What is the blockchain? And how should Facebook be using it?
Finding answers to those questions is now the responsibility of David Marcus, the Facebook executive who has, until this week, been running the company’s standalone messaging app, Messenger.
Marcus is leaving Messenger to take over a new internal team dedicated to exploring blockchain technology, according to multiple sources familiar with the matter. The team will be small at launch, fewer than a dozen people, but will include a few key Instagram executives who are moving over to join Marcus: Instagram’s VP of Engineering, James Everingham, and Instagram’s VP of Product, Kevin Weil.
Messenger’s head of product, Stan Chudnovsky, will take over the Messenger app and its team.
The move is noteworthy for a couple of reasons:
- As the former president of PayPal, Marcus has a lot of payments expertise and has been in charge of Messenger through a lot of significant changes over the years. In fact, Facebook’s decision to split Messenger out of the core app so that users had to download the standalone app in order to receive messages on mobile happened during Marcus’s first month on the job. He oversaw Messenger’s push into customer service bots, shopping and, more recently, advertising. His departure from that role is notable, especially since Messenger is just starting to ramp up its advertising business.
- The blockchain, which serves as the technical foundation for all cryptocurrencies — like bitcoin — is all the rage. Facebook’s decision to pursue blockchain technology will most certainly add some validity to the crypto industry, which has been very chaotic. This doesn’t mean that Facebook will build its own cryptocurrency, but there are many ways that blockchain technology could be used that have nothing to do with cryptocurrencies, including encrypted data storage. Marcus does have a personal interest in cryptocurrencies, though. He joined the board of cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase in December.