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Facebook Looks to Remain King of Social Networks Long Into the Future

Published onApr 15, 2014
Facebook Looks to Remain King of Social Networks Long Into the Future

On March 25, 2014, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced his decision to purchase virtual reality company, Oculus, for $2 billion.  Oculus makes the Oculus Rift headset, which immerses its user in a responsive virtual world.

Photo courtesy of Sergey Galyonkin

Software developers can purchase the rights to develop software for the technology for $350, and thus far Oculus has received more than 75,000 orders. Oculus is not the only virtual reality system in development, as Microsoft and Sony are working on virtual reality integration with their next generation gaming consoles, but according to Zuckerberg, Oculus technology is “years ahead” of its competition

Just a month earlier, Facebook purchased the mobile messaging service WhatsApp for $19 billion and a year before that, acquired Instagram for $1 billion.  Although the economic community commended Facebook for both purchases that could obviously benefit the company, critics fear that Facebook is developing a pattern for costly acquisitions.  Zuckerberg responded to his critics of the Oculus purchase by saying, “Mobile is the platform of today, and now we’re also getting ready for the platforms of tomorrow…Oculus has the chance to create the most social platform ever, and change the way we work, play and communicate.”

Echoing Zuckerberg’s statement, Oculus noted that, “[a]t first glance, it might not seem obvious why Oculus is partnering with Facebook… [b]ut when you consider it more carefully, we’re culturally aligned with a focus on innovating and hiring the best and brightest; we believe communication drives new platforms; we want to contribute to a more open, connected world; and we both see virtual reality as the next step.”

Photo courtesy of Elaine Chan and Priscilla Chan

Despite these reassurances, critics remain skeptical of the investment into virtual reality. Two of these skeptics are James McQuivey, an analyst with the research outfit Forrester, and Brian Blau, an analyst with Gartner Research.  McQuivey explained that purchasing virtual reality technology is “a little bit like buying a trampoline…. It’s very exciting and exhilarating for short periods of time, but not something you will do every day — much less several times a day.” Blau maintained that people have been making the same pitch as Zuckerberg for the past thirty years with nothing having come to fruition. “I didn’t hear anything that Zuckerberg said that hasn’t been talked about before in the VR community for a very long time,” said Blau. The problem according to Blau is that virtual reality has always been billed as a next-gen communication technology —providing more immersive and deeper connections with others—but the reality is that virtual reality creates a very solitary experience because it is done alone, not with others.

But for every critic, there are other analysts applauding Facebook’s investment in the future of virtual reality.  Oculus was able to raise over $2 million from 10,000 people on Kickstarter, evidence of consumer interest in virtual reality.   Facebook’s involvement in the company will only help the technology go farther quicker.  Facebook is likely a long way off from successful transitioning its social network to incorporate virtual reality, but if any company has the infrastructure to make it happen, it is Facebook.  With over one billion active users and impressive finances, Facebook is the unarguable king of social networks, and it would seem that Zuckerberg plans to keep it that way.  If Zuckerberg is correct, then virtual reality will transform the way we use social networks by delivering a human connection deeper and more meaningful than how we can connect online today.  The Oculus purchase is an investment in the future and I look forward to experience it soon.


* Rebeca Echevarria is a third year law student at Wake Forest University School of Law. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Politics, International Relations, and Biomedical Ethics from Mount Holyoke College. Upon graduation in May 2014, Miss Echevarria intends to practice Intellectual Property and Biotechnology law.

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