Facebook has announced it is launching a blockchain research unit, specifically to examine how the social network can capitalize on emerging technologies in the space.
According to announcements this week, the team is to be headed by David Marcus, a former president of PayPal and most recently Facebook VP for their Messenger app.
Marcus confirmed his appointment in a post on Facebook, where he revealed he would be working with a small team to research ways of integrating the technology within the platform.
“After nearly four unbelievably rewarding years leading Messenger, I have decided it was time for me to take on a new challenge. I’m setting up a small group to explore how to best leverage blockchain across Facebook, starting from scratch.”
The team is also set to draw staff from Facebook’s Instagram division, and is rumored to consist of fewer than 12 people. Among other notable names joining the team are Instagram VP of product Kevin Weil and his colleague James Everingham, VP of engineering.
The developments are already being hailed as significant, with analysts optimistic about what the project could mean for the wider adoption of blockchain technology, and for the proliferation of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin.
Marcus was previously quoted as suggesting that Messenger would be open to integrating cryptocurrencies, once all of the “issues” with the technology were ironed out.
Given his track record at both PayPal and Facebook, Marcus was appointed to the board of leading cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase in 2017, and has become increasingly involved in the blockchain space since the appointment.
Interestingly, the decision to establish the new unit follows on from Facebook’s decision to ban ICO and cryptocurrency advertising on its site — a decision made, according to Facebook, in the interests of protecting consumers from fraudulent initial coin offerings.
While there are scant details available at the moment about the proposed work of the new division, it remains to be seen whether this marks the beginning of a softening of the approach from Facebook, and whether the platform is likely to integrate payments in cryptocurrencies, like bitcoin and ether, in future.
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