What does this mean for the social network?
Facebook (FB) has reshuffled some of its key executives to continue a deep diving into blockchain technology. Evan Cheng, a director of engineering at Facebook, has moved to the position of Director of Engineering, Blockchain. A well-respected “low level” computer engineer, he was previously responsible for heading up Programming Languages & Runtimes at the company, a position he held for nearly three years.
The company’s head of messaging app David Marcus announced in May that Facebook has set up a team to explore the benefits of blockchain applications across the platform.
Prior to working at FB, Cheng worked at Apple and a lot of the smoke here means that this is more than just an “exploratory project.”
In a Facebook post earlier this year, Mark Zuckerberg stated that he would take up a personal challenge to study cryptocurrencies this year. He remarked that centralization and centralized systems are a key problem today and that he would examine this technology to accelerate decentralization and “put more power in people’s hands.”
He said:“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.”
In addition, the Taiwanese subsidiary of multinational tech firm Microsoft announced it began working on a platform for enterprise blockchain development. In mid-June, Microsoft also revealed that it started developing a blockchain-based tracking platform in partnership with Adents, a provider of product serialization and traceability solutions.
Although blockchain enthusiasts tout the possibility of freeing social network-type applications from monopolistic platform giants such as Facebook, in reality so far it has been difficult to garner the requisite traction and liquidity in decentralized social networking platforms. Decentralized projects such as Steemit, Yours, and Holochain (decentralized social network/Reddit), LaZooz (decentralized Uber), Ethlance (decentralized eLance), and Filecoin and Storj (decentralized Dropbox) have not yet seen substantial success. These new models are an important advance and it would be too early to call them a failure, however bootstrapping users onto the platform is a clear challenge