Horizon Worlds, Meta’s social VR platform for Quest, is only open to 18+ users for now, however the company says it’s expanding to include teens aged 13 to 17 in the US and Canada.

Meta says the new policy will go into effect in “the coming weeks,” effectively opening the company’s first-party social platform to its entire user base in those countries; Meta only allows users 13+ to actually use Quest devices.

To prepare for the wave of younger users, the company is also releasing some age-appropriate protections and safety defaults.

Safety features will include the ability for teens to control who they follow and who can follow them back. Profiles are also set to private by default, which obscures active status and location. Worlds and events will have content ratings, so younger teens can’t get in.

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A new voice mode feature is also rolling out to everyone, which garbles voices of both unknown people and teen’s voices by default. Raising your hand to your ear temporarily lets you hear other users when voice mode is switched on, Meta says.

“We’re rolling out to teens slowly, so that we can carefully examine usage and are taking a phased approach before expanding more broadly,” the company says in a blogpost. “We can’t wait to see everything these new members of the community bring to Worlds.”

Parents and guardians can use the parental supervision tools to manage their teen’s experience and “support healthy conversations about safety in VR,” Meta says. To learn more, check out the new Family Center.

The company also released a safety tutorial to see the new features in action:

While Meta only just released official word of those changes to Horizon Worlds, the news was actually first reported by The Wall Street Journal in February, which was based on an internal memo that alleged the social VR platform was under performing and needed to increase user retention to keep up with the competition. According to the memo seen by WSJ, Horizon Worlds’ weekly retention rate was 11% in January 2023, which the company aimed to increase to 20%.

A goal outlined in the memo maintained Worlds needed to reach 500,000 monthly active users (MAU) in the first half of 2023, ultimately reaching the one million mark by year’s end. At the time, it was reported the platform was hovering around 200,000 MAUs, or just below the December peak.

There’s no telling when the flatscreen version of Horizon Worlds is due to arrive, however Meta maintained it would be opening the Quest-only social platform to Web and mobile devices “soon.”

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Well before the first modern XR products hit the market, Scott recognized the potential of the technology and set out to understand and document its growth. He has been professionally reporting on the space for nearly a decade as Editor at Road to VR, authoring more than 3,500 articles on the topic. Scott brings that seasoned insight to his reporting from major industry events across the globe.
  • Jonathan Winters III

    If they really want vr to take off, they should remove the age limits completely and put in place age-appropriate safety features that minimally get in the way of the experience. Kids love vr – make areas accessible by age bracket – would solve a lot of the problems with kids rampant everywhere in Horizon.

    • scottosaur

      I agree in theory, but I also think even opening up to 13 year olds is taking a pretty big risk. Worlds, as it is now, is an extremely uncool space and I think teens will savage it for being janky and bland.

      Meta is stuck between two problems of needing to expand their userbase and also having a product that probably isn’t ready for primetime.

  • What about opening to the rest of the world?

    • sfmike

      As a person that was an original tester, you are missing out on nothing.

  • sfmike

    This will only be another example of Meta shooting themselves in the feet again. Right foot shot by adding foul mouthed kids and left foot working on a pancake version that is admitting that VR can’t support its own social app. As someone that has been on the app since its pre-launch all I can say is after Meta put billions of dollars into this uninspired mess it still reeks of failure. It’s just not fun and the design is so uninspiring it hurts. Even the creator functions on the now Meta owned Population:ONE are superior to what you get in Horizon. My take is they spent way too much energy and money on trying to create a FB like policing system and female centric world where body shaming can’t exist and every minute shade of skin tone were more important than trying to create unique game play. (You have multiple options of creating mushy overweight body types but no actual fit male identifying shape.) If more energy had been put into world building and less into how to police every avatar interaction so everyone feels “safe” and can report any minor infraction to Meta’s Big Brother department, they would have saved a couple billion right there. By the way, any person I ever reported for being a dick was never actually resolved except by some standard BS bot response.

    I really had high hopes for Horizon but it just hasn’t come together. Hopefully we can get a VR version of the metaverses from developers like from Roblox or Fortnight because Meta doesn’t seem up to it.

  • Foreign Devil

    It’s not like it wasn’t already chock full of foul mouthed kids anyways. I don’t see anything changing with this.

  • David James

    this is hilarious, it’s already full of screaming, cursing children, the moderators do nothing to tone it down and horizons is a heaving shit show, reeking of desperation, on the part of Meta.