As one of the biggest tech companies in the world and the one with the most social clout, Facebook is rarely seen as an engine of innovation. In fact, most regular users do not even comprehend the network as something that has a huge R&D team, but simply provides the pretty much same service as the one it started with almost 15 years ago.
However, thanks to the insane profits Facebook generates, it is actually one of the more potent research and development hubs in the Silicon Valley ecosystem. Now, its founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg has revealed that the company plans to examine blockchain and cryptocurrency applications.
In the year to come, both he personally and his employees and researchers will try to figure out the benefits and drawbacks of the same tech in the terms of applying it to the Facebook systems. The statement, while vague, is interesting because it offers a glimpse into one of the several big new fields where the company plans to expand in the coming years.
Under the Hood of Blockchain
Zuckerberg stated that their primary interest is the process of decentralization which is so fundamental to blockchain tech. In his view, the same could be applied to the social networking space and the services which it provides. Also, aside from blockchain itself, the team he is assembling will examine the encryption protocols and the way they are utilized in the same decentralized space.
The company and he personally plan on bringing in new people into the research project, which means that the developers will get a chance to help Facebook in this process. While no names have been dropped yet, there is no doubt that Zuckerberg’s name is enough to bring in virtually anyone who the team tags as a useful collaborator.
At the same time, it is hard to imagine anyone from the blockchain development domain passing on this opportunity, especially because the payoffs of any partial collaborative project would go both ways. Essentially, anyone from the blockchain field who gets a foot in the Facebook’s door could profit immensely from it.
Right now, millions use digital currencies to invest, bet online, purchase goods and services, transfer funds and do many more things. However, incorporating an element of blockchain into the Facebook’s platform would potentially allow billions to start using some form of this tech.
Avenues of Improvement
According to Zuckerberg, the team will focus on fixing all of the important issues Facebook is facing, but also try to find ways of resolving issues currently facing media, technology, and government. In his view, the tech is so important because it provides decentralized networks that still function very well.
Yet, the skeptics are really troubled by this statement because Facebook is anything but decentralized, both in terms of back-end tech and its philosophy. The same goes for Zuckerberg who usually brushes aside any negative comments about the network and the way it runs its affairs in regards to monetization through exploiting user behavior.
In fact, years ago, Zuckerberg famously stated that Facebook is an “ad-based business “which implied it was allowed to manipulate its content and its presentation however the company saw fit. The same was completely at odds with those who believed that the network is skewing access to information with this approach.
Of course, most digital ventures with a social aspect, whether they are social media, eSports or something different, have their proponents and opponents. With Facebook, the opponents are unified in the issues the network brings and the potential dangers it possesses for things like public discourse.
An Unchanging Ideology
Yet, in spite of the criticism, Facebook continues to streamline its adaptive timeline technology, essentially feeding users things the algorithms noticed they liked. Some believe that the same construction of echo chambers allowed things like the Donald Trump victory and Brexit to take place outside of the mainstream media’s domain of understanding.
Instead of seeing either event coming, the media was churning out its regular predictions, failing to realize so many are stuck in their echo chambers. All of these were built thanks to the Facebook’s application of behavior analysis and other harvesting methods of using big data that the company provided.
This is the reason why there were plenty of eyes rolling when Zuckerberg’s statement, which came as a Facebook post, included a part about taking power from systems that are centralized and putting the same power back into the hands of people.
For many, Facebook could do the same right now, but the profits would potentially plummet, which is why its founder is looking to solve other types of problems. But, there could be something big in the tech for Facebook and their current profit-focused ideology.
History of Facebook development is tightly connected with the idea of expanding the services on offer. What was once a literal book of faces that could be found online became one of the biggest messenger and call services, which then ended up as one of the key video-sharing platforms.
As the times advance, so does Facebook adapt to cover more and more different services. All the while, the initial offer never goes away. Instead of changing, Facebook evolves and incorporates the new right with the old.
That is the reason why many believe that the actual focus of Zuckerberg’s research will be employing the blockchain to create some sort of payment system native to Facebook. The safe bet is that it will not be a digital currency like bitcoin, which can be purchased externally, but a means for creating an internal ledger.
Through tokenization, Facebook could create a payment process that would be similar to an internal PayPal, but with a lot fewer upkeep costs being that it would be support by the blockchain. This is all pure speculation, but something similar has already occurred with WeChat in China.
With its user base, Facebook could insert itself into developing and underdeveloped locations which lack regular banking infrastructure. At this point, this avenue of development looks most realistic for a company that is exploring where and how it could apply blockchain tech.