Let's talk about world privacy and "private" worlds

Hello!
I’m a dev on NeoWorlds and I was inspired by Kilerbomb’s Twitter thread talking about what happened with our world and wanted to have a more open discussion about the root of the issue here.
I’m hoping this can either help normalise an etiquette for sharing private worlds, or perhaps bring attention to this enough for the VRChat team to consider giving world creators the tools to better control how their worlds are shared.

To be clear, this post is in no way intended to be interpreted as disappointment or frustration from the NeoWorlds team. We’re satisfied with how things shaked out and we’re okay with people sharing the world around at this point. We also have no hard feelings towards anyone who was excited about it and shared it around!
I don’t want this thread to be hyper-focused on how our exact situation went/could have gone/is going, because I’m sure we can all agree that at the end of the day, it would be great for creators to not have to worry about things like this happening in the first place when we just want to show (a reasonable amount of) people the world while it’s being developed.

For extra context, this sort of thing is tricky. As easy as it would be to take the world down and re-upload it to a new blueprint ID and nip this in the bud, in all honesty, it would have been silly to destroy the momentum the world was getting by de-listing it. Both for the sake of our own visibility as well as not wanting to step on people’s toes for enjoying it in its current state. It was kinda stressful having to reconsidering our roadmap and release schedules due to the sudden traffic.

What I mean by this is while there are certainly ways to avoid this, it’s not as fun that way! It’s cool having niche corners of VRChat run into your private world, but it’s a really drastic change to go from a couple thousand visits for months to your entire friends list being in it the next day. People being able to make publicly visible (Friends, Friends+, etc.) instances of private worlds that anyone can hop into from their Friend Locations tab makes this growth very hard to control.

Anyway, please consider why a world is private before choosing who you share it with and where you share it! The enthusiasm may be appreciated, but just be considerate of how fast the internet can move, as the sudden attention can be a lot to process.

Now what can VRChat do to help?

I personally think the simplest solution to this would be to allow world creators to define what instance types users are allowed to generate for their private worlds, though I’m sure others have different ideas.
I’ve also seen the desire for optionally whitelisting users or only allowing the world creator’s friends to join, stuff like that.

I’d like to hear what other creators have in mind regarding how private worlds should work.

Thanks for reading!

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I’d be interested in hearing a few more details (I don’t Twitter). Not about what happened but with regard to the terms “private” and such. I have a private world and I’m fairly sure that nobody can favorite it much less instantiate it in any form. The rules for joining the world are the same as any world but (again as far I know) I am the only person who can create one.

Is there any possibility that your world template isn’t marked private or do I have it wrong?

I think the cats well out of the bag now, so with that in mind.

If you invite me to your private world, after joining I can get the world id from the website or the log. I can’t favorite it, and it won’t be in recent world, but on the website I can visit the page for it, create an instance and invite myself to it.

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If someone knows the ID of that world, they can go to it. End of story. It’s not private, even if the UI says it is. It’s unlisted.

Unlisted worlds should be marked as such, or the way things work should be updated to properly reflect the language used to describe them.

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It doesn’t help that the website also just…straight up isn’t correct when warning the user how their “private world” functions. I don’t blame people for not understanding this is how private worlds work.

The website claims:

“This world is private and only visible via direct links”

Which isn’t true at all.
The world is very much visible to anyone who sees people in it in their Friend Locations tab.
They can even click on the world thumbnail, view the world details and create new instances without even needing to join the world or visit the website.

Like owlboy mentioned, “private” worlds are very much just unlisted worlds in the sense that you just can’t search for them or favourite them. They otherwise behave exactly like published worlds.

There’s still value in the way things behave currently in certain contexts, so I agree with the sentiment that the current behaviour should be renamed to “unlisted” and treated like a distinct behaviour separate from a true “private” option if that ever ends up becoming a thing.

Well that is good to know. I just tested it a bit by checking my log and obtained a world Id (to my world but it serves as a test). As people have said I was able to create an instance.

So “private” is a bit of a misnomer and “unlisted” seems to be a better term. I’m not so worried about people discovering an id and starting it up (though some people may be). I keep it private not to keep people out per se but because I’m working on it all the time. It occasionally breaks and if it was public I would feel more pressure to get it working.

Something to also note is that as of this post the API does not appear to care about the publish status when requesting to make an instance.

Basically you can use a third party program like VRCX to make a public instance of any world if you have the id. Public instances on a Private world are only visible when looking at the world’s page (in game or on web). Group instances and Friends instances make the world visible to any related user’s social page.

Really, Private is Unlisted, but VRChat appears to want to make it act as if it is private since public instances cannot be made on a private world via the website or the game and the whole meaning of calling the status “Private”.

A very interesting topic and i praise the fact that you wanted to open the discussion about it to improve the situation.

That’s more something some world creators should talk about so I’ll mostly share this post related to that.

Hopefully as you say, comes from that good practices on world sharing etiquette.

I agree that at the very least “private” should be renamed to unlisted. As it is currently, people may not think twice about making a private world that has things they would like to keep truly private. Examples being stuff like photo galleries, personal spaces (Like someone’s homeworld that they don’t want others to see), photo scans (like of someone’s house or room). The list goes on and on.

