Rolling your eyes at Facebook’s blockchain
Eyes will no doubt roll at the news Facebook is investigating ways to use blockchain technology. I understand. The hype around blockchain is draining – especially when there’s so little actual progress from the hype to any meaningful products.
Just yesterday, I received five blockchain-related press releases in the space of half an hour, and I’m not even a proper tech journalist anymore. If you cover technology full time for a living, the bombardment of rubbish you must receive each day will definitely be enough to make you despair whenever anyone utters ‘the b-word’ with even an ounce of enthusiasm.
And yet two things hold true. Firstly, interest in blockchain is huge. Events on the topic for developers and interested non-techies alike do huge business. At a recent property tech event I attended, the blockchain session was the busiest of the day, despite the fact 90 percent of people in the room had no idea what it was. And a blockchain event I MCed recently was rammed with developers asking intelligent questions related to projects they were working on.
The other truth about blockchain is that even if there’s nothing of great impact happening with the technology right now, the potential
of decentralised systems is huge. Next-generation distributed ledger technologies (the Bitcoin and Etherium blockchains are examples of DLT) are on the horizon and poised to offer greater scale while solving some of the key problems of existing platforms.
And so Facebook has to do something in this space. It may lead to nothing and be a total waste of time, but the company can’t sit back and do nothing. It might just launch a token for Facebook-based commerce, but that seems so unnecessary right now that I don’t know why it’d bother unless there was a threat of someone else doing it first.
Normally, if someone else figures out something before Facebook, Facebook just buys them, But decentralised social networks might not have an owner in a traditional way. And that leaves Facebook vulnerable, so it needs to move fast, decentralise things, and see what happens.
I posted a slightly different version of this on Medium late last night. I hope you don’t mind.