Oculus Rift fans' reaction to the Facebook buyout of the virtual reality gaming company has been anything but positive. In fact, early backers of Oculus VR are supremely irate with CEO and founder Palmer Luckey. They say that Facebook will destroy the Oculus vision for VR. They say that Facebook will mine all their data and harass them with advertisements. And they are probably right.
Facebook has a bad reputation in the tech world for taking people's data and turning it into cold hard cash - with or without their expressed permission. Facebook is known to buy companies, games and services and then force users to log in to Facebook to accomplish any task. Facebook tends to advertise first and think about its users second. Most of all, Facebook likes to have control.
These are things we know, or think we know, about Facebook. Are they true? Kinda-sorta-maybe. Facebook typically comes off as the bad guy, but is it really? A lot of tech pundits aren't so sure and neither is Luckey.
Yeah, Facebook steals your data and uses it to harangue you with advertisements, but its CEO Mark Zuckerberg also stood up to the government and demanded a roll back of NSA surveillance. Facebook also picked out a few diamonds in the rough with the hope of polishing them and catapulting them to success (here's looking at you, WhatsApp and Oculus VR).
Luckey has been devoting every spare moment to convincing fans of Oculus Rift that selling his company to Facebook does not mean selling out. He promised the Oculus fan base that the company will focus on games, even if it expands to other areas as well. He promised the games will stay open and praised Facebook's commitment to open source ventures. He told gamers that not only will Facebook's help make Oculus Rift cheaper, it will make the company's VR gaming capabilities grow faster.
"Oculus continues to operate independently! We are going to remain as indie/developer/enthusiast friendly as we have always been, if not more so," Palmer wrote, adding that, "I guarantee that you won't need to log into your Facebook account every time you wanna use the Oculus Rift."
He also told Oculus Rift users that now that the two companies have joined forces, "we can make custom hardware, not rely on the scraps of the mobile phone industry. That is insanely expensive, think hundreds of millions of dollars." He also claimed that, "If anything, our hardware and software will get even more open, and Facebook is onboard with that."
Luckey seems determined to keep these promises to the Oculus community, but they don't believe him. Early supporters of Oculus backed the company when it was just a kid with a great idea for VR gaming. The Kickstarter community believed in his vision and Luckey quickly grew his idea into an influential company with a huge fan base. The appeal of Oculus VR lay in its open, free spirit approach. Now that Luckey agreed to sell Oculus to Facebook, that allure and promise is gone.
Even if Facebook doesn't bombard Oculus Rift with ads, require a login or manipulate user data for its own purposes at first, the worry is that after a time, it will. The same concerns about privacy and data mining for advertisements surfaced shortly after Facebook's purchase of WhatsApp. WhatsApp users don't trust Facebook either - it seems that no one does.
This could be Facebook's chance to turn the tables and shock everyone by doing the right thing: letting WhatsApp and Oculus VR do what they do best - their way.