Germany’s Federal Cartel Office is claiming a win after Meta unhooked the VR glasses formerly known as Oculus from a Facebook login.
Users can now sign into a separate “Meta” account after the original requirement to connect the VR gear to a Facebook login prompted an official competition complaint against the WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram parent with the German regulator.
The competition watchdog said the move meant that Meta Quest glasses (and the newer Quest 2 devices) could now be sold in Germany. The Bundeskartellamt said users needed to be able to decide freely and without undue influence whether or not they wanted to use the VR goggles separately or connect them to other meta-services.
Andreas Mundt, president of the competition watchdog, noted (translated from German): “Thanks to the digital ecosystem created by Meta with a very large number of users, the company is the central player in the field of social media. Meta also has a significant position in the growing VR market. If only Facebook or Instagram members could use the VR glasses, this could severely hamper competition in both areas.”
Mundt added that while the watchdog was pleased that Meta signed up to an “amicable solution” by introducing the Meta account, “the process is not yet complete.”
“While we welcome this development, we will not terminate the proceeding today.”
He said that the question of how that data would be processed in connection to Meta’s other “various services” was still unresolved. “Until this has been clarified,” he said, for those users who choose to use a separate Meta account rather than a Facebook login, Meta must keep data generated by the Meta Quest glasses separate from the information being pulled in from other Meta services.
This includes those toiling away in “virtual meeting space” Horizon Workrooms using their Quest VR goggles (although the official Oculus for Business headset has been discontinued).
The new Meta account has been available since August for users of Meta Quest glasses, but if you still have an Oculus account, you won’t be able to sign in with it after New Year’s Eve 2022.
Users can sign up for a Meta account using an email address, but will have to provide a name and birthday. According to Meta at the time of publication, the default option for those who skip selecting “privacy options” is to connect those users to “Friends and Family.” Users can also change those settings to “Open to Everyone” or “Solo” at a later time.
Meta bought California based startup Oculus VR for $2 billion in 2014 and the then-Facebook decided to ditch the Oculus-specific account system and use only FB accounts in October 2020. The company’s $10 billion investment into its Metaverse-pushing Reality Labs group has been panned by investors unconvinced by its description as “an embodied internet where people have immersive experiences beyond two-dimensional screens.”
Meta told The Register in a statement: “We look forward to Meta Quest 2 coming to Germany in 2022. We also plan to bring Meta Quest Pro to the country as soon as we can and look forward to sharing more information on this soon.” ®