All you need to know about the new Meta Quest login

Meta’s first step towards creating a new unified ID system. So has anything actually changed and if so, what exactly?

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The tale of a forgotten promise

When Oculus was acquired in 2014, its founder, Palmer Luckey, famously guaranteed that his company would not force its users to login with Facebook. At the time, it just didn’t make any sense. Virtual reality headsets are hardware units, just like computer monitors or audio speakers. You do not need to use Facebook or any other social network to switch your computer screen on, people reasoned, so why would you need one to access a HMD?

Fast-forward to August 2020. Palmer Luckey is no longer part of Oculus nor has he been for some time now. Facebook makes a low-key announcement via a blog post titled “A single way to log into Oculus and unlock social features“. It states that come October 2020, all-new Quest users will have to use Facebook to access VR and if they don’t have an account, they’ll have to create one. This generated massive backlash, accusations of broken promises, requests for refunds and attempts at class action lawsuits followed. And even though the dust eventually settled, the FB login issue kept coming back, haunting Oculus each time their parent company suffered any kind of controversy, each time there was a new scandal or data leak, each time someone got banned on Facebook and lost access to their Quest because of it.

Contrary to what many expected, the issue never quite seemed to go away. Time went by, users kept complaining. Even if the criticism’s edge wasn’t as sharp as before, the Facebook login requirement kept being brought up continuously in random VR discussions, tweets and so on. It never became fully normalized.

Meet the new boss

Meta unveils new logo (Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

In October 2021, Facebook reinvented itself as Meta in an attempt to distance itself from its roots and paint a bigger picture for the things to come and for the company's future. It was a very bold pivot that puts a lot of emphasis on the hardware side of things. Visiting the official Meta site redirects users to a store where you can buy a Quest, but also a Portal (a tablet-like device) and Ray-Bay Stories (AR recording glasses). Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp are barely visible. Meta also debuted its first retail store in Burlingame, California with a plan to further expand their physical presence. The foundation has also been laid for future expansions—we're talking beyond social networking or hardware and into the world of finance, metaverse and web3.

Meta Store in California

With all of that, Meta also began retiring the Oculus brand, first by renaming their flagship device to Meta Quest and then subsequently by replacing all the logos, app names, websites and so on. The community reacted somberly but without uproar. Oculus had been folded into Facebook Reality Labs in 2020, so any separation of the two was purely superficial. For the Oculus brand, the writing was on the wall. The real question was, what will happen to the Facebook login requirement now that Oculus is no more?

Well, we finally know the answer. Yes, Facebook logins are indeed going away but they are being replaced with new Meta accounts. Unfortunately, this means that users that decided to unlink their Oculus accounts from Facebook after Andrew Bozworth's announcement in October 2021 have not really done themselves any favors. The unlinking process was complicated, involved contacting customer support, meant losing access to popular social VR apps like Venus or Horizon and in the end didn't matter. Both, those who un-linked their accounts and who decided not to do anything and stick with Facebook, will be required to create a new Meta account by the end of this year.

While this isn't the best start, it has more to do with bad communication than with the product itself. So let's look a bit closer a what Meta accounts actually entail and how they're going to be structured.

Non-social Meta ID

According to the announcement, the easiest way to create a Meta account is through … Facebook or Instagram.

“If you’re a new Meta VR user, you can choose to set up your Meta account using Facebook or Instagram.”

This immediately highlights how tricky it might be to create a completely new identification system and leave Facebook aside. All accounts (including Quest, FB, Instagram and WhatsApp) will be managed using Accounts Center, a multi-app program that was introduced in 2020. Users can expect to be able to unlink, relink and configure everything quickly and on demand.

Accounts Centre, however, is not available as a standalone app. For most users of Meta products, it’s just part of Facebook settings and this is how most recognize it (mainly as a place to enable a “Single Sign On” feature that makes logins much faster).

For Quests users that are wary of Facebook or even Meta in general, having to go through a Facebook-first app to delink or relink doesn’t sound particularly appealing and there are plenty of skeptics for whom this is a purely cosmetic change. Sure, they say, your VR activity might not show up on your Facebook Wall and vice versa, but that’s about it. Under the hood, it’s all the same. Data’s being mined, cross-examined and linked to real-life identities. And they do have a point, but at the same time, the changes that Meta is introducing are more than just cosmetic.

Right from the outset, delinking a Meta VR account from socials means that, at least in theory, users will not have to worry about being banned for something they did on Facebook and losing their entire app library. This represents a major improvement as the number of people who have been banned this way is non-trivial. Some were banned for using fake names or throwaway accounts, and some were banned right after merging their legacy Oculus accounts due to security flags. Some became afraid to post on Facebook for fear of losing all their money spent on app purchases. In one example, content creator MacInVr had his account disabled for joking about “selling a kidney” when discussing sports cars. Facebook’s content moderation is increasingly AI-driven and being able to delink a Meta account from social activity gives many a peace of mind.

