Get ready to save up some ZuckBucks. Facebook is developing its own cryptocurrency to enable fast payments, according to a Friday report. The project is part of its new blockchain research team, headed up by former Messenger head and current Coinbase board member David Marcus.
Cheddar reporter Alex Heath claims Facebook is “very serious” about the idea of releasing a cryptocurrency to use as part of a payments system. While Messenger offers peer-to-peer payments in fiat currency, the social network has to operate a centralized system while also paying transaction fees. Wednesday’s announcement of the team led to speculation that Facebook could use blockchain to secure data like identities, but Heath claims it is “payments, specifically, [that] is a very serious avenue.” Marcus, also a former president of PayPal, dropped a big hint about this direction three months ago when he said current crypto payments are expensive and slow, but “maybe we’ll do something” when these problems are fixed.
In many ways, it’s not surprising — Inverse suggested that Facebook could get into cryptocurrency when Marcus joined the Coinbase board back in December. Heath claims Facebook started looking at blockchain as early as the summer of last year. While a dozen people are currently working on the team, including Instagram vice president Kevin Weil, it’s expected to expand fast as upper levels of management are taking a keen interest in the project.
The blockchain research team was met with cautious optimism when it was announced earlier this week. James Tabor, CEO of MEDIA Protocol, told Inverse that the announcement was “really promising and encouraging,” while Coin IRA CEO Trevor Gerszt said it was “hard to tell what exactly to make of [it]” without more information. Josh McIver, CEO of ULedger, said a big name like Facebook getting involved in blockchain is “exactly what’s required to prove the skeptics wrong.”
Don’t hold your breath for ZuckBucks, though. Heath claims the token is “years away from materializing.” Facebook is unlikely to hold an initial coin offering, mostly because it’s a multibillion-dollar company that doesn’t need the extra capital. It’s more likely that the company would “airdrop” tokens by handing them out to users for free, similar to projects like Everipedia.
The days of sending dollars to friends over the internet may be numbered.