By Christian Smith
Facebook announced Tuesday it was creating a blockchain division to be led by a senior executive in what may be an effort by the social media company to develop its own payment system that cuts out credit card companies.
"I would definitely imagine payments is going to be a big part of it," said TechCrunch's Editor-at-Large Josh Constine about Facebook's blockchain initiative. "Facebook's opportunity there is to cut out the credit card companies. Facebook wants to be the new layer for commerce."
When a user makes a purchase through Facebook using a credit card, the customer pays a small percentage or flat fee. Using blockchain technology, Facebook could create its own payment system that would would eliminate the fee and streamline purchases.
The executive who will be in charge of the initiative, David Marcus, previously ran Facebook's Messenger app and was a co-founder of the online payment service PayPal.
Facebook also announced Tuesday that its longtime chief product officer, Chris Cox, will oversee Facebook's "family of apps," which include Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp. Chris Daniels, who led Facebook's Internet.org connectivity efforts, will take the helm at WhatsApp after its co-founder, Jan Koum, announced last week he was leaving the company. Adam Masseri, who runs Facebook's NewsFeed, will take over as Instagram's vice president of product.
When Facebook acquired Instagram in 2012 and WhatsApp in 2014, the social media giant promised the leaders of those companies a degree of autonomy. As Facebook installs its own leaders in executive positions over those companies, that autonomy appears to be shrinking. Constine said the decision could affect the way people view Instagram and WhatsApp compared to Facebook.
"WhatsApp and Instagram are kind of the hedges against threats to Facebook's brand. With all the recent Cambridge Analytica scandals, when Facebook was really getting hit with a lot of criticism that didn't necessarily flow over Instagram or WhatsApp," said Constine in an interview Wednesday with Cheddar. "They were sort of the lifeboat for Facebook's brand just in case people started to really hate on the big blue social network."
Constine also said that more closely associating Facebook with Instagram and WhatsApp could end up being a boost to the brands.
"They're going to run essentially the Facebook playbook, which could actually end up being good because Facebook's been quite successful with that playbook," said Constine.
For the full interview, click here.