Facebook chief Mark Zuckerberg has announced that he’s looking into cryptocurrencies as a way of decentralising power and improving Facebook’s functionality.
In his annual statement, Zuckerberg outlined his plans for 2018. In addition to trying to clean up the platform from fake news and abuse, he is looking at cryptocurrencies and how they might be integrated into Facebook as potential way of redistributing power to users.
Facebook are clearly at the early stages of considering cryptocurrency-integration and it is uncertain how they might proceed. One suggested route is the development of an in-house currency which could be used to reward creators of popular content, along the lines of the Steemit model. With tackling “fake news” at the top of Zuckerberg’s to-do list, he might consider currencies a good way of both rewarding decent content and punishing abusive posts or misleading news.
Though Zuckerberg’s concern for users may be genuine, his role is also to maximise Facebook’s revenue. Cryptocurrencies can come in useful there too. Despite having 1 billion daily users, Facebook has been losing ground in the payments space, particularly in Asia.
Payments are possible within Facebook, and users can send money to friends and retailers using Messenger and Marketplace. However, with low user-awareness and various set-up costs like linking up a debit card, these features have never achieved widespread adoption.
In China, apps like WeChat Pay and AliPay are rapidly replacing cash, with an estimated 500 million people making mobile payments. Users can also pay bills and make investments with the apps. Facebook has previously announced tentative plans to expand into this area.
Zuckerberg’s cryptocurrency interest is shared by other senior executives at the company. David Marcus, formerly PayPal’s president and now Facebook’s Vice President of Messaging Products, was last month appointed to the Coinbase board. On his arrival he said that he had,
been involved with, and fascinated by cryptocurrencies since 2012, and I’ve witnessed how Coinbase has started democratizing access to this new asset class.”
It will be fascinating to watch Facebook’s next move. Whatever it chooses has the potential of completely transforming the cryptocurrency space.