VR enthusiasts got upset at Facebook’s recent announcement that their headsets will begin to test ads. One VR developer who had originally signed up to include ads in their game reversed their decision due to the controversy.
VR enthusiasts were also shocked last year when Facebook announced their consumer headsets will require real-name Facebook accounts, or risk a ban.
These moves were all expected. Let’s stop being surprised by Facebook’s ad-driven business model and try to understand it better. Like all business models, it selects for and rewards decisions that increase revenues. In this case, employees and features that increase ad revenues or user retention will get rewarded more. People who fight for greater civic responsibility at the expense of ad revenue or retention will tend to get frustrated and leave, over time. We always presume good intentions and can find multiple exceptions to these forces. But we don’t need an oracle to see what wins out, long-term.
So let’s map out the company’s next five to ten years of XR development based on everything we know from public information.
Why Should You Believe Me?
Cassandra, of Greek mythology, had a gift to see the future, but was cursed to be forever disbelieved. She foresaw the original Trojan horse attack, where Greek soldiers hid inside a large gifted statue to invade Troy in its sleep. Even if she had saved the city, Trojans would have dismissed her as “alarmist.”
But if Cassandra had been a prototyper, her best tactic would have been to build a cheap wooden horse, good enough to pop out of and surprise downtown Troy. “Imagine I’m a Greek soldier and you’re all asleep!” Trojans might have developed an instinct to “beware of Greeks bearing gifts” before their city got sacked.
I rely on prototyping in my work because you can’t tell people the future. You can only show them possibilities and let them feel it for themselves.
So please don’t believe me. Try this on and decide for yourselves.
[If you really need to see my bona fides, skip to the appendix.]
Let’s start with the recent past and then chart our way into the unknown.