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.