resolution” section (section 19) in its entirety…

You certify that you are of the legal age of majority in the jurisdiction in which you reside or, if you are between the ages of 13 and the legal age of majority, that you are using the Oculus products with the supervision of your parent or legal guardian who agrees to be bound by these terms of service. Make sure that you review these terms of service with your parent or guardian so that you both understand all of your rights and obligations.

Which raises an interesting question: what happens if you are younger than 13? A little later on it, the ToS states:

The Oculus Products are intended solely for users who are aged 13 years or older. Any registration for, or use of, the Oculus Products by anyone under the age of 13 years is unauthorised and unlicensed and breaches these Terms.

As far as I am aware, you have to be at least 13 years old to have a Facebook account (although I’m quite sure some children lie about their ages to set up account, just as some people use a fake name). However, I’m quite sure that the Oculus Quest 2 is going to be popular with both children and teenagers, and I can easily foresee a situation where someone under 18 buys a Quest with their own money and sets it up without any adult “supervision”. The wording suggests that the legal onus would rest with the legal guardian, which means that some parents might well be faced with a nasty surprise down the line (especially if they have sensibly forbidden their children from setting up accounts on social media).

Anyway, onwards! (Takes another gulp of rapidly-cooling black coffee, steels himself)

If you are using the Oculus Products on behalf of any entity, you represent and warrant that you are authorised to accept these Terms on such entity’s behalf and that such entity agrees to be responsible to us if you or that entity breaches these Terms.

Now, I happen to have an Oculus Rift I purchased for work, for a virtual reality research project which is currently on hold (more details here). It, and the high-end Windows PC required to use it, were purchased using University of Manitoba money and are U of M property (although the Rift is currently sitting in my messy apartment as I work from home during the pandemic, along with my office chair, keyboard, and mouse).

Am I, indeed, authorized to accept these Terms of Service on my university’s behalf? I suspect that the University lawyers would want some input in that decision; they review legal contracts for software and services all the time as a matter of course. This is a question which I will have to ask my colleague, the law librarian at the University of Manitoba, who is both a librarian and a lawyer.

Again, this is another potentially thorny legal for those businesses and educational institutions which bought Oculus Rifts, Quests, and Gos (Go’s? Goes?) for commercial and corporate use, well before the requirement to set up a Facebook account. What if your organization forbids employees from setting up Facebook accounts?

I am reminded of a recent, similar ethical and legal situation, which many public libraries who had purchased access to the popular Lynda.com educational programs for their library patrons were faced with. Lynda.com was acquired by LinkedIn, which required users to set up LinkedIn accounts in order to use it, something which many public libraries said contravened their policies. I’m actually not sure what the end result was, and so I will have to go do a little librarian research on it and report back later! More rabbit holes to go down!!

Onwards!! (Takes sip of microwaved coffee, grimaces)

People can only have meaningful interactions if they feel safe. We employ dedicated teams and develop advanced technical systems to detect misuse of our service, harmful conduct towards others, breaches and violations of our terms and policies, and situations where we may be able to help support or protect the Oculus community. If we learn of content or conduct that misuses our Oculus Products or breaches or violates our Terms and policies, we will take appropriate action, for example, by removing content, blocking access to certain features, disabling an account or contacting law enforcement agencies. We share information with other Facebook Companies (https://www.facebook.com/help/111814505650678/) when we detect misuse or harmful conduct by someone using one of our Oculus Products.

All well and good. Facebook plays judge, jury, and (if necessary) executioner; this is no different than other services. I do find it interesting that Instagram is not mentioned by name in the linked list of “Facebook Companies”, but WhatsApp is. I’m quite sure there is a much more detailed list of Facebook companies somewhere (aha, here’s one! Wikipedia to the rescue!).

To access and use certain features of the Oculus Products, you may be required to register for an account. By creating an account, you agree to: (i) provide accurate, current and complete account information; (ii) maintain the security of your password, not share your password with any other person and accept all risks of unauthorised access to your account; and (iii) promptly provide notice at https://www.facebook.com/whitehat/ if you discover or otherwise suspect any security breaches related to the Oculus Products.

