John Carmack knows more about VR than Mark Zuckerberg

The Oculus booth at Siggraph in 2013 which is about as revealing as Meta’s VR strategy today (Source: JPR)

Remember when Mark Zuckerberg was the wunderkind of tech? That was the aughts. In the 90s, the crown of tech wunderkind was, arguably, worn by John Carmack, the developers’ developer and maker of 3D worlds. Maybe there is a slight disparity in disposable income between the two, but one thing is for certain, Carmack knows more about Virtual Reality (VR) than his boss (Meta acquired Oculus) and he got fed of up of watching billions being drained out of Meta in pursuit of Zuckerberg’s vision to nowhere. I am paraphrasing a memo from Carmack announcing his resignation as a Consulting CTO to Meta first found by Insider. The headlines say, scathing, but only if you are afraid of sucking up to the sycophants that surround the guy who runs the company. The memo is pretty standard for a programmer who is quitting because the programming part of the business seems to be not so good at programming.

If anything, Carmack’s memo is a heartfelt message to Meta that basically says, “Guys, you have all these resources and ability and you’re just wasting it by not listening to people who know what they are doing.” And then, there’s the bit that basically says, “I am quitting out of frustration at not really being heard and, by the way, I have my own cool startup to worry about.” You need to find the real memo to get the exact wording but that is the gist of it. If you have ever had a programmer quit on you, a good one at least, it is mostly out of frustration that the work was not challenging or they were working with people who were a little beneath them or a startup or, you know, more money somewhere else. Carmack pretty much hits all of those points in his memo.

Will it make any difference? Probably not. Zuckerberg is an authoritarian and his cronies are happy to indulge him because they want to have their own share of sizable disposable income that comes from gathering loose change falling out of a golden hoodie. Is Zuckerberg wrong? Who cares. Nothing Meta does is going to change the trajectory of VR in the real world. Meta is not a trend setter and doesn’t have the proverbial killer app. it’s a monopoly in social media and targeted advertising that can make money off of the margins of error with any product that it tries to pitch to the 2 billion or so people it can reach directly. But, for people who have been in the trenches of VR, like Carmack, to watch billions and billions of dollars go into it and straight down the drain is probably the equivalent of having someone sticking hot needles under your nails. VR has always been a niche investment. The people who got the VR bug have been dreamers and underfunded dreamers at that. Carmack was probably shaking his head every day and wondering what the hell was going on with all that effort at Meta.