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Facebook May Be Building a Bitcoin Competitor (Report)

Facebook is looking into developing its own cryptocurrency similar to Bitcoin, according to a new Cheddar report. The company’s blockchain team, which is being led by former Paypal executive David Marcus, may use the currency to power payments for Facebook’s 2-plus billion members.

Asked about the report, Facebook told Variety that it had a small team working on “exploring ways to leverage the power of blockchain technology,” adding that the team as exploring many different applications. “We don’t have anything further to share,” a spokesperson said.

Facebook’s work on blockchain first became public earlier this week amid reports of a massive internal reorganization. Marcus had previously led the company’s Messenger product, but shifted to lead its new blockchain team. He is being joined on that team by Instagram’s VP of product Kevin Weil, who came to Facebook from Twitter a little over two years ago and was instrumental to the development of Instagram Stories.

Before joining Facebook in 2014, Marcus had worked for six years in the digital payments space, including four years at Paypal. During that time, he also became interested in Bitcoin, and at one point even considered leaving his job as Paypal’s president to found his own Bitcoin startup.

Cheddar cautioned Friday that it could take years for Facebook to actually launch a digital currency. The company is not interested in doing an initial coin offering (ICO), according to the report. ICOs have become a popular way for blockchain startups to raise funding directly from individual investors, but these sales have also come under scrutiny from regulators.

Facebook could conceivably also use blockchain tech for a number of other applications that don’t include digital payments. Startups and big media companies alike have been exploring ways to use the technology for a wide variety of use cases ranging from the secure exchange of advertising data to distributed VR video rendering.

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