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This article was published on September 25, 2019

Ready Player What? Facebook announces a new VR social network

Ready Player What? Facebook announces a new VR social network

Facebook revealed at today’s Oculus Connect event that it’s launching its own social VR platform, a very MMO-like virtual world called Horizon.

Horizon is an “interconnected world” where VR avatars can meet, hang out, play games, and build their own environments. In the announcement video, it shows legless avatars flying planes, creating art, and playing games together. See below if you have a strong stomach for cringey, corporate attempts at humor:

According to the announcement, users can play games and such in Facebook-built environments. They’ll also be able to build their own activities:

Everyone will have the power to build new worlds and activities, from tropical hangout spots to interactive action arenas, all from scratch—no previous coding experience needed. Whether people choose to build, play, or simply hang out, Horizon will ensure a welcoming environment through new safety tools and human guides—Horizon Locals—to answer questions and provide assistance, if needed.

Pour one out for the Horizon Locals, who’re presumably going to have to keep the trolls and bots at bay.

I think it’s very fitting that the reveal trailer for this repeatedly cuts from the announcer lady showing the glory of Horizon to her boyfriend/husband/roommate cooking and watching her antics with a bemused look on his face. I don’t think I’ve ever related to a background character this much before.

If this looks like Facebook’s take on Second Life or, mercy forbid, Ready Player One… yeah, that’s my read on the situation, too. And it’s not the novelty of it that weirds me out — I’m all for Facebook shaking things up. It’s just odd because it doesn’t seem like a Facebook thing to do.

This level of involvement is not just not something I associate with Facebook. Facebook is a place where you go to peruse your friend’s posts, and maybe watch a few videos. It’s not a place you lose yourself in for hours unless you’ve got the world’s most interesting and photogenic friends.

And this leaves out some details: how is this Oculus-based world going to interact with our Facebook accounts? Will we be able to socialize with our friends in VR? Presumably one is intended to talk to strangers, as the Oculus blog refers to a “a bustling town square where people will meet and mingle.” It’s got to be related to our existing accounts in some way, otherwise why call it “Facebook Horizon” and not just “Horizon?” We’ve reached out to Facebook for more information and will update this article if we receive any.

If nothing else, I picture this digital world dripping with ads after just a short time. I don’t want to picture that, but ads are the backbone of Facebook’s business, and I can’t believe they’d miss the opportunity to shove even more of them into our faces.

Facebook Horizon launches in 2020. If you’re interested, you can sign up for the beta program, also launching in 2020, here.

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