Another potentially thorny legal issue: I plan to donate my original Oculus Quest to my sister-in-law’s workplace, where she is part of a team of people who work with developmentally challenged adults. It would appear that you are required to “not share your password with any other person”, which is patently absurd in such a situation, where multiple people will be using the device. I have no doubt that many people are sharing an Oculus account for a particular device, who are in similar situations.

We reserve the right, at our sole discretion and where technically feasible, to disable your access to or ability to use Oculus Products that we believe present a health and safety risk or violate our Community Standards (also known as the Facebook Rules) and Conduct in VR Policy, agreements, laws, regulations or policies. We will not incur any liability or responsibility if we choose to remove, disable or delete such access or ability to use any or all portion(s) of the Oculus Products.

Once again: Facebook is judge, jury, and executioner. You have zero say in the matter (although I’m quite sure there will be some sort of appeals process, which of course will be completely structured and controlled by Facebook).

There’s an interesting section called Virtual Items:

Your purchase of a virtual item or in-game currency within the Oculus Products is a payment for a limited, non-assignable licence to access and use such content or functionality in the Oculus Products. Virtual items (including characters and character names) or in-game currency purchased or available to you in the Oculus Products can only be used in connection with the Oculus Products where you obtained them or where they were developed by you as a result of gameplay. These items are not redeemable or subject to refund and cannot be traded outside the Oculus Products for money or other items for value. We may modify or discontinue virtual items or in-game currency at any time.

I wonder what the impact of that statement would be on some social VR platforms that currently operate on the Oculus Rift and Quest.

The Acceptable Use section states:

By accessing or using the Oculus Products, you agree that you will not: (a) access or use the Oculus Products in any manner that could interfere with, disrupt, negatively affect or inhibit anyone from fully enjoying the Oculus Products, including, but not limited to, defamatory, harassing, threatening, bigoted, hateful, vulgar, obscene, pornographic or otherwise offensive behaviour or content; (b) damage, disable, overburden or impair the functionality of the Oculus Products in any manner; (c) access or use the Oculus Products for any illegal or unauthorised purpose or engage in, encourage or promote any illegal activity, or any activity that breaches or violates these Terms, Community Standards (also known as the Facebook Rules) and Conduct in VR Policy or any other terms or policies provided in connection with the Oculus Products; (d) use or attempt to use another user’s account without authorisation from such user; (e) modify, adapt, hack or emulate the Oculus Products; (f) use any robot, spider, crawler, scraper or other automated means or interface not provided or authorised by us to access the Oculus Products or to extract data; (g) circumvent or attempt to circumvent any filtering, security measures or other features designed to protect the Oculus Products or third parties; or (h) infringe upon or violate our rights or the rights of our users or any third party.

This statement (particularly section (f) above) might cause some serious problems for security researchers, and tech reporters writing about computer security issues, who might use such methods to take a peek at exactly what data Facebook/Oculus is collecting on its users. For example 9to5Mac reported:

A new investigative report from The Wall Street Journal today looks into the controversial practice of popular third-party iOS and Android apps sending very personal user data to Facebook. In some cases, this happened immediately after an app recorded new data, even if the user wasn’t logged into Facebook or wasn’t a Facebook user at all. Notably, the report highlights that Apple and Google don’t require apps to divulge all the partners that user data is shared with.

And in one particularly disturbing case, Flo, a period-tracking app used by many women, was caught sending health data to Facebook, without the users’ knowledge or consent:

After The Wall Street Journal reported that popular period-tracking app Flo had been secretly sharing some of its users’ most personal health data with Facebook, Flo is promising to make some changes.

Along with a number of other popular health apps, Flo used Facebook’s developer software to track users’ data in a way that could be used for advertising purposes, the report found. 

If we can’t trust Facebook not to do these kinds of things now, what guarantee do we have that they won’t continue to invade our privacy in other ways, using data from our VR headsets (tracking, eye movements, etc.)? Public service journalism demands that sometimes you need to reverse engineer or use other methods to investigate security concerns, such as the case with Flo.

