By The Biz Team (Nicholas)
Facebook recently angered the virtual reality (VR) market, after announcing plans to require a Facebook login for future VR headsets. The decision was contrary to a statement given by Oculus founder, Palmer Luckey in 2014, when Facebook acquired Oculus. The VR platform's executives made promises that users would never need a Facebook account to use their headset. Oculus also promised that they were not going to adopt any of the parent company's creepier modus operandi, like tracking the users and sending them flash ads based on their search histories.
Critics have since raised concerns about intrusive methods of data collection and targeted advertising, as it was something Oculus was not in the habit of dong. However, their parent company may leach these organizational behaviors into them. Some tech platforms like The Verge indicate that the truth is less dire, considering Facebook-related boycotts do not usually amount to anything.
Many users did feel betrayed by the news, as it contradicted what the brand stood for. Oculus was a startup that was formed by Palmer Luckey, Michael Antonov, Nate Mitchell, and Brendan Iribe in 2012. Facebook bought Oculus for $ 2.3 billion, and some were understandably wary, considering the social media giant's practices when it came to data-driven advertising. Luckey gave assurances to the sceptics that the organizational culture would not change. In a separate comment, he also promised that Oculus would not start doing invasive things.
Luckey left the organization in 2017, and has since created a virtual border wall firm called Anduril, that was contracted to the US Customs and Border Protection. He is no longer affiliated with Oculus, but did take to Reddit after being called a liar concerning the promises he made about logins when the firm was acquired. He claimed that he really believed Facebook would not enforce such a requirement from Oculus users, and they had promised him as much. Luckey did admit that in hindsight, the down-votes from people who could predict it were entirely justified.
Oculus argued that the policy changes brought by its parent company would make it easier for people to find and play with their friends in virtual reality. The company indicated Horizon would be one of the main beneficiaries of this development. Horizon VR is a sci-fi, retro-themed, second lifestyle experience. Airing the users with a Facebook account would supposedly make it easier to track and protect the growing Oculus market. The VR Company also indicated they would be replacing their dedicated Code of Conduct for the updated iteration of Facebook's community standards. The company claimed that it would be a more consistent way to report any bad behavior.
Facebook has also been aggravating the situation following scrutiny of its acquisition methods and approaches to privacy. Even if the goal has been to benefit the majority and works for most users, it is causing concern in the VR industry, which is more particular. Some disgruntled users are currently considering their options, as some have vowed to ditch their Rift for an alternate option, like the Valve Index headset or Reverb G2.
However, the response following the Facebook announcements did not get negative reviews from everyone. One Facebook user said that getting angry about the decision is more effort than just creating a throwaway social media account for one to log into when using VR. However, that is easier said than done considering Facebook implied a real name policy, which bars people from pretending to have a different persona. It may be possible to create a fake Facebook account, but one has to craft a believable identity. That means having the same mutual friends, details, and activity. The process is not comparable to placing in a random username on Steam or other Games platforms.
There have been arguments against a mass exodus by some of the customer base. While the change may cause problems for several headset owners, most will not notice a large difference. Facebook has many privacy issues, and VR produces large amounts of data on the movement and surroundings of the user. In this case, Facebook can already see if a user is using their account, or an Oculus account from the same IP address. Purchasing an Oculus application with a credit card requires the sharing of sensitive data in the same way as a Facebook profile would demand.
Despite many people attempting to sell their Oculus Quest headsets, the odds are a bit stacked against the consumer revolt. There is no mass deactivation, or focused anger into coordinated action, since separate accounts may work until 2023. Though the VR platform stated all future unreleased devices are going to need a Facebook account, the change does not affect Oculus for Business customers, and these are the more stable market.
Dropping Oculus is also a serious sacrifice, considering developers need the biggest audience they can get. It is one of the few that back virtual reality game development on a large scale. As a standalone, Oculus Quest is one of the most popular devices due to the solid design, catalogue of games, and versatility. Facebook has been able to weather the big outroars, such as the #DeleteFacebookCampaign from Cambridge Analytica, so the new conflicts concerning Oculus and a few user preferences will probably not amount to much in the larger scope.
Photo Credit: San Jose Public Library