Mark Zuckerberg Wants Facebook to Look at Blockchain

Implementation of blockchain technology with Facebook will be extremely challenging.

Ramy Caspi
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Recode reports that Facebook has established a research and development team to explore the applications of this tech in its varied businesses. David Marcus, who was previously Head of Facebook Messenger and a former CEO of PayPal, will lead the initiative. He has been active in the cryptocurrency space by being a board member at Coinbase. David said on his Facebook page, "setting up a small group to explore how to best leverage blockchain across Facebook, starting from scratch." 

Facebook confirmed the staff moves, which were first reported by Recode. The company declined to comment on the reasons behind the shakeup. So what could Facebook be doing with a distributed ledger technology that, in essence, is at odds with the premise of a centralised company like Facebook?

Facebook is a centralised organisation that controls all the infrastructure for its two billion global users on its own proprietary network. It may be surprising to some that Mark Zuckerberg wants to deploy a distributed ledger with data stored across a network of computers and rules.

Blockchain enthusiasts believe that they can create an alternative to Facebook with new decentralised social networks offering privacy, rewards in tokens for engaging in customers, and more. Telegram, a messaging app, has grown to 200 million users without advertising and has raised close to $2 billion from private investors to build a blockchain-based network. Telegram is a threat to Facebook’s WhatsApp messenger.

CNBC asked Spencer Bogart, a partner at Blockchain Capital about his thoughts, "I certainly don't think blockchain is an existential threat to Facebook today. Could it be? Yes, longer term. That's why they want to be smart and stay engaged." While Jason Calacanis commented on the same report."Facebook is actively trying to shut down the open web. That's an opportunity for clever founders to double down on solutions that Facebook and Google do not control," he said. 

Can blockchain technology enhance and be fitted into Facebook’s centralised control? Or could Facebook add certain facets of the technology into its ecosystem, such as a Facebook Coin, or something novel like CryptoKitties? That remains to be seen.