Our Oculus Products may include interactive features and areas where you may submit, post, upload, publish, email, send, otherwise transmit or interact with content, including, but not limited to, text, images, photos, videos, sounds, virtual reality environments or features, software and other information and materials (collectively, “User Content”). Unless otherwise agreed to, we do not claim any ownership rights in or to your User Content.

All well and good. However:

By submitting User Content through the Oculus Products, you grant us a worldwide, non-exclusive, transferable, royalty-free and fully sublicensable (i.e. we can grant this right to others) right to use, copy, display, store, adapt, publicly perform and distribute such User Content in connection with the Facebook Company Products (https://www.facebook.com/help/195227921252400/) (subject to applicable Privacy Settings [https://secure.oculus.com/my/privacy/]).

I’m quite sure that most people are not aware that, despite Oculus not owning your content, that they can do essentially whatever they want with it, anyway, if you are submitting that content through Oculus devices. News to me, and it might be unwelcome news to you, too. (Do other brands of VR headset makers do this?)

We do not endorse or guarantee the opinions, views, advice or recommendations posted or sent by users. Facebook has no responsibility or liability for User Content made available through the Oculus Products, and we have no obligation to screen, edit or monitor such content. However, we do reserve the right, and have absolute discretion, to remove, screen or edit User Content at any time and for any reason, including content that infringes intellectual property rights or otherwise breaches these Terms.

This last bit is interesting, in light of Facebook’s determination to uphold community standards in places such as Facebook Horizon by invisibly observing user behaviour. Basically, although they will obviously try to clamp down on offensive or otherwise undesirable behaviour, they are covering their asses here by stating “Facebook has no responsibility or liability for User Content made available through the Oculus Products, and we have no obligation to screen, edit or monitor such content“. (I’m quite sure that such statements are common boilerplate in most Terms of Service agreements.)

ONWARDS!!! (Props open his eyelids with toothpicks)

You will comply with all applicable export control laws of the United States and any other applicable governmental authority, including, without limitation, the US Export Administration Regulations (“Export Laws”). You will not, directly or indirectly, export, re-export or download the Oculus Products: (a) to any individual, entity or country prohibited by Export Laws, including by any US sanctions programme; (b) to anyone on the SDN List, the US Denied Persons List or Entity List or other export control lists; or (c) for any purpose prohibited by Export Laws, including nuclear, chemical or biological weapons proliferation or the development of missile technology. You further represent and warrant that no US federal agency has suspended, revoked or denied your export privileges and you are not listed on the SDN List.

I love the bit about “nuclear, chemical or biological weapons proliferation or the development of missile technology“. Talk about covering all the bases!

This next bit applies to me as a blogger:

You are granted a limited, non-exclusive right to create text links to our websites for non-commercial purposes; however, you may not use our logos or other proprietary graphics to link to our sites without our express written permission.

So basically I can’t use any Facebook/Oculus logos to link to their websites (although text links are acceptable). I wonder if all the third-party app websites that use such logo links to their Oculus Store listings are aware of this stipulation.

The rest is all disclaimers and indemnities and so forth, limitations of liability statements, etc. Under Dispute Resolution, it states:

You and Facebook agree to waive any right to a jury trial, or the right to have any Dispute resolved in any court, and instead accept the use of binding arbitration (which is the referral of a Dispute to one or more impartial persons for a final and binding determination); provided, however, that you have the right to litigate any Dispute in small claims court, if all the requirements of the small claims court, including any limitations on jurisdiction and the amount at issue in the Dispute, are satisfied…

You and Facebook agree that any Dispute is personal to you and Facebook, and that any Dispute shall only be resolved by an individual arbitration and shall not be brought as a class arbitration, a class action or any other representative proceeding.

So, no class action lawsuits! Facebook wants to pick you off, one at a time 😉

The document ends with a special section pertaining to German users and to European Union users. God help the German users! All they get is a separate document which basically replaces selected text from the original Terms of Service document, so they have to go back and forth between two legal documents to figure out what the hell is going on.

I hope you found this little road trip as fascinating as I did! Stay tuned for Part 3, where I examine the updated Oculus Privacy Policy.

