Facebook’s Oculus Rift Acquisition: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

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The Ugly

It’s one thing to take the incomprehensible amount of money. It’s another thing entirely to do so in such a public fashion and pretend that it is purely in the interest of the company.

The claims made out co-founder Brendan Iribe in an open letter to the Oculus Rift team suggest that deal was made with Facebook in an effort, “To build a better product with zero compromises and a focus on growth.” While the opportunities for growth certainly are there, the idea that “zero compromises” will be made is a promise very likely to be broken.

There is already a rumor in a report filed by the New York Times that suggests, “Facebook eventually plans to redesign the Oculus hardware and rebrand it with a Facebook interface and logo.” This is according to their source close to the situation who was involved with the deal. Unless it is unfair to suggest that Oculus VR didn’t plan on incorporating Facebook property from the outset, (assuming this rumor is true) it would be clear that compromises would have already been made.

A major possibility of compromise would definitely be in user information. Facebook’s bread and butter is selling their collected user information in order to sell it to third party corporations for targeted advertisement uses. It is common knowledge within the tech industry, and is even known among those outside of it. When the founder of Oculus Rift makes a public statement, inferring, “We are not going to track you, flash ads at you, or do anything invasive,” he is in no spot to make that an absolute guarantee.

Instagram was thought to be a company, just like Oculus VR, that would operate independently and not be compromised after being acquired by Facebook for $1 billion. However, several months later Instagram attempted to update their Terms & Conditions that would have allowed them to sell their users’ pictures for advertising and marketing purposes, without the user knowing it had even occurred. The change did not include the choice to opt-out short of account deletion by the time the changes went into effect, and would have given Instagram (and, by transitive property, Facebook) a stock photo service for advertising without having to pay those who took/were subjects of said photos.

Thankfully the community was made aware of the changes and made big enough of an outcry that the changes were quickly reversed. However, knowing the precedent is there, how are fans of the Oculus Rift to trust its founder that the device won’t track, advertise or prove to be invasive to its users? The man was just paid a chunk of $2 billion in assets for his company by a corporation known to do quite the opposite; no matter how passionate one could be for their baby, that amount of money means it is in Palmer Luckey’s best interest that Facebook comes out as favorably as possible.

The Conclusion

Nobody can see the future. Nobody can know for sure just exactly what is in store for the Oculus Rift, and just how exactly Facebook’s involvement will change the device, for better or for worse.

It’s all about perception. Some will see the Facebook acquisition as a well-deserved olive branch handed down, one that will provide the virtual reality company all the financial freedom and opportunity possible. Others will see this as the little guy selling out, with cashing a giant check as the ultimate end goal for their venture. What we can be sure of is that a small company is now under the wing of a much larger company, which will allow for their product to reach a much larger audience.

The rest is a perceived reality.

The views expressed in this article explicitly belong to the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of, nor should be attributed to, GameSided as an organization.