Meta Platforms Inc CEO Mark Zuckerberg will testify in a U.S. case by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). The case argues that the company’s proposed deal to buy virtual reality (VR) content maker Within Unlimited Inc should be blocked.
In an official court document filed with U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California on Friday, the FTC listed eighteen witnesses it plans to question. The list includes Zuckerberg, Within Unlimited CEO Chris Milk, and Meta Chief Technology Officer Andrew Bosworth. They were also on a list of witnesses submitted on Friday by defendants Meta and Within Unlimited.
According to the court document, in addition to defending the Within Unlimited acquisition, Mark Zuckerberg is expected to be questioned about the Facebook-parent’s strategy for its VR business as well as the company’s plans to support third-party developers.
Lawsuit against Facebook’s acquisition of Within Unlimited
The FTC filed a lawsuit in July on the grounds that Meta’s acquisition of Within would tend to create a monopoly in the market for VR-dedicated fitness apps.
The lawsuit argues that the proposed deal would “substantially lessen competition or tend to create a monopoly in that market.”
The FTC, called Facebook a “global technology behemoth,” noting its ownership of popular apps including Instagram, Messenger, and WhatsApp, and said its “campaign to conquer VR” began in 2014 when it acquired Oculus, a VR headset manufacture.
Facebook, now called Meta, agreed to buy Within in October 2021 for an undisclosed sum.
Meta, in court documents, has argued that “the FTC’s conclusory, speculative, and contradictory allegations do not plausibly plead any facts to establish that any supposed market for VR Deliberate Fitness apps is ‘oligopolistic’ as to either behavior or structure.”
Meta also said in a statement that it disagreed with the FTC’s analysis of the market.
“The FTC’s case is based on ideology and speculation, not evidence,” the company said. “The idea that this acquisition would lead to anticompetitive outcomes in a dynamic space with as much entry and growth as online and connected fitness is simply not credible.”
“We are confident that our acquisition of Within will be good for people, developers, and the VR space,” Meta said.
Zuckerberg shifts Facebook toward virtual reality
In 2021, Zuckerberg revealed Facebook’s new name, Meta. The name is, fundamentally, an ancient Greek word, which has also “survived” in modern Greek. The ancient Greek meaning of the word is “beyond,” “after,” or “behind.” The “beyond” sense of ‘meta’ still lingers in words like metaphysics or meta-economy.
Indeed, the new name reflects the company’s growing ambitions beyond social media. The company adopted the name, based on the sci-fi term metaverse, to describe its vision for working and playing in a virtual world.
The metaverse concept involves users working, gaming, and communicating in a virtual world with the use of VR headsets.
Zuckerberg, who has spearheaded the shift toward virtual reality, announced last year that the company would hire ten thousand skilled workers from the EU to help construct the metaverse platform.
“The metaverse has the potential to help unlock access to new creative, social, and economic opportunities,” Facebook said in a blog post in late 2021. “And Europeans will be shaping it right from the start.”
The new jobs being created over the next five years will include “highly specialized engineers,” the company said.
However, Facebook thinks the true metaverse idea will take another ten to fifteen years to be completed. Unlike current VR projects, mostly used for gaming, the metaverse virtual world could be used for practically anything, including work, play, concerts, and cinema trips—or just hanging out.