Tone Deaf Facebook Did Cripple VR Headsets When Borked BGP Routing Took Down All Of Facebook

from the who-could-have-predicted? dept

For over a year now, we have discussed Facebook’s decision to require users of Oculus VR headsets to have active Facebook accounts linked to the devices in order for them to work properly. This decision came to be despite all the noise made by Oculus in 2014, when Facebook acquired the VR company, insisting that this very specific thing would not occur. Karl Bode, at the time, pointed out a number of potential issues this plan could cause, noting specifically that users could find their Oculus hardware broken for reasons not of their own making.

The changes will also impact the functionality of Oculus Quest’s “Link,” which lets users connect the standalone VR headset to a PC to expand its functionality. It also begs the question: what happens if you get banned by Facebook due to its incoherent and inconsistent moderation strategies? You suddenly can’t use your VR headset because Facebook’s algorithms stupidly ban you for posting photos of yourself breastfeeding?

And then, to the surprise of nobody here at Techdirt, a version of that very thing happened. Facebook users that had their accounts locked, typically due to having those accounts compromised by outside bad actors, found themselves unable to use their gear as normal and unable to get support through Facebook, especially if the issues were on legacy Oculus hardware for which the end user had not paid Facebook a penny. But a wonderful workaround was discovered! If those users went out and bought a brand new Oculus VR headset, suddenly Facebook support returned their messages.

None of this changed the core problem: what happens to owned hardware when suddenly a user’s Facebook account wasn’t accessible. Well, we all learned the answer to that question this week when Facebook accidentally decided to play a game of internet hide-and-seek by borking its BGP routing.

Facebook owns VR headset maker Oculus, and controversially requires Oculus Quest users to log in with a Facebook account. In numerous Reddit threads, many Quest owners say they have been able to use their headsets during the outage—to play VR games on Steam, for instance—but some say they can’t load their Oculus libraries, and those who just took a Quest 2 out of the box have reported that they’re unable to complete the initial setup.

“We’re aware that some people are having trouble accessing our apps and products,” Oculus wrote in one thread. “The teams are hard at work getting things back to normal as quickly as possible, and we apologize for any inconvenience.”

It should be noted that these are problems of Facebook’s making, not end users. The decision to require linked Facebook accounts to use the features on the Oculus created this problem. And, frankly, it was a decision that rendered no true benefit to the customer. Facebook made this move specifically so that it could track user behavior for advertising purposes, all under the guise of just how great and easy it is for Oculus users to be able to login with just a Facebook account. Yawn.

But, when Facebook found all of its platforms unreachable on October 4th, Oculus owners got the tangential screw-job.

Facebook says that today’s extended outage did not compromise user data—it was actually a pretty boring networking error.

“Our engineering teams have learned that configuration changes on the backbone routers that coordinate network traffic between our data centers caused issues that interrupted this communication, the company posted on its blog. “This disruption to network traffic had a cascading effect on the way our data centers communicate, bringing our services to a halt.”

Services like a properly running and fully functional Oculus VR headset… for no reason other than Facebook greed. When you’re very busy trying to make the claim that you aren’t too big that you should be broken up, that you don’t have too much control over the everyday lives of the public, or that you don’t have too many tie-ins to daily life, well, this was not a good look.

Although, as I will never stop taking this victory lap on behalf of Karl Bode, it certainly was predictable.

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Companies: facebook

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Comments on “Tone Deaf Facebook Did Cripple VR Headsets When Borked BGP Routing Took Down All Of Facebook”

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14 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

I agree with all of the above but one note is the Facebook oculus headsets are the cheapest on the market , there should be an option to logout if Facebook after a few minutes, as most Vr games have single player modes they should not need a constant online connection. Of course the whole point of Facebook is to collect data on users to sell advertising i think all games should have an offline mode unless its a multiplayer game.
I’m surprised more free games do not have adverts built in. Apart from menus to buy items and lootboxs

Eldakka (profile) says:

It should be noted that these are problems of Facebook’s making, not end users.

I do think it is a problem of end-users own making (at least those who purchased after the takeover). They were stupid enough to buy a VR headset that is tied to a Facebook account. Even if they purchased during the Facebook-owned but not-yet-tied period, they still made a very poor decision as that was the only way it was ever going to go, and many publications raised that possibility at the time of the Facebook takeover.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

However much Facebook sucks, it’s not reasonable to expect customers to predict a manufacturer retroactively altering a product. Which is why there should be law against retroactively worsening products after they’re sold.

For peeps who still bought one after it was made Facebook-required, I agree it’s their own fault.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: I do think it is a problem of end-users own making

Bollocks. Typical victim blaming.
Facebook are the baddies here, their users might have been naive and unrealistic but the "Disabled without an internet connection" feature was created and implemented by Facebook.
All you’re doing when blaming the victims is taking the heat off the real perps.

Anonymous Coward says:

The decision to require linked Facebook accounts to use the features on the Oculus created this problem. And, frankly, it was a decision that rendered no true benefit to the customer.

In other words, they’re collecting personal information without valid reason and with no way to opt out. So, where are the privacy regulators here? E.g. it seems a straightforward violation of Europe’s GDPR.

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Ceyarrecks (profile) says:

Oh, just wait,...

and how NO ONE notices MicroFlaccid doing EXACTLY. the. same. thing with their OS,… which all started with .NET and has been progressively getting worse. (though none else sees this)

When, one will HAVE to be connected to an active Internet connection JUST to log into their winDoaz PC,..
all your photos, files, music, EVERYTHING will be "safe" on M$’ servers,…
until you renew your subscription both to an ISP and to M$.

Coffee U (profile) says:

Quest 2 wasn't crippled for me.

My Quest 2 was asleep, and when FB was down I went to test. I first tried a game not involving any network play, so I started Crashland. It started without issue, and I even started a wave, so make sure it wansn’t just menu’ing, and all was good.

Then I tried Virtual Desktop (so I could try Steam games), and it worked.

Finally I connected by AirLink, and again was able to start a Steam Game without issue.

For games that involved FB Cloud sync (for off-device save files), I just disabled wifi, and then started it. I heard others (but didn’t test myself) that for games that had online play, one could also just disable wifi and it would work.

With all of that said, Linking FB/Oculus accounts is ridiculous and annoying. I really enjoy my Quest 2, but I can’t recommend it to someone without a pre-warning about "requires a FB account."

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