The Facebook Oculus partnership has some supporters, and one of them is former Facebook consulting CTO John Carmack.
The Oculus Facebook acquisition has divided the Oculus fanbase down the middle. Some fans see it as a betrayal, while others see it as virtual reality's path into the mainstream.
After it acquired one of the most beloved virtual reality (VR) firms of all time, Facebook surprised pretty much everyone by making unpopular decision after unpopular decision.
Sam Rutherford of Gizmodo declared late last year that "the biggest fears about Facebook's acquisition of Oculus are coming true." The responses in VR Final comment sections and on Reddit probably indicate that Rutherford's is a popular sentiment.
Yet we'd be remiss to pretend that everyone thinks Oculus-Facebook has been a total disaster. One general supporter of the decision, even if it has been tinged with a critical realism, is former Oculus CTO John Carmack. Maybe if we take everything into consideration we might admit he actually has a point.
Last month, Carmack explained that the "FB login [requirement] isn't going away." At the time, it didn't much sway my view that the mandatory Facebook account was little more than Facebook consolidating its data monopoly. But Carmack threw a bit of nuance into the discussion, explaining that Facebook was actually series about protecting its users data.
Now, in a blog comment posted on Hacker News, Carmack has given us a bit of a peek behind the curtain of the Facebook Oculus acquisition. In response to a post about the tech culture inside Google and at large, Carmack takes the opportunity to reflect on his time as chief technology officer at Oculus from 2013 to 2019. In the process, he indicates that Facebook's acquisition may have helped more than hindered the company's internal dynamics:
Perhaps unusually, I actually wanted FB to impress itself more strongly on Oculus post acquisition because, frankly, Oculus was a bit of a mess. Instead, Oculus was given an enormous amount of freedom for many years.
"Oculus was a bit of a mess", Carmack writes.
I have to admit, when I think of the Facebook-Oculus acquisition I tend to focus primarily on the effects on us, the userbase. But considering some of the newer information we're getting about the internal politics inside Oculus, perhaps it'd pay to put petty gripes over the account requirement into perspective:
I could only lead by example and argument, and the arguments only took on weight after years of evidence accumulated. I could have taken a more traditional management position, but I would have hated it, so that's also on me. The political dynamics never quite aligned with an optimal set of leadership personalities and beliefs where I would have had the best leverage, but there was progress, and I am reasonably happy and effective as a part time consultant today, seven years later.
However, as usual Carmack doesn't hide away the complexity of the situation. He describes the acquisition as bringing a shift to a communications environment which is "a bit passive aggressive." He describes this to being a symptom of working inside any large company.
Carmack concludes: "All in all, not a perfect fairy tale outcome, but I still consider taking the acquisition offer as the correct thing for the company in hindsight."
"All in all," he writes, "I still consider the acquisition offer as the correct thing for the company." The full comment can be found here.
And this isn't the only time Facebook Oculus have made headlines this week, Facebook VP this week hinted at a higher 120Hz coming to Quest 2 in the future.