Following an acquihire of undisclosed value, four of the five researchers from Gibraltar-based startup Chainbase have joined Facebook’s blockchain research group.
Development of Chainspace’s decentralised infrastructure will now halt, and the team’s expertise will be absorbed into Facebook’s team of forty blockchain researchers, headed by veteran executive and former PayPal President David Marcus, and including former top level Instagram executives.
But exactly what this high-flying team is working on remains to be seen. Chainspace’s technology, which uses Sharding to develop scalable, smart-contract compatible blockchain networks, could have a range of different applications.
Some speculate that the social media giant plans to develop its own decentralised digital currency – a dollar-pegged stablecoin – that would enable payments through the WhatsApp messaging application, and others have suggested that blockchain could help the company stay ahead of potential competitors by improving the way the organisation handles personal data, and maintains privacy and security.
Facebook, however, have declined to comment, leaving only cryptic comments on pages recruiting for blockchain engineers:
“We’re exploring lots of areas of interest across all facets of blockchain technology. Our ultimate goal is to help billions of people with access to things they don’t have now – that could be things like equitable financial services, it could be new ways to save, it could be new ways to share information. “
The discreet development of new technologies is not unusual, especially in the fast-moving blockchain space, which according to PitchBook, has seen 200 percent more acquisitions in 2018. Much of this activity can be put down to talent scarcity in the industry; blockchain engineers are in high demand, and as soon as small companies like Chainspace gain traction, they become prime targets for larger companies.
Facebook now joins several of its Silicon Valley competitors – like Amazon, Google and Microsoft – exploring the potential of decentralisation through partnerships and acquisitions.