Facebook recently repealed its controversial ban on cryptocurrency advertisements, prompting further speculation that the tech giant may be curious about entering the cryptocurrency space.
The ban was initially put into effect as a response to fraudulent ICO (initial coin offering) advertisements. This blanket approach blacklisted plenty of honest startups looking to fund their projects while protecting the uneducated consumer from scam ICO’s looking to pilfer their money.
Perhaps more momentous than the immediate implications for cryptocurrency marketing is what the move signals about Facebook’s own ambitions.
Facebook announced its biggest ever management reshuffle last month, which included the unveiling of an exploratory blockchain group that reports directly to the company’s CTO, Mike Schroepfer.
At the head of the group is David Marcus, the former head of Facebook Messenger and a board member of Coinbase, one of the world’s most popular and user-friendly cryptocurrency exchanges.
The Economist previously reported rumors that Facebook is interested in buying Coinbase, and noted that the lack of an incumbent titan in the crypto space is why major tech firms are joining investors and startups in showing an interest in the industry.
The acquisition could absolutely boost Facebook’s value and utility as well as add legitimacy to the market as a whole.
“It wouldn’t surprise me if Facebook made an attempt to acquire Coinbase,” tech entrepreneur Oliver Isaacs told The Independent. “Whether [Coinbase CEO] Brian Armstrong and the team would agree is another question.”
“Today we’re serving maybe 10 million customers,” he said in a promotional video for Coinbase. “We would like to reach a billion people in the world who are using digital currency on a daily basis.”
Facebook has more than 2 billion users, which would certainly propel Coinbase towards their goal of 1 billion users. Speculators expect that if Facebook were to acquire Coinbase, they would also introduce a Facebook coin.
A Facebook coin would have a greater reach than Bitcoin or any of the other 1,500 or so cryptocurrencies currently on the market, while also serving as an actual currency rather than simply a store of value or speculative investment. Facebook’s “Facebook Marketplace” could add real-world utility to the coin by providing an international marketplace for peer to peer exchange.
“If platforms like Google, Twitter and Facebook launched their own cryptocurrency it could be huge because of the user base,” Phillip Nunn, CEO of Manchester-based investment firm Blackmore Group, told The Independent.
Zuckerberg declined to comment, but his tweets earlier this year showed an optimistic curiosity about decentralized protocols and cryptocurrencies.
“One of the most interesting questions in technology right now is about centralization vs decentralization,” Zuckerberg wrote. “With the rise of a small number of big tech companies… many people now believe technology only centralizes power rather than decentralizes it.
“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.”
The Facebook founder concluded the post by saying he was “interested to go deeper” with these technologies and figure out “how best to use them” through Facebook’s platform.
Facebook advertising will significantly expand crypto awareness, and acknowledgment from one of the largest and most important companies in the world is reassuring to investors and developers everywhere.