cancel
Showing results for 
Search instead for 
Did you mean: 

The real problem with Facebook buying Oculus

FDP
Level 3
VR is a part of the future. We are a community that believes this, but outside of this relatively small community the average person needs more convincing. It is of course something of a relief to see a company the size of Facebook willing to bet a decent amount of their play money on Oculus, and it will undoubtedly bring some attention to VR in the short term, but at what cost to the VR community, and Oculus' mission?

The worry is two-fold. Oculus was very successful in rallying a community around a single piece of technology; they acted to focus VR enthusiasts on one "best path" forward. Oculus' success to date is based in no small part around their community outreach and their position as an independent engine focused entirely on the improvement of the VR experience. As a small division of Facebook they forfeit that position. And that’s where the second and primary concern comes in.

Facebook is a huge company that does something very boring, very clever and slightly evil. It manages an enormous database that collects vast amounts of information from a population that is not yet savvy to the downsides of trading their private information for the right to use a service at no cost. To date Facebook has dabbled in a variety of hardware projects, and most of them have failed (who all owns a Facebook phone say yeah). It's safe to say that hardware is not their focus or core competency.

At this point Facebook's value is hyperinflated. They have value only because of the size of their user base, and while they have been king of the hill for almost a decade there is no law of the universe that prevents them from sharing the fate of Myspace or Friendster. Facebook seems aware of this, and it is doing a very smart thing by spending money while the money is there to spend in an attempt to secure its future position. Instagram, for example, was purchased primarily for its user base. There was nothing preventing Facebook from offering a competing service, but it was much smarter to absorb existing users than to try to attract them from a competitor. Everything Facebook buys is focused on driving customers to the mothership, whether or not they would explicitly prefer not to feed the Facebook machine with every intimate detail of their lives.

So one has to ask oneself, does Facebook want Oculus so that it can be a part of improving the VR experience, or does it simply see the Rift as a wearable information gathering device? A week ago Oculus was a very successful company about a year away from releasing its first consumer VR hardware. Now Oculus’ mission almost has to be to feed more user data into Facebook. It’s hard to imagine a product being released that is not hard-linked to a Facebook account. Now instead of just being a VR pioneer, Oculus users can become the first guinea pigs to share everything they do in their virtual worlds with the Facebook database.

Where you are looking, what you are looking at, who you are interacting with, when are you doing it. These are all more data points for Facebook. And of course there is nothing stopping them from putting targeted ads into a user’s field of vision. Enjoying that virtual world? You might enjoy it more with a Coke.

I'm not a fan of Facebook, but I still use the platform. Part of me is impressed that Facebook has managed to stay relevant for as long as it has, part of me is disgusted by what it does to do so. All of me is worried about what part Oculus has in this puzzle. I just can’t, as hard as I try, imagine anything good.
0 REPLIES 0