In BriefIn a recent post on his personal Facebook profile, the social networking site's CEO and founder Mark Zuckerberg said he plans to look into decentralized technologies, like cryptocurrency, in 2018. Is Facebook considering their own crypto and blockchain?
New Year, New Facebook?
Mark Zuckerberg is not only the founder and CEO of Facebook, the largest and most popular social networking platform in the world, he’s also a regular user, frequently posting on his profile’s wall.
These posts often include information about his present activities, such as his work with the Chan-Zuckerberg Initiative, a foundation he created with his wife, Priscilla Chan, or decisions to add new tools to the Facebook platform, but a recent post tackled a far more forward-looking topic: cryptocurrency.
In the post, Zuckerberg wrote that he challenges himself to learn something new each year, and a huge part of this learning challenge for 2018 seems focused on reexamining the role of technology to “give people the power.”
“I’m interested to go deeper and study the positive and negative aspects of these technologies…”
“[O]ne of the most interesting questions in technology right now is about centralization vs decentralization,” Zuckerberg wrote. “A lot of us got into technology because we believe it can be a decentralizing force that puts more power in people’s hands.”
The Facebook founder went on to lament how this potential seems to have been corrupted by some big tech firms and governments that instead use technology to monitor people. He said he views cryptocurrency and encryption as potential tools for countering this trend, giving people back the power that’s currently held by centralized systems.
“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,” wrote Zuckerberg.
Social Media and Cryptocurrency
The question now is this: Will we see a Facebook cryptocurrency in 2018?
A spokesperson from Facebook told Futurism they couldn’t say anything about this topic just yet. That, however, doesn’t mean it isn’t a possibility, and a cryptocurrency linked to a social networking site, especially one as powerful as Facebook, is certainly an interesting idea.
Yonatan Ben Shimon, CEO and founder of Matchpool , a company combining cryptocurrency with social activity, thinks the idea has its merits. He told Futurism that, at the very least, a Facebook cryptocurrency could be used to reward users that create content. He also said Zuckerberg would be wise to look to crypto experts before moving forward.
“If they take a step [toward this plan], it can be awesome,” said Shimon. “But in order to do it right, they have to be with a partner from the crypto space that understands how to build it in a decentralized way.”
Clement Thibault, senior analyst at Investing.com, told Futurism he isn’t surprised that Facebook and other major tech companies, such as Google and Microsoft, are looking into cryptocurrencies.
“They have seen the enormous mainstream attention and amounts of money pouring into cryptocurrencies in 2017,” said Thibault. “Positioning yourself to take advantage of a new tool, new technology, and a potential new business opportunity just makes sense.”
Thibault said that Facebook is already somewhat familiar with blockchain and cryptocurrencies — in December 2017, the company introduced a peer-to-peer payment option to WhatsApp, a chat app they own, in the Indian market.
“We know they are interested in facilitating transactions between people, which is what cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin are aiming to do,” said Thibault.
Of course, India is just one country, and WhatsApp isn’t nearly as popular as Facebook.
“How exactly [Facebook] is able find a place in true decentralized peer to peer transactions remains to be seen,” said Thibault. “The question of whether they do [integrate blockchain] depends on how and if they see a viable, profitable business model in doing so.”
If a Facebook cryptocurrency did come to fruition, it could help push the mass adoption of crypto, but Zuckerberg’s interest may have more to do with image than genuine interest, according to Thibault.
“Facebook, with over 2 billion monthly active users, can basically drive the mass adoption of anything,” he said. “For now, I’m confident Zuckerberg’s message on cryptocurrencies is [in] part legitimate interest in a new technology and [partly] just throwing Facebook’s brand in a sentence with cryptocurrencies to show users and investors that Facebook is not behind the curve on innovation.”
Zuckerberg will need to do a great deal of investigating to determine how to integrate blockchain into his bell cow company. Whether a Facebook cryptocurrency could achieve his goal of returning power to the people remains to be seen, but based on his post, Zuckerberg seems determined to find out in 2018.
Disclosure: Several members of the Futurism team, including the editors of this piece, are personal investors in a number of cryptocurrency markets. Their personal investment perspectives have no impact on editorial content.