The Facebookening of Oculus: Taking a Look at the Frequently-Asked Questions Section to Understand What’s Going On (Part 1 of 3)

Housekeeping Note: Originally, I was going to talk about all three of:

  1. the updated Oculus Terms of Service;
  2. the updated Oculus Privacy Policy; and
  3. the frequently-asked questions under “Learn More” (see image below);

all in one blogpost. However, that approach meant that the blogpost would be extremely long (even for me!), so instead, I am breaking it into three more manageable parts. Therefore, this will be part one of three-part series, which looks at that FAQ (item 3) in some detail.

Later on, in parts two and three, I will be taking a look at the updated Terms of Service and Privacy Policy which Oculus users have to agree to in order to continue using their Oculus ID with their Oculus devices (a userid which is currently separate from their Facebook account, if they have one).

UPDATE Oct. 14th, 2020: Part 2 and part 3 have now been posted.


As luck would have it, after I had put the finishing touches on yesterday evening’s editorial on the Facebookening of Oculus and went to bed, waiting for me on my computer’s display the next morning was the following pop-up message from Oculus.

(Some Background: This is the high-end desktop gaming PC which I bought and set up specifically to use with my Oculus Rift headset and access the then-closed Sansar alpha/beta in January 2017, which of course was the whole reason I started this blog in the first place.)

I AM NOT A LAWYER, AND YOU SHOULD CONSULT A REAL LAWYER IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS ABOUT THIS. In fact, I would welcome comments from actual lawyers who deal with this sort of corporate legalese every day, and can explain it far better than I ever could to your average consumer. Most end-users simply scroll through such documents and sign off on them without reading them thoroughly (and Facebook is not alone among large companies that count on that).

The text of the Oculus message above reads as follows (for those of you who can’t read the smaller font of the announcement in this image, or if you are visually impaired and use a screen reader):

On October 11th, 2020, we are updating the Oculus Terms of Service and Privacy Policy to reflect that Facebook will become responsible for the Oculus platform and your Oculus information, and to provide more detail about how your information is collected, used, and shared. One that date, you will have the choice to continue using your existing Oculus account and remain under the updated Oculus Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, or use a Facebook account on the platform and agree to new terms. Learn more.

We recommend that you review the updated Oculus Terms of Service and Oculus Privacy Policy.

If you click on the “Learn more” link in the announcement, you are taken to a Frequently-Asked Question (FAQ) page broken down into four sections (it would appear from the construction of the URL for this webpage that they have different versions of this page in different languages, which makes perfect sense):

  • Updates to Facebook Accounts on Oculus
  • Logging into Oculus with a Facebook account
  • Controlling your experience
  • How your data is used

Now, I am not going to look at every single question (mainly because that would make this blogpost as long as War and Peace!), but I am going to touch on several questions and answers in detail.

Question: What changes are coming to accounts on Oculus?

Starting in October 2020:

Everyone using an Oculus device for the first time will need to log in with a Facebook account.

If you are an existing user and already have an Oculus account, you will have the option to log in with Facebook and merge your Oculus and Facebook accounts.

If you are an existing user and choose not to merge your accounts, you can continue using your Oculus account for two years.

Starting In January 2023:

We will end support for Oculus accounts.

If you choose not to merge your accounts at that time, you can continue using your device, but full functionality will require a Facebook account.

We will take steps to allow you to keep using content you have purchased, though some games and apps may no longer work. This could be because they require a Facebook account or because a developer has chosen to no longer support the app or game you purchased.

All future unreleased Oculus devices will require a Facebook account, even if you already have an Oculus account.

Notice this last point in particular. What this likely means, as already pointed out by Sam Machkovech in an August 20th, 2020 Ars Technica editorial titled Why the Facebookening of Oculus VR is bad for users, devs, competition, is:

All of the above commentary has existing headset owners in mind. There’s also the fact that anyone looking into Oculus’ future devices—including current Oculus product owners, who may be keen on transferring their Oculus software licenses to a future VR headset—don’t get 27 months to make up their minds. All unannounced Oculus hardware products going forward will require a Facebook login.

