Ah Facebook. The app is okay, really - at least it’s opt-in (although it’s really not). It’s the app I have on my phone so I can check in on communities that still haven’t migrated to Reddit, Meetup and forums. It’s slow, it’s got 18,000 classes, and it has a bunch of pages I never visit (Facebook Tinder, really? Didn’t we do this once before?). It’s the app a lot of us grew up with, and now love to hate.
The company is a completely different story. I wouldn’t have minded its existence, even with the violations of privacy and control over social influence that the company keeps denying, but this might be too far even for me. I’d like to ask someone, anyone, to stop. Please stop killing great products that users love, mediocre products that might have been okay, and possibly-good-but-perhaps-evil products that you keep planning to release. Okay the last few I’m okay with dying.
The most recent is Whatsapp, but I’d rather not rehash what’s already been covered. I also remember Libra and Internet.org, but I don’t really bemoan the loss of either - even though Libra was pretty much a rehash of things already happening in crypto, and Internet.org (now Free Basics) had the same potential for good and evil as Starlink. Good riddance.
The one I’m really sad about is the Oculus Quest 2. It’s a successful product, but it should have been a game-changer. And it is, but sadly I fear it may not find the reach it deserves because of Facebook. What success it has, I firmly believe comes despite Facebook, not because of it.
I’ve owned first, second or even third generations of the major VR headsets (all the way from the Rift DK1 to the Vive), so it was a surprise that I didn’t get the Quest 2 at launch. I didn’t because every review I read said the same thing: it’s great, but we can’t recommend it - because Facebook. I put it out of my mind, until a friend of mine offered to loan me his.
The Quest 2 is a game changer. It has - or had - the capacity to bring about a complete revolution in VR, and was exactly the headset millions of content creators and game developers were waiting for. It finally solved camera-based tracking - at least well enough for casual Beat Saber, which completely eliminates the need for expensive and cumbersome base stations. It had enough power to comfortably play without a gaming PC, and is a solid enough consumer device that I can chuck it on my living room table until I need to use it, without worrying about needing updates, bothering with cables, or looking like a VR nut.
Once I tried it, I was an instant acolyte. I got my sister one for Christmas, and could not stop singing its praises to anyone who would listen. VR is back, I tried to say. You can get one now as a consumer that doesn’t require intimate knowledge of a Windows machine, is consumer friendly in industrial design and price, and is a perfect standalone gateway to VR.
It’s also amazing once you have it set up with SideQuest and wireless SteamVR - sub-45 millisecond round-trip latency playing Half-life Alyx or Tiltbrush is not something I’d expected to see anytime soon - and it transforms the Quest from a good buy to an amazing one.
Yet every single person I mentioned it to reacted in much the same way. “I hear you need a Facebook account”. “I wouldn’t want to let Facebook spy on me”. “I think Facebook is banning accounts for having two devices”. Now I hear exactly the same things about Whatsapp. It’s not the most amazing chat app in the world, but the encryption was good and the functionality was good enough.
Facebook, please stop.
(An added note, if you do get the Quest 2, make sure to get the Elite Strap to go with it. It’s a revelation. Having the Elite Strap significantly reduces, almost eliminates screen wobble and weight-related discomfort.)