Facebook is undoubtedly doing a lot to push VR forward. At the same time, we all know that they don’t have the best reputation, especially when it comes to privacy topics. I’m worried that if they don’t get their act together, it might end up damaging what they’re doing with Oculus and ultimately slow down progress in the VR industry as a whole.
Of course, Facebook is not the only company investing heavily in and advancing VR, but in my mind they are the only one that understand what needs to be done to make VR into a true computing platform. Additionally, the research they are doing at their Facebook Reality Lab is cutting edge.
The question is why does Facebook keep fucking up? I don’t think it’s because they’re inherently evil. I truly believe that Mark Zuckerberg is trying to do the right thing. I think, as so often, it’s an incentive problem. An incentive problem that they created themselves by choosing advertising as their main revenue stream (Google is in the same mess). Just look at Apple - they don’t make any serious money with ads and are now cleverly playing the privacy card. It makes sense, though. It aligns their incentives with their customers’ incentives. Even if we as customers know that Appple as a corporation doesn’t care about our privacy, as long as the incentives are aligned, we think it’s rational for them to the right thing.
If Facebook wants to keep doing great things, they need to change their incentives. What is more, they have a chance to take on a leadership position and help define how the future of online ads and privacy will look like. Because this definitely can’t be it.
Maybe their VR push can be a part of that new incentive structure. Making money from selling headsets and taking a cut off the software sales in their app stores surely aligns their incentives more with the customers’. A couple of days ago, Facebook announced that they will start showing ads to Oculus users. This is not necessarily a bad thing, as it might help app developers to reach their target audience, as John Carmack also pointed out. The key here is that they use ads to help developers reach more people, and not primarily to make a lot of cash of it.
Let me know what you think in this Twitter thread.