By Katie Paul
(Reuters) – Meta Platforms Inc is modifying how users log onto its virtual reality headsets, backtracking on an earlier change to require accounts from the company’s flagship Facebook app on the devices while preserving links to social connections there.
The company will roll out its new “Meta accounts” starting in August, Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post on Thursday.
The social media giant announced plans to remove the Facebook login requirement last year, after a backlash from users who had previously accessed the headsets using separate accounts from Oculus, the virtual reality company that Meta, then known as Facebook, acquired in 2014.
With the new login structure, Meta accounts will control device-level access and manage app purchases, while Meta Horizon profiles will represent the users’ social presence in virtual reality, with associated user names and avatars, the company said in a blog post.
People will also have the option to connect their profiles in a unified Meta Accounts Center, which will integrate existing social connections from Facebook, Instagram or Messenger into their virtual reality experiences, it said.
For accounts not added to the Accounts Center, the company will only combine user data across apps for counting users and enforcing safety rules, a spokesperson told Reuters.
In a memo last week, product chief Chris Cox alluded to the change, which he referred to as Project Simile and said would “power continuity across the metaverse,” according to a copy of the post viewed by Reuters.
Meta has been pushing to integrate accounts and other products across its “family of apps,” which gives users cross-app functionality while enabling the company to consolidate data about their behavior in different environments.
The company announced plans to unify its messaging structure across apps in 2019 and later that year rolled out a payment service, now called Meta Pay, through which users can process transactions across Facebook, Messenger, Instagram and WhatsApp.
(Reporting by Katie Paul; Editing by Leslie Adler)