At times it is best to take a deep breath and not blog, which is what I did last night when I read the news that Oculus Joins Facebook. The news that Facebook, the company who kick the virtual out of reality when it comes to their main platform were buying a piece of hardware based on putting the virtual into reality was beyond irksome for me. Judging by the comments around I’m not alone in that view, although I’ve calmed down somewhat now.
Over on Reddit Oculus Rift creator Palmer Luckey has been trying to reassure people, and hasn’t been succeeding that well, although this isn’t helped by Palmer himself seeming to be very naive about Facebook :
Q. What does this mean in terms of data collection on FB’s end? Will us early Oculus users have to mitigate the NSA everytime we decide to jack in?
A. Nothing changes. Keep in mind that Mark Zuckerberg has publicly spoken against NSA surveillance.
I’m not a big fan of Facebook, I don’t like a lot of their policies, I don’t like the way they treat people’s privacy and I don’t like their attitude to pseudonyms. However a lot of people do get pleasure out of Facebook, it’s a product with plenty of reach and plenty of users, even if it is apparently on the wane. They are at their heart a data mining company, it’s a trade off between users creating free content and being rewarded for that free content by being able to stay in touch with family and friends, it’s a model that works but it most definitely has a dark side. The comments on the Oculus blog should also firmly put to bed claims that Facebook comments mean people behave better, some of those comments are horrendous.
There’s a lot of anger, there’s a lot of disappointment and there’s a lot of debate. Some of the anger is misplaced, some of the disappointment is misplaced too. However the people with whom I have the most sympathy are the Kickstarter backers, some of whom are also expressing unhappiness over this move. Now if there’s one group of people whom Facebook and Oculus should be scrambling to appease it’s the Kickstarter backers because without them, this whole debate wouldn’t be raging as there would be no Oculus Rift for Facebook to buy.
The other issue is that this is a major kick in the teeth for crowd funding and Kickstarter itself.
Some of the comments from those who backed the Oculus Rift during the Kickstarter stage demonstrate the reasons why this is not a good move for any crowd funding business :
What in hell was the point of kickstarter if you sell out to a giant company like facebook?
Wow, I misjudged you…sorry to hear i was backing Facebook in the end…thanks for that
I would have NEVER given a single cent of my money to Oculus if I had known you were going to sell out to Facebook. You sold all of us out.
You selling out to Facebook is a disgrace. It damages not only your reputation, but the whole of crowdfunding. I cannot put into words how betrayed I feel by this.
This is disheartening news. I will never contribute on Kickstarter again. This is not how crowd funding should work.
Some people are more measured, accepting that they backed a Kickstarter and got what they paid for, even if the Facebook takeover isn’t what they envisaged :
All I can say with absolute certainty is I absolutely do not like, use, nor trust Facebook as a company. While my funds are yours fair and square, at this moment in time, I regret backing this. I sincerely hope I am wrong.
However there are those who are happy with the move and it’s only fair to highlight that too :
I am not sure why everyone’s so upset. Facebook is going to increase resources available to oculus. It’s just silly to think it’s going to become an advertising platform. Facebook is smart they saw the future, just like the rest of us here and bought it for 2 billion. They got a bargain.
However, in terms of damage limitation for future Kickstarter and crowd funder projects, Facebook and Oculus really should offer those who pledged during the Kickstarter the option of their money back. The Kickstarters raised $2,437,429. That’s a drop in the ocean when a $2 Billion deal is in the process of being finalised and I would imagine some of those who pledged money, would be happy with how things have turned out. In terms of good PR, it’s the right thing to do, in terms of helping future small independent creators to be able to get crowd funded, it’s an extremely important measure and one that would certainly demonstrate the Facebook and Oculus have their hearts in the right place.
The Guardian have a story questioning the Kickstarter role in this : Facebook’s Oculus deal is Kickstarter’s first billion-dollar exit :
For Kickstarter itself, the purchase raises awkward questions. The company has always maintained that it should not be viewed as a storefront for pre-ordering products; instead, a backer should be aware that they are giving money to a struggling artist or designer, and view the reward as a thanks rather than a purchase.
People go to Kickstarter to get funds to bring project to life, not to sell them in a $2 Billion deal before they’ve reached the consumer stage. This is a sad day for Kickstarter, but it could be rectified by good will.
As for what this means for the future of The Oculus Rift, nobody really knows. Facebook are not known for being a hardware company, but like Linden Lab have done recently, I think it’s right for Facebook as a company to broaden their horizons, it’s just a shame that it’s happening in a manner such as this.