Facebook's cryptocurrency plans boosted by blockchain hiring spree

With more than 2 billion users, the social network could create the world's first truly mainstream cryptocurrency

Anthony Cuthbertson
Friday 14 December 2018 18:23
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What is cryptocurrency and the technology behind bitcoin and its rivals?

Facebook has been recruiting heavily for its secretive blockchain project, suggesting the social network is moving forward with plans to launch its own cryptocurrency.

The hiring spree comes a few months after one of the biggest management reshuffles in Facebook’s history, which saw former PayPal president David Marcus appointed the lead of an exploratory blockchain group.

Mr Marcus, who was previously vice president of Facebook Messenger, gave few details about his new role at the time, but said he would report directly to the company’s CTO Mike Schroepfer.

He said in a blog post that the group would “explore how to best leverage blockchain across Facebook, starting from scratch”.

With around 2.2 billion monthly active users on its social network, together with billions of users across WhatsApp and Instagram, Facebook has the platform reach to introduce the world’s first mass market cryptocurrency.

Around 40 people now work under Mr Marcus as a result of the recent recruitment drive, including several former PayPal executives, according to a report by Cheddar.

Job listings state Facebook’s “ultimate goal” with its blockchain group is to “help bring billions of people with access to things they don’t have now.” Such things could include “equitable financial services, new ways to save, or new ways to share information,” the listing states.

Facebook is yet to provide any further details about the project, following several requests from The Independent.

“Like many other companies Facebook is exploring ways to leverage the power of blockchain technology,” a Facebook spokesperson said.

“This new small team is exploring many different applications. We don’t have anything further to share.”

Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg has previously expressed interest in cryptocurrency and the blockchain technology that bitcoin popularized.

In January, Facebook founder and chief executive Mark Zuckerberg wrote a Facebook post in which he discusses the potential of decentralised currencies and other technologies.

“One of the most interesting questions in technology right now is about centralisation vs decentralisation. With the rise of a small number of big tech companies. Many people now believe technology only centralises power rather than decentralises it,” Mr Zuckerberg wrote.

“There are important counter-trends to this – like encryption and cryptocurrency – that take power from centralised systems and put it back into people’s hands.”

Since publishing the post, Facebook has been embroiled in a series of scandals surrounding how it handles its users’ data, which has reportedly led to problems with recruiting for the new project.

The decentralised nature of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technologies mean people working within the industry are typically wary of large, centralised corporations like Facebook.

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