The tech and data giant Facebook has had a relatively quiet an inconsistent relationship with blockchain and cryptocurrencies in the past. But now we are seeing some serious step being taken by the company to incorporate this technology. The main indicators are the new positions on the Facebook team and Coinbase’s David Marcus resigning and sticking as Facebook’s head of blockchain.
Recently, the following spaces have been filled on the Facebook team:
- Data Scientist, Blockchain
- Data Engineer, Blockchain
- Software Engineer, Blockchain
- Software Engineer, Blockchain
- Product Marketing Lead
One of the job roles was described as:
“Our blockchain team is fundamental to that mission and we are seeking an experienced leader to build and manage a new product marketing team focused in exploring the opportunity the blockchain will bring. This person will be responsible for creating our product strategy for developers and consumers, managing our product go-to-market plans and coordinating a cross-functional team to bring great solutions to connect the community.”
In addition to this, a few months back in August 2018, Facebook’s current blockchain boss David Marcus left the board of Coinbase in order to “avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest”. He told Business Insider:
“Because of the new group I’m setting up at Facebook around blockchain, I’ve decided it was appropriate for me to resign from the Coinbase board.”
At the same time, Facebook looked to hire an experienced blockchain expert saying that the “ultimate goal is to help billions of people with access to things they don’t have now… could be things like equitable financial services, new ways to save, or new ways to share information.” These developments undoubtedly set a great expectation on the horizon.
Facebook did have its ups and downs in relation to cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology. Following the Cambridge Analytica scandal, Daily Hodl writes that “blockchain experts have reportedly turned down offers from Facebook, rebuffing the very centralized power structure so many blockchain developers are trying to counterbalance.”
Facebook did also ban all crypto ads from its platform in January this year, reportedly out of fear of spams and frauds. The ban was lifted in June. Seemingly Facebook realized the profit they would have lost out on, and introduced a screening process for those who want to advertise.
Facebook CEO Zuckerberg himself wrote a post in January 2018 where he clearly expresses his interest in cryptocurrency and foreshadows developments to come.
“With the rise of a small number of big tech companies — and governments using technology to watch their citizens — many people now believe technology only centralizes power rather than decentralizes it. There are important counter-trends to this –like encryption and cryptocurrency — that take power from centralized systems and put it back into people’s hands. But they come with the risk of being harder to control. I’m interested to go deeper and study the positive and negative aspects of these technologies, and how best to use them in our services. This will be a serious year of self-improvement and I’m looking forward to learning from working to fix our issues together.”
Facebook has in fact attempted to start up its own native virtual currency. In 2009, Facebook Credits were released, with which users could buy virtual goods in their Facebook games, like the once-popular “Farmville”. However, the feature was shut down two years later since it did not catch on. Facebook did take a more serious step towards finance in 2017. In the Messenger, users are now able to pay and receive money with Paypal.
Are the perks of blockchain the next features of Facebook? A native cryptocurrency could allow over 2 billion users to tip pages, pay the platform to prevent advertising, cross-border transactions, paying for business ads, expand its marketplace and the list goes on along with your imagination.
With Facebook highly developed and massive data centers, an integration of a blockchain network is actually relatively easy to lay out. Although things are moving fast, I suspect that it will probably take several years before we can see blockchain applied to Facebook.