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Hard questions: Is Facebook making its own Bitcoin rival?

Published May 9th, 2018 7:45AM EDT
Facebook Blockchain Tech
Image: AP/REX/Shutterstock

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Bitcoin and the cryptocurrency world is very attractive to all sorts of businesses, including tech companies, because of the underlying technology, the blockchain.

Facebook is apparently one of those companies looking to integrate blockchain technology into its products. Does that mean Facebook is going to launch its own digital coin to take on Bitcoin and others?

It was Recode that first reported Facebook’s sudden interest in the blockchain, claiming that Messenger chief David Marcus would run the unit.

Marcus would lead a small internal team exploring blockchain technology, the report noted. At first, the team will have fewer than a dozen people, but it’ll include key Instagram executives, Instagram’s VP of Engineering, James Everingham, and Instagram’s VP of Product, Kevin Weil.

Before joining Facebook, Marcus was the president of PayPal, so he has a pretty good idea of how payments work in the digital age. He brought payments to Facebook’s Messenger platform as well. He’s also on the board of the cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase, one of the most popular exchanges in the world.

So one could easily argue that Facebook might be interested in launching its own cryptocurrency in the future. On the other hand, blockchain technology doesn’t need an associated cryptocurrency to work so Facebook might employ the tech alone without creating its own token that could be used across its services.

It’s worth pointing out that one of Facebook’s rivals in the instant messaging business, Telegram, was rumored to create its own cryptocurrency until not too long ago. Telegram, however, apparently backed out of launching its own token for the time being.

Marcus confirmed in a post on Facebook the move from Messenger to the new division after Recode’s report came out. Here’s his message:

After nearly four unbelievably rewarding years leading Messenger, I have decided it was time for me to take on a new challenge. I’m setting up a small group to explore how to best leverage Blockchain across Facebook, starting from scratch.

When I joined Messenger, under 300 million people were using it every month, since then we’ve added well over 1 billion people. We’ve crafted many new experiences from video chat to P2P payments, a capable camera and new features like games. We opened the platform and now over 200,000 developers are creating experiences and over 8 billion messages are sent between people and businesses every month. Looking forward, I’m excited about Messenger’s upcoming redesign I’ve shared an early look at this year’s F8. I think you’re going to love it!

It’s been an honor to lead the amazing Messenger team, their commitment to making Messenger the best it can be is unsurpassed. I will miss them but I know Messenger is in great hands with Stan Chudnovsky and they will continue to create amazing experiences for all the people who depend on it around the world.

Messenger is now one of the most important apps in the world, and its future is unbelievably bright. The saying is that the journey is more important than the destination, and what a remarkable journey this was!


Chris Smith Senior Writer

Chris Smith has been covering consumer electronics ever since the iPhone revolutionized the industry in 2008. When he’s not writing about the most recent tech news for BGR, he brings his entertainment expertise to Marvel’s Cinematic Universe and other blockbuster franchises.

Outside of work, you’ll catch him streaming almost every new movie and TV show release as soon as it's available.