Also worth noting, it will actually be possible to create a Meta ID using an email address as a starting point. To register this way, users will have to enter their name, email address, phone number, payment information and date of birth. That’s still quite a lot of data, as original Oculus accounts required nothing but an email address and a password (and the same goes for Pico Neo 3), but at the same time, Meta isn’t really out of step here with what many websites or apps ask for these days. People that have never used Facebook and were not interested in creating an account just for VR now have a new venue to consider.

The new login system should also benefit businesses, artists, educators and many other sectors that own Quests for non-private use. Having to link someone’s personal Facebook profile to a headset that’s then used publicly was considered to be a major inconvenience and a form of liability. Recent changes should make it easier for such organizations to operate in comfort.

Meta Horizon now mandatory

Alongside changes and improvements, there’s also a lot of dubious elements that give credence to skeptics and those who claim it’s all the same thing, only repackaged.

For example, Meta Horizon will now become obligatory. Meta Horizon is being marketed as a replacement for the Oculus account, but that’s already Meta ID’s job — to offer a simple way to login into Meta products. Horizon, on the other hand, is a strictly social account that’s used by apps such as Horizon Worlds and Horizon Venues. In February, Meta reported 300,000 monthly active users for these applications. This number might seem impressive, but pales in comparison with Rec Room, which reported more than 1 million monthly VR users.

Horizon Worlds

Forcing users to create accounts for a specific Meta-aligned social platform sounds quite anti-competitive and draws comparisons to the browser wars that ultimately led to Microsoft having to pay $731 million in fines. It also means data mining will continue as long as users take advantage of their Horizon profiles, add friends, visit Horizon Worlds and its derivatives and so on. Which is pretty much guaranteed, given they have no choice.

As per Meta’s announcement, Friends will now become Followers, turning Meta Horizon into something more akin to Instagram. All of this will be VR-first, meaning user status, activity feed, achievements and privacy settings will revolve around virtual reality, and only then optionally posted ‘outside’ to Facebook, Instagram or any other linked app via Accounts Centre.

It’s also notable that you can have only one Meta Horizon profile per Meta ID, and since a Meta ID requires real name and identity, it makes the anonymity of Horizon Worlds a moot point as far as data mining is concerned. On a lower level, however, it does provide increased privacy, since it will not be possible for other Horizon World users to track people’s real names and vice versa find someone’s Meta Horizon profile based on their Facebook name. So users have less information about each other, but Meta as a parent company retains its full access, allowing it to collect data that can be linked only to a single person via their Meta ID.

This is a very dynamic, novel space where regulators are trying to play catch-up but the Federal Trade Commission has already blocked Meta once (from acquiring a VR fitness company Within) so the chances are, they might do again.

Future looks Meta

Looking into the future, we can expect Meta ID to be incorporated into all existing Meta apps and eventually supersede legacy accounts. We can already see this trend with Instagram, which was recently revamped and now includes a “From Meta” affix that’s dressed in Instagram colors.

This is a familiar pattern that Meta has already used before, specifically when sunsetting the Oculus brand back in 2020.

These changes are meant to allow Meta to compete with the likes of Google and Apple, both in terms of hardware penetration, but also in terms of broader ecosystem interoperability. Just like a Google account allows for ready access to Drive, Docs and YouTube without the need to set up any additional accounts, Meta will have its own umbrella where all the apps are at the user’s disposal and on standby, activated by simply entering your Meta ID.

What distinguishes Meta from its competitors is its Metaverse and XR focus. We can expect some existing features, like Facebook Pay, to evolve and gain prominence, as well as entirely new additions to the Meta family that the competition might be hesitant to put their weight behind, most notably Web3 and blockchain. It remains to be seen how Meta will incorporate its moderation policies, how restrictive or liberal and how broad or limited their scope will be. Will it be possible for Meta to enforce a blanket Meta-ban on certain IDs and all the associated apps, effectively disenfranchising users from its payment system, its blockchain and its social and virtual Metaverse? If so, that would actually be an even more restrictive situation than that one we had before.

In summary, major changes are coming, but mostly in terms of user experience. The general focus is shifting towards immersive design and users can expect to have greater control over their identity and what data they choose to share with the world. At the same time, the overarching dominance that Facebook came to represent is not only not going away, but will likely only strengthen with Meta. Pundits and users are right to remain skeptical, but how much of what they’re worried about will actually come to pass remains to be seen.

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