Facebook continues to circle the crypto landscape in ways that seem to be leading to larger initiatives next year. Rumors surrounding potential acquisitions connected to cryptocurrency plays haven’t slowed down – and the naming of a blockchain executive in early summer has left some questions unanswered.
The company’s appointment of a Director of Engineering, Blockchain, Evan Cheng comes shortly after Viber announced that it intends to launch its very own cryptocurrency. Facebook-owned WhatsApp, Viber’s direct competitor, meanwhile announced in August that it is set to launch WhatsApp Payments – a service allowing immediate bank-to-bank transfers through a Unified Payments Interface. Despite not being officially confirmed, it may be the case that Facebook is setting the scene for its own digital currency, especially as their former head of Messenger is leading the blockchain exploration task force.
It remains unclear what Facebook’s plans are, but Cheng’s appointment seems like a clear sign of the company’s serious intentions. And the old adage still remains true when it comes to rumors that appear to have some level of action behind them – ‘where there’s smoke, there is bound to be fire.’
Cheng has been part of Facebook since 2015, according to his personal LinkedIn profile. A closer look at his background reveals his long-term experience in the field of computer engineering. Interestingly enough, before getting to his new position, he served as the Director of Engineering, Programming Languages & Runtimes at the company.
Facebook’s interest in the technology was first demonstrated in May when the company tasked the head of its Messenger to launch a blockchain research push. David Marcus, who has overseen development since 2014 leads the group which explores potential applications of blockchain-based technology.
Furthermore, after having banned cryptocurrency-related advertising in January, the social media mogul loosened their restrictions, allowing certain advertisers to promote cryptocurrency-related campaigns after receiving an approval. This has also led to rumors of Facebook buying Coinbase, the most popular cryptocurrency exchange in the U.S.
In fact, that particular rumor, while all the rage over the summer (but has quieted as Coinbase has taken in new capital) seems to have slowed. But has it really?
After a bunch of digging over the weekend, we’ve come up with one simple way to describe any backchannel conversations between the startup and the embattled social network: ongoing and energy.
Facebook continues to deal with the prospect of a greying and less energetic base of users. Enter Coinbase and it’s speedy user growth (even in a bear market) coupled with a demographic (young and risk positive) that is uniquely appealing to Facebook.
One source we spoke to (albeit down the org chart at Coinbase) said the following: “I wouldn’t doubt that Brian (Armstrong) is talking to multiple companies – and that we are appealing in a lot of ways across industries. The Facebook rumor has been a persistent one – but I will believe it when I see it. It may happen, but my guess is that Facebook would have to get clear of some of the user data scandal stuff before pulling a trigger connected to crypto.”
Interestingly enough, rumors started circulating in May, after an anonymous source said that the social media firm may seriously be considering creating its very own cryptocurrency in order to allow its billions of users to make electronic payments.
Keep your eyes on this story, Facebook, Coinbase, and others (Robinhood we are watching you too!)