I also think that a true private world upload would be very valuable. Currently the only real way to do it is using build and test, which is obviously insufficient in many cases, especially projects with many people working on them or projects that you would like to get feedback on from authorized parties outside of the team directly working on the project. Not to mention being able to have a truly private space that the uploader can allow or disallow others from accessing (I would love to have a homeworld with personal effects that only friends I allow could access for instance, but as it is now, I have no way of enforcing that).

Ironically, private worlds work a lot like public avatars do (being “unlisted”), which creates an interesting paradox and a direct clash of what private and public mean in the context of VRChat. I have always upheld the idea that if someone uploads an avatar as public, even if it was intended to be used by just a single other person, they don’t have anything to stand on being upset about other people finding/cloning/using that avatar. They uploaded it as public. But the same can definitely not be said about someone uploading a world as private, and expecting what it says on the tin, private.


As for the social/etiquette side of sharing private world links (this is assuming that VRC does nothing about this and the system stays as is) I think its somewhat of a losing battle. Its hard to ask someone to not show their friends a cool new world they found when part of what VRC is involves exploring and finding cool new worlds. Like I think the first time I saw TEST 001 was December of last year posted in a discord server I was in, and my first instinct was “this is one of the coolest things I have seen in VRC” and I immediately went to go share it with my friends lol.

I think the only real way to stop stuff like that is creator controls imposed on VRC’s end. Its kind of a core identity of the game.

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The public avatar comparison is a really good point, thanks for bringing that up!

Regarding the etiquette thing, my intention is less to disincentivize sharing cool secret things with friends, cause I totally get that that’s inevitable and exploring is definitely is a huge aspect of VRChat.
I more so want people to think before posting private world links super publicly, specifically.
Though, to be honest you probably have a point either way. At the end of the day it’s gonna be hard to control stuff like this without the right tools.

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I think it would be a good idea to allow uploaders of “private” or “unlisted” worlds to have a whitelist for their world. This way collaborators can enter the world if need be and people who aren’t meant to access the world cannot.

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I definitely agree that this is problematic, hopefully VRChat can add some sort of permission system or truly private links at some point.

I’ve experienced the exact same issue (although not to the scale of NeoWorlds) with my VRDancing and Finishing Touch worlds. Where people would share the links around and use the world for up to 3 months before I wanted to release it. Its a bit frustrating, its more comfortable to have full control over when a project launches and I would also start getting bug reports about content that was still heavily WIP and not even released yet haha

On top of that, its difficult as a creator to give Patrons early access to projects as you can never really know who shared the link in case it leaks etc.

At this point I often give non-descriptive names and images to worlds that are still WIP that I don’t want shared around. And its a hassle to tell everyone not share the link or ID if you do give them a preview.

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Hello everyone,

I agree more control over private worlds would be good for world creation projects. I could have not predict the impact on the interest of others and how it affects the team’s development schedule and I apologize for that.

Currently, privacy of a world relys on the trust in others not to share. I believe VRChat is not the platform currently to keep assets safe or secret.

In a distant past in VRChat, worlds links URLs didn’t exist and private/unlisted worlds could only be entered through a proxy public world. I know that isn’t ideal either.

Discord has a feature where certain users can generate an invite link so there is accountability on who creates a link and uses it. VRChat can implement that feature from their group system where a member of a group can generate an short term invite link to the world.

Youtube has “unlisted” and “private” condition for their videos and like Owlboy said, VRChat’s private acts like “unlisted”.

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All this drama over a world id getting out, and I’m just sitting here wondering why I seem to be the only world author that knows you can just reupload the world as a new empty scene using the same world id, and then no one will have access until you upload the next true version that needs testing.

Does the default scene include a collider? Might want to add that.

Oddly enough the OP here did mention that they can simply take the world down if they wanted to.

I do believe people know they can just wipe it, or even have a seperate version, but that’s why the thread is more on what are the solutions to improve the way world creators can release worlds to the public.

Being condescending must be a thing these days… sigh. Discussions are hardly drama and it is a guess on my part but I will guess that you are not the only “world author” that knows something about VRC tooling.

As an aside my world is private and will always be private. This is not because it is being tested for a release but because I want to invite people to my world. If I break it I don’t feel obligated to fix it quickly just because some stranger will instantiate a version.

I’d love to see VRChat worlds being “Unlisted” by default before publishing to labs, and having the option to make it very private where nobody can create instances of any kind except the world owner, but with normal Unlisted worlds people can make instances like they do now. maybe even favorite them or make them their homeworld IDK

oh also unlisting a public world not forcing you to put it back into Community Labs again maybe. unless there’s a really good reason for that behavior that I can’t think of right now.

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I apologize if I came off as being condescending, that was not my intent, I love your work, and also BobyStar is a good friend of mine in real life.

This topic was brought up and discussed to me across x, discord, and vrchat, many times by people who would go off on a tangent, without mentioning the easy fix. So I was just saying it’s surprising how many do not know about it. People in this threat already mentioned the solution, so I figured that would have made it obvious that I didn’t literally mean everyone, but I apologize if that wasn’t good enough.

I’m no stranger to having worlds that are, and will always be private, for the exact same reasons you mentioned. It’s all good.

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