That gives Facebook and Oculus a great opportunity to announce in the very near future that—oops, whaddaya know—they’ve stopped producing all existing hardware. Leaked images of an updated Oculus Quest look shockingly identical to the 2019 version, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see a mild model refresh as a way to force this Facebook-account changeover much sooner. (Otherwise, we might’ve seen the older Quest continue to exist alongside a pricier, fancier “Quest S.” Now, that seems highly unlikely.)

I agree with that Sam says here: it is extremely unlikely that the older Quest and the newer Quest 2 will exist side-by-side to give users an option. And Facebook has already announced that the Oculus Rift S will end sales sometime this spring:

Facebook-owned virtual reality company Oculus is ending sales of the Rift S headset next spring. It’s retiring the PC-based VR device to focus on the standalone Oculus Quest 2, which can also be tethered to a computer through Oculus’ Link feature.

Quest 2 product manager Prabhu Parthasarathy calls the Quest 2’s release “the right moment for us to move to a single headset.” Link, which uses a USB-C cable to support PC VR games on the Quest, was launched experimentally for the original Quest in 2019. The feature will emerge from beta later this year, officially making the $299 Quest 2 a dual-purpose headset.

It seems clear that Facebook wants to go all-in on a single, standalone headset: the Quest 2, a new device which will require you to set up a Facebook account to use. And, later on in the FAQ, it makes this fact crystal clear:

Will a Facebook account be required to use Quest 2 and future Oculus devices?

Yes. Oculus Quest 2 and all future Oculus devices will require a Facebook account.

Question: Why are you making these changes to accounts on Oculus?

Oculus is owned by Facebook and is one of Facebook’s apps and technologies. Using a Facebook account provides a single way to log into Oculus devices and makes it easier to find, connect and play with friends in VR. It also enables Facebook-powered social experiences, like live streaming gameplay to your Facebook timeline, making calls with parties, joining events, and exploring new experiences like Facebook Horizon. And as Facebook adds new privacy and safety tools, they can be added in VR too.

These touted benefits ignore the fact that dozens of existing metaverse platforms, apps, and games (such as Sansar, VRChat, AltspaceVR, NeosVR, and Rec Room, among countless others I have written about on this blog) already have had no problems in “finding, connecting, and playing with friends in VR”. Many metaverse citizens and content creators, and especially avid gamers, already have developed well-known personas across multiple platforms, under a username which they might have first set up over a decade ago in Second Life, for example, or in an even earlier game.

Streaming gameplay to your Facebook timeline or to Facebook groups is unlikely to appeal to those people who are already using Twitch and related services.

As for Facebook Horizon, well, it’s Facebook’s corporate decision that graft the Facebook social network (and all its associated data collection algorithms) onto the forthcoming new social VR platform. It’s not about the touted benefits; it’s about the data, which is how Facebook makes most of its billions of dollars in profit.

As Sam Machkovech notes:

…This transition to a Facebook account requirement is unprecedented in consumer electronics. On the gaming side, no console or connected gaming service has ever required its users’ social network (or even its wholly owned email products) to function. (That means you can use Xbox Live without one of Microsoft’s outlook.com addresses.) The exception is the Google Stadia gaming service, which requires a Google account (inherent in a Gmail address), though it launched with this as a requirement, as opposed to making it a requirement later in the product life cycle.

Also, a Google account is a vastly different beast than Facebook’s version…I can create big-googly-moogly-98761234 as a Google account, or just about any service out there, then attach whatever personally identifying information I want, like a credit card. From there, I can proceed accordingly in terms of saving credentials, racking up a purchase history, and acting responsibly with that account. Meaning: just because I made a wacky account name and bought stuff with it doesn’t mean I can’t be punted from its service for violating the Terms of Service (ToS).

This is how an Oculus ID works. Without spending a penny or confirming your real-life name, you can make a username, build a friends list, and acquire free-to-play software licenses. If you want to buy software or add-ons, you can either add a credit card or claim a prepaid voucher code. And if you violate any ToS, either within an official Oculus app or in a third-party ecosystem, punitive actions can be taken on both your username and your VR headset’s unique ID. They don’t need your name or life history to do that.

