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Zuckerberg mentions blockchain and now it’s a thing

The guy who thought up Facebook thinks about the blockchain (no, not one of the Winklevii)

Tech global behemoth Facebook may be tiptoeing into the blockchain.

Like a European monarch, founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg offered his new year’s message on Thursday. Cryptocurrency fans noted the last few paragraphs:

For example, one of the most interesting questions in technology right now is about centralization vs decentralization. A lot of us got into technology because we believe it can be a decentralizing force that puts more power in people’s hands. (The first four words of Facebook’s mission have always been “give people the power”.) Back in the 1990s and 2000s, most people believed technology would be a decentralizing force.

But today, many people have lost faith in that promise. With the rise of a small number of big tech companies — and governments using technology to watch their citizens — many people now believe technology only centralizes power rather than decentralizes it.

There are important counter-trends to this –like encryption and cryptocurrency — that take power from centralized systems and put it back into people’s hands. But they come with the risk of being harder to control. I’m interested to go deeper and study the positive and negative aspects of these technologies, and how best to use them in our services.

It’s easy to see this as just a front-end need being addressed by Facebook adopting blockchain technology. It will be harder for a repressive regime to attack or clampdown on a social network that is everywhere and nowhere at once.

But there are some practical back-end implications as well.

Facebook is in many ways a filtering site. That is, everyone can post things but whether or not you can see it depends on your relationship to the person posting it and the permissions they give. Facebook was able to overcome problems that early innovators like Friendster had by caching aspects of relationships rather than constantly trying to calculate all that repeatedly. With relatively little hiccups, it was able to scale into a 2.1 billion-user juggernaut.

Such size requires a lot of processing power and server space. Leveraging blockchain technologies may allow Facebook to overcome limitations in its current structure. As Tech Crunch points out, some smaller social networks like Steemit are already building off of blockchain technology.

But it will be a gamechanger when a $540 billion company jumps into the fray.


Disclosure: Lawrence Lewitinn is married to a Facebook employee and holds shares in the company. However, he is not privy to any insider information. Besides, if he knew anything, he wouldn’t be writing but retired already.

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Lawrence Lewitinn, CFA was the founding editor in chief of Modern Consensus. Disclosure: Lewitinn owns no cryptocurrencies in his portfolio.