While Iribe’s Facebook post (read it below) on Monday doesn’t refer specifically to any of the recent turbulence hitting the parent company, his exit follows those of the founders of Facebook-owned Instagram, and WhatsApp co-founder Jan Koum in recent months. While still a colossus, Facebook has been beset by a range of stiff challenges of late, including pressure from government officials in the U.S. and Europe and concerns about hacking and personal data use.
Iribe’s exit, like those of Instagram co-founders Kevin Systrom and Mike Krieger, comes after disagreements over Facebook-driven product changes. In the case of Iribe, the company has just undergone a shakeup of its VR unit that resulted in the cancellation of the next-generation Rift 2 virtual reality headset, according to TechCrunch.
Facebook’s leadership is shifting away from devices that require a connection to a PC in favor of all-in-one headsets, such as the forthcoming Oculus Quest headset. Iribe found himself at odds over the future of Oculus, the technology news site reported, and made for the door.
Facebook separately emailed Oculus Rift users today, informing them it is shutting down its movie store, effective today. Movies purchased or rented before then will be available until November 20, and users will be granted a store credit greater than or equal to the cost of the movies purchased through Oculus Video.
“Over the years, we’ve seen how people use VR for everything from gaming to movies, and it’s become clear that while people love to stream immersive media on other devices, Rift is used primarily for gaming,” the company said in its email. “These insights inform how we support new and existing features and apps across the platform.”
Oculus was created by Iribe along with Palmer Luckey, Nate Mitchell and Michael Antonov. It got off to a fast start, raising $2.4 million on Kickstarter in its first month; the company was acquired for $2 billion by Facebook in 2014. Luckey left Facebook last year, after a lengthy absence from public view following revelations that he was involved in funding a pro-Trump troll group called Nimble America.
While virtual reality remains an area of keen interest in both Hollywood and Silicon Valley, with forecasts benchmarking the value of the market at $40 billion by 2020 as it becomes increasingly mainstream, growth to date has been gradual. Facebook stimulated some of the growth by rolling out the Oculus Rift headset in 2015, an early milepost on the VR frontier. Some early pioneers, such as Jaunt VR, just underwent significant layoffs as it abandoned VR for augmented reality work.
Facebook issued a statement, acknowledging Iribe for building a strong company and team.
“He pushed VR far beyond the boundaries of what people thought possible and it’s because of his vision that we’re all here working on VR today,” Facebook said. “We’re thankful for his leadership, his dedication to building the impossible, and he’ll be missed.”
Here is Iribe’s full post:
So much has happened since the day we founded Oculus in July 2012. I never could have imagined how much we would accomplish and how far we would come. And now, after six incredible years, I am moving on.
I’m deeply proud and grateful for all that we’ve done together. We assembled one of the greatest research and engineering teams in history, delivered the first step of true virtual presence with Oculus Rift and Touch, and inspired an entirely new industry. We started a revolution that will change the world in ways we can’t even envision.
Yet, as far as we’ve come, the journey has just begun. Michael Abrash is right: “These are the good old days”. Now is when we get to pioneer the foundation of the next great computing platform and medium – this is our time to be pushing the state-of-the-art onward and upward. Every part of VR and AR needs to improve, especially the hardware and core technology, and Oculus has the best team in the world to do that. Although we’re still far from delivering the magical smart glasses we all dream about, now they are nearly within our reach.
Working alongside so many talented people at Oculus and Facebook has been the most transformative experience of my career. We have a saying when someone compliments or thanks you – “Team effort”. The success of Oculus was only possible because of such an extraordinary team effort. I’d like to sincerely thank everyone that’s been a part of this amazing journey, especially Mark for believing in this team and the future of VR and AR.
As for me, this will be the first real break I’ve taken in over 20 years. It’s time to recharge, reflect and be creative. I’m excited for the next chapter.