The Federal Trade Commission said it will remove Mark Zuckerberg, the Chief Executive of Meta, from a lawsuit to block the company’s acquisition of Within Unlimited, an artificial intelligence start-up, The New York Times reported.
According to The New York Times, the FTC said in a court filing that it agreed to drop Mr. Zuckerberg as a defendant after Meta, formerly known as Facebook, promised he would not try to personally purchase Within Unlimited. Meta had asked the agency to remove Mr. Zuckerberg as a defendant.
Within Unlimited, Inc., is a virtual reality (VR) media and technology company. Bloomberg reported that Within Unlimited, Inc. develops advanced technology for telling stories in immersive media. Within Unlimited serves customers in the State of California.
The Within Unlimited website states that their flagship product is Supernatural, a complete fitness center service for Oculus Quest that is designed with the sole purpose of giving people the time of their lives working out, so that taking on a healthy lifestyle is easy and full of joy. Within Unlimited also has Wonderscope, an iOS app for kids that uses augmented reality to transform ordinary spaces into extraordinary stories.
To me, it seems very clear that Meta’s interest in Within Unlimited is to boost its Oculus VR device. It sounds like if Meta is allowed to acquire Within Unlimited, that would remove an independent VR company into Meta’s product line.
According to The New York Times, the FTC filed its complaint with U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, to prevent Meta and Mr. Zuckerberg from acquiring Within. The FTC included Mr. Zuckerberg as a defendant in the suit and accused him and Meta of planning to buy Within to dominate the nascent virtual-reality market and violate antitrust laws.
Politico reported that Meta only found out about the filing of the FTC’s lawsuit against it via Twitter. Politico also reported that the FTC is betting that early regulatory action will prevent Meta from holding deterministic power in the VR market.
The Federal Trade Commission posted information “Meta Platforms Inc./ Mark Zuckerberg / Within Unlimited, FTC v.” It was updated on August 19, 2022. Here is the Case Study portion:
“The Federal Trade Commission authorized a lawsuit in federal court to block the proposed merger between virtual reality (VR) giant Meta and Within Unlimited, the VR studio that markets Supernatural, a leading VR fitness app. Formerly known as Facebook, Inc., Meta sells the most widely used VR headset, operates a widely used VR app store, and already owns many popular VR apps, including Beat Saber, reportedly one of the best-selling VR apps of all time, which it markets for fitness use.
“The agency alleges that Meta’s proposed acquisition of Within would stifle competition and dampen innovation in the dynamic, rapidly growing U.S. markets for fitness and dedicated-fitness VR apps. A federal court complaint and request for preliminary relief was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California to halt the transaction.”
Personally, I’m in favor of preventing huge companies from grabbing up smaller ones for the purpose of making the smaller company’s products only accessible inside the bigger company’s “walled garden”. If the FTC wins their lawsuit it would be good for consumers – especially those who don’t want to sign up to Meta (or other “walled gardens”) to access a product or game that they were playing before the big company tried to acquire it.