Meta, formerly known as Facebook, has certainly grabbed a lot of headlines in the last year or so as they seek to rebrand the company and move in a new direction. Ever since Mark Zuckerberg announced that the company would be throwing all its weight behind efforts to move into the metaverse, we’ve seen increased scrutiny on the business practices and behaviour from this tech giant.
In the past couple of days, we’ve seen more controversy relating to Oculus and its associated app store.
The Federal Trade Commission and numerous states have launched probes into Oculus, alleging that the Oculus web store has been discriminating against third-party apps and that the Quest headset is intentionally priced below cost in an attempt to weed out any competition.
Some of the stories that are coming to light from app developers suggest that whenever an app is gaining traction, Meta seems to put out software updates that curtail progress before coming out with their own copy of the idea to capture that value. This harks back to similar strategies that Facebook employed when they copied Snapchat’s Stories feature and TikTok’s algorithmic vertical videos, making them both core components of a new and improved Instagram.
It’s too early to tell what this particular probe might reveal, but it signals more pressure once again on big technology firms who use their scale and ecosystems to bully third-party developers and competitors. It seems to only be a matter of time until they face some form of consequence from regulators.
If this probe causes some turmoil in the VR space for Meta, it opens up potential opportunities for smaller developers and headset creators to make their mark on the industry. Hopefully, this can even the playing field a little bit and allow for innovative companies to compete with Meta across both the hardware and the software side of things.
This is important for the future of the industry because the more choice we can give consumers, the better it’s going to be for everyone. For businesses who want to deploy VR into their environments, you don’t want to be strong-armed into purchasing Oculus devices eventually just because they have a monopoly on capability and price. Ideally, you want all VR companies to compete for your business so that you can make an informed and fair decision that works for your specific circumstances.
We’ll be watching this space with bated breath to see what comes of these probes and whether we see a response from Meta and Oculus. It’s somewhat unlikely that Meta will let go voluntarily, so we might require regulators to step in and sort out any mess that needs to be rectified.
Here’s to hoping that we can create a fair and open VR ecosystem that allows all manufacturers and developers to compete – because, at the end of the day, that’s what will accelerate the industry’s development to its full potential.