Why Would Facebook Hire Blockchain Engineers?

Opinion | December 29, 2018 By:

Facebook has sent the blockchain community for a stir when it announced that it would be expanding its exploratory blockchain team. This commotion has grown since, as an anonymous source close to the social media giant had disclosed that Facebook is developing a stablecoin for its WhatsApp messaging service.

Stablecoins, which are a type of cryptocurrency tied closely to the US dollar to lower volatility, would make sense for both Facebook and the crypto market. Early reports suggest that this development would primarily (at least at first) be geared towards WhatsApp’s large user base in India, which is the international leader in remittances, or money sent back home by foreign workers. Stablecoins would offer a simple international money transfer solution for Facebook’s Whatsapp user base while at the same time lending Facebook’s household name to the crypto community. As of now, however, these plans are still largely underdeveloped and speculative, so let’s do a bit of speculation of our own – What else could Facebook be up to with 40 employees (and counting) now on its blockchain staff?

The first use case that springs to mind is security – it’s no secret that the company has suffered many attacks, leaks, and issues with data.  One very effective property blockchain technology has is its ability to keep vast amounts of data encrypted and accurately recorded.  There would be a concern with privacy as a public blockchain would potentially offer users information on an open network, even if it is encrypted.  However, for a use case like this, I would imagine that Facebook adopts the use of a private blockchain network on Hyperledger Fabric.

Another possibility is a deeper foray into e-commerce, a space where Facebook curiously hasn’t taken much part in. The platform has a global library of company pages and even provides the ability to post jobs – why does Facebook not offer a full ‘Shopify’ style solution to its business users and turn their company page into a full-on pop-up e-commerce store and physically manage the merchant transactions? With the amount of traffic and users Facebook has, it could make a massive dent into the revenue of sites like Amazon overnight. This opportunity opens the door for blockchain integration by using the technology to manage the merchant system and even track the logistics of goods purchased on Facebook all the way to the customer’s front door.

Obviously, building systems like these require a lot of work hours, so I would hazard a guess that these latest blockchain hires are potentially a skunkworks group that would maybe prototype use cases to be proposed for the future of Facebook’s success before they fully commit and deploy the full resources needed to achieve any of the above suggestions. All I can be sure of is when they do decide to go full blockchain, the implementation will be massive and the impact will be just as big on the future success of the social giant.