Mark Zuckerberg published a lengthy post in which he used the word cryptocurrency, and the world exploded. Alright, that last part isn’t true, but it is a topic on everyone’s mind today. Will Bitcoin on Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) be a thing soon?
Zuckerberg did not actually use the words Bitcoin on Facebook. He didn’t actually tie Facebook and Bitcoin together at all. He did mention cryptocurrency in talking about how information is controlled by single companies, centralization as it were, and how blockchain decentralizes information. Facebook is an excellent example of the centralization of personal data. With over 1B users, it is perhaps the largest repository of personal information on the planet. That information is used to generate ad dollars for Facebook by selling it as targeting information to advertisers and marketers. Facebook may be the largest social media network, but it may also be one the largest advertising platforms in the world. The thought that Zuckerberg may about face on that and suddenly decide to steer Facebook away from that money machine seems silly.
In his musings he states that people have lost faith in the promise of technology as a decentralization factor. Then he talks about counter-trends:
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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.
Note how he said there are potential positive, and also negative sides to those technologies. Again, no specific mention of Bitcoin on Facebook, but definitely the door has opened to blockchain and other decentralization technologies.
How Could Facebook Decentralize?
That’s the billion dollar question right there. Facebook, a massive aggregator of centralized data, is thinking of decentralizing data? Would that information then reside, in pieces, on all of the computers of the people who are logging into Facebook? Would they be open to allowing cryptocurrency to be traded or used officially as the currency of choice on their platform? Certainly, they’d charge a fee on that sort of thing to ensure they continue to turn a profit. After all, they’re in the business of making money. Anything they do that may jeopardize the bottom line would be scrutinized by everyone that owns stock in the company, especially those who have a lot of it.
They probably won’t be doing anything too radical like decentralizing all user data and making it impossible to track or returning all ownership of that data to the users. The Terms of Service for Facebook state that you give them “a non-exclusive, transferable, sub-licensable, royalty-free, worldwide license to use any IP content that you post on or in connection with Facebook .” That’s the backbone of centralization of data. You’ve given them the right to use your content as they see fit, including using it to target advertising to you, among other things.
Blockchain Adds Privacy
The major use many see for blockchain in social media is in terms of privacy, something none of us really have on things like Facebook. Bitcoin’s blockchain technology on Facebook would add major security and privacy. Facebook Messenger on blockchain would mean no one, aside from the person sending and the person receiving a message, would know the contents of the message. Tie Bitcoin to Facebook Messenger, or perhaps their own cryptocurrency, and you have private transactions, in a private chat with no one else the wiser
Blockchain Adds Profit
Blockchain could also add profit. Imagine getting paid for great content you share. If blockchain technology were added to Facebook, Bitcoin could be a monetization incentive to publicly post great content. Each Like, Share or Comment could be turned into a fraction of a Bitcoin. All the transactions would be private. People who share great content could also get a cut of the proceeds as a way to encourage the sharing of quality content. That content could lift Facebook usage times, as well as ad impressions meaning Facebook also profits. Bitcoin on Facebook may not happen anytime soon, but blockchain technology is a sure bet.
Bitcoin on Facebook, or a Facebook Bitcoin-like cryptocurrency may be a reality one day. Actual privacy may never be. Still, it will be interesting to see how Zuckerberg and the Facebook team use blockchain technology.