And it also leads to an interesting theoretical question: what if Facebook should decide that existing social VR platforms running on Oculus devices will, at some point in the future, have to replace their existing usernames and friendship systems with Facebook’s, as a requirement to staying in the Facebook/Oculus ecosystem?

There is absolutely nothing stopping Facebook from changing the rules of the game later on, in the exact same way that they are changing them now. Such a potential change would be wrenching to many, smaller companies who might feel that they have no choice but to capitulate against the Facebook juggernaut, or go out of business completely. Is this why Facebook warns you that “some games and apps may no longer work” in January 2023?

Yes, this is a theoretical, what-if question, but yet it’s not completely out of the bounds of possibility, is it? I mean, a year or two ago, even people such as Oculus founder Palmer Luckey said that Oculus users wouldn’t need Facebook accounts, right? If Facebook broke that promise, who’s to say they won’t break other assumptions about how existing social VR platforms are “supposed” to work?

Question: Can I still have a profile for VR experiences that is different from my Facebook profile?

Yes. If you already have a unique username from your Oculus account, you will be able to continue using that username in VR. For example: you might be Monique Smith on Facebook, but WarriorMama365 in VR. If you don’t have a VR username, you’ll be able to create one when you set up your profile for VR.

Well, this sounds reasonable. And so does the following:

Question: Will my VR activity be posted to Facebook without my permission?

No. If you log into your Oculus device with your Facebook account, you can choose what information about your VR activity you post to your Facebook profile or timeline, either by giving permission to post or by updating your settings. If you are an existing user and you choose not to merge your Oculus account and Facebook account, you will not have access to Facebook-powered social features and you will not be able to post your VR activity to your Facebook profile or timeline.

Most users have zero interest in posting their VR activity anywhere anyway (and if they do, there’s this wonderful invention called Twitch). These and other dubious “Facebook-powered social features” mean nothing to people who, for the most part, have already left the Facebook social network and have no plans to return.

Question: Do the account changes for Oculus coming this October apply to all countries?

Yes, the Oculus account changes are applicable to all countries where Oculus devices have been sold.

So you aren’t going to be able to get around the Facebook account requirement by buying it online from other country, In Germany, in response to concerns exressed by German regulators about this move, Facebook has suspended sales of all Oculus devices. Ars Technica reports:

Facebook subsidiary Oculus says it has “temporarily paused” sales of Oculus Quest headsets to customers in Germany. Reports suggest the move is in response to concerns from German regulators about the recently announced requirement that all Oculus users will need to use a Facebook account by 2023 to log in to the device…

Facebook declined an opportunity to provide additional comment to Ars Technica. But in a statement to German News site Heise Online (machine translation), the company said the move was due to “outstanding talks with German supervisory authorities… We were not obliged to take this measure, but proactively interrupted the sale.”…

“Regulators in Germany are right to question the legality of this move,” Ray Walsh, a digital privacy expert at ProPrivacy, said in a statement provided to Ars Technica. “Consumers should be allowed to own a device without linking it to Facebook. Forcing users to be part of a social ecosystem is not necessary for the purposes of playing the vast majority of games, and those who wish to play games without social networking should be free to do so.”

Walsh continued: “It seems clear that Facebook is using its market-leading position within the VR industry to bully users into providing data about themselves. Just how much data Facebook is harvesting from headsets is a grey area, but it is clear that the headsets, which have the ability to map people’s homes, have a vast potential for accumulating a wealth of data about users and their homes… The danger for users is that the small amount of data Facebook currently claims to collect from headsets will be widened in the future; with the emergence of social VR platforms such as Facebook Horizons. These will create the perfect ecosystem for gathering data about users in all sorts of problematic ways.”

Frankly, I am surprised that other countries (especially within the European Union) have not yet followed Germany’s lead here, but then again, governments around the world are grappling with a pandemic, so concerns over the data-mining of users would understandably take a back seat to more pressing priorities. But it raises the question: is Facebook bullying Germany by suspending sales, thus putting additional pressure on the government by angry citizens who cannot buy Oculus devices?

Question: What happens to my data when I log into an Oculus device with my Facebook account?

