Yesterday, Alex Heath of the tech news website The Verge covered the current state of Meta’s social VR sister platforms, Horizon Worlds (for consumers) and Horizon Workrooms (for business users), and things are not looking good.
In the article, titled Meta’s flagship metaverse app is too buggy and employees are barely using it, says exec in charge, Alex quotes at length from internal memos sent around the company by executives such as Vishal Shah, Meta’s Vice President of Metaverse, which detail the many quality assurance issues plaguing the products.
In one of the memos to employees dated September 15th, Meta’s VP of Metaverse, Vishal Shah, said the team would remain in a “quality lockdown” for the rest of the year to “ensure that we fix our quality gaps and performance issues before we open up Horizon to more users.”
It would appear that there are numerous bugs in the software:
“But currently feedback from our creators, users, playtesters, and many of us on the team is that the aggregate weight of papercuts, stability issues, and bugs is making it too hard for our community to experience the magic of Horizon. Simply put, for an experience to become delightful and retentive, it must first be usable and well crafted.”
OUCH. Even worse, it would appear that many of the people building the product are not using it very much (known as “eating your own dogfood”, or “dogfooding”):
A key issue with Horizon’s development to date, according to Shah’s internal memos, is that the people building it inside Meta appear to not be using it that much. “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 15th. “Why is that? Why don’t we love the product we’ve built so much that we use it all the time? The simple truth is, if we don’t love it, how can we expect our users to love it?”
In a follow-up memo dated September 30th, Shah said that employees still weren’t using Horizon enough, writing that a plan was being made to “hold managers accountable” for having their teams use Horizon at least once a week. “Everyone in this organization should make it their mission to fall in love with Horizon Worlds. You can’t do that without using it. Get in there. Organize times to do it with your colleagues or friends, in both internal builds but also the public build, so you can interact with our community.”
It’s never a good sign when you have to basically ORDER your employees to use a product that they are building, is it? The article goes on to say:
He went on to call out specific issues with Horizon, writing that “our onboarding experience is confusing and frustrating for users” and that the team needed to “introduce new users to top-notch worlds that will ensure their first visit is a success.”
Shah said the teams working on Horizon needed to collaborate better together and expect more changes to come. “Today, we are not operating with enough flexibility,” his memo reads. “I want to be clear on this point. We are working on a product that has not found product market fit. If you are on Horizon, I need you to fully embrace ambiguity and change.”
I wonder if part of the problem is that there is such a large team working on Horizon Worlds and Horizon Workrooms, part of a large multinational corporation, with all the bureaucracy that such an organization entails. In addition, there have been rumours of turmoil and turnover in Meta’s staffing, with a number of senior executive departures, such as Vivek Sharma, the former Vice President of Meta Horizon, who left in August 2022. You might remember the kerfuffle when Meta’s CEO Mark Zuckerberg tweeted out a lacklustre picture to promote Horizon World’s expansion into France and Spain (which you can see in the screen capture of Alex’s article above; I wrote about it here). Meta then had to scramble to assure people that they were working on improving the graphics within its social VR platforms.
Well, at the upcoming Meta Connect 2022 conference, to be held on October 11th, many will tune in to see how Mark and his executive team are going to spin what clearly are some serious development problems with their social VR platforms.
UPDATE Oct. 10th, 2022: Both The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times have published recent articles about Meta’s metaverse woes:
- The Wall Street Journal: Meta’s Virtual Reality Meets Facebook’s Harsh Real World (archived version here if you hit a paywall)
- The New York Times: Skepticism, Confusion, Frustration: Inside Mark Zuckerberg’s Metaverse Struggles (archived version here)
The WSJ article is a short read, but the NYT one is excellent, giving an in-depth, inside look (using anonymous sources) at what’s going on in Meta as they attempt to pivot to the metaverse. Both are highly recommended reading.