When you log into your Oculus device with your Facebook account or merge your Oculus and Facebook accounts, we’ll use information related to your use of Oculus and Facebook for purposes such as:

Providing and improving your experience across Facebook products.

Promoting safety and integrity on our services.

Showing you personalized content, including ads, across Facebook products. This could include recommendations for Oculus Events you might like, ads about Facebook apps and technologies, or ads from developers for their VR apps.

Examples of the information we use include:

The VR apps you use, so we can recommend new apps you haven’t tried yet.

Your Facebook friend list, to make it easier to find and interact with your Facebook friends who are also in VR.

Invites and acceptances for events you create.

Information like your name and messaging metadata for chats in VR, so that you have access to your chats across devices.

Your photos and related content like captions, likes and comments if you share photos from VR to Facebook.

Information about your VR activity, like which apps you use, to show you ads for other VR apps you may like.

Information about your activity on other Facebook products, such as Pages you like and groups you join, to recommend content and things to do in VR.

And here, Facebook states that they will use your personal Facebook profile for advertising purposes. I can still remember how annoying advertising was in the Facebook social network when I was a member, before I deleted my account. Can you imagine how annoying advertising is going to be in a social VR platform like Horizon?

And yes, what you do in your Oculus device will impact advertising you see in Facebook:

Question: If I log into Oculus with my Facebook account, will Facebook use my VR activity to inform advertising on Facebook?

Yes. Facebook will use information related to your use of VR and other Facebook products to show you personalized content, including ads, across Facebook products. This could include recommendations for Oculus Events you might like, ads about Facebook apps and technologies, or ads from developers for their VR apps. You can update your interests, choose what Facebook information we use to show you ads and adjust your general ad settings by going to your Ad Preferences page.

Remember, selling your personal data to advertisers is how Facebook still makes most if its money.

Question: Does this mean that ads will now appear in my Oculus devices?

We do not currently display ads in Oculus devices.

The key word in that non-promise is “currently”. No, we don’t currently display ads (but we reserve the right to do so in future if it makes us more money).

Question: Can I choose not to store information about my VR activity with other Facebook apps and technologies?

No. Even if you don’t log into your Oculus device using your Facebook account, we will use your VR information to create a consistent and safer experience across Facebook apps and technologies. For example, taking action on an Oculus account if it is flagged for spam or abuse.

Question: Are you updating the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy?

Yes. Today, the platform is managed by Oculus (also known as Facebook Technologies), which has been part of Facebook since 2014. We will update our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy on October 11th, to reflect that this responsibility will be transferred to Facebook, Inc. (or Facebook Ireland Ltd. for European Region users). In practice, this means Facebook will manage all decisions around use, processing, retention and sharing of your data. This change will apply to all users.

If you choose not to merge your Oculus and Facebook accounts:

We will update the existing Oculus Terms of Service and Privacy Policy, to reflect that Facebook will be responsible for the Oculus platform.

The policy will also provide further details on how your information is collected, used and shared.

We will provide a notice to existing users before the changes take effect.

If you log in to your device with a Facebook account:

We will introduce a Supplemental Oculus Terms of Service and a Supplemental Oculus Data Policy that, together with the Facebook Terms of Service and the Facebook Data Policy respectively, will apply to you.

You will be able to access the terms and policy before logging in with a Facebook account.

So, yes, one way or the other, you will have to sign off on these changes. Please note that Facebook makes it very clear: “Facebook will manage all decisions around use, processing, retention and sharing of your data“.

There is also a small note at the bottom of this FAQ page which states:

Please note, the articles on this page will take effect in October. For more on how logging in with Facebook works today, check out our Social features on Oculus page.

Whew! That was a lot to go through—and we still haven’t even gotten around to looking at the updated Oculus Terms of Service and Oculus Privacy Policy!

Does any of this make me feel that I am making a mistake by personally boycotting Facebook products and services from now on, and selling or giving away my current Oculus Rift and Oculus Quest by January 2023? ABSOLUTELY NOT. If anything, it just strengthens my resolve to steer well clear of anything Facebook from here on out.

Facebook Reality Labs’ new logo