Mark Zuckerberg, founder, chairman, and CEO of social media platform Facebook, has posted his annual challenge. It’s often a look back at major events, taking stock of the year, and appraising what’s ahead. This year, he ended his note with a pointed call to “take power from centralized systems” by employing uses for “encryption and cryptocurrency.”
Zuckerberg Gets Reflective
Mark Zuckerberg believes a great challenge, perhaps the most important, facing tech companies is centralization versus decentralization. Before getting to the meat of his annual statement, however, Mr. Zuckerberg reflected on the obstacles facing his company. “Every year I take on a personal challenge to learn something new,” Mr. Zuckerberg posted 4 January 2018 just before 8am PST.
He continued, recalling how challenging himself in this manner began in 2009 during the Great Recession. Facebook had yet to turn a profit, and Mr. Zuckerberg, 33, remembers it being “a serious year, and I wore a tie every day as a reminder.”
Facebook started from Mr. Zuckerberg’s Harvard dorm room in early 2004. It quickly expanded due to popularity, and by later the following year had millions of members. As of 2017’s final quarter, the social network boasted over two billion registered users. The site ranks third both in the US and globally, behind Google and Youtube respectively.
“The world feels anxious and divided,” he wrote, “and Facebook has a lot of work to do.” Acknowledging the company’s limitations, Mr. Zuckerberg went on to explain “we currently make too many errors enforcing our policies and preventing misuse of our tools.”
Decentralization versus Centralization
For Mr. Zuckerberg, “one of the most interesting questions in technology right now is about centralization vs decentralization,” he began. “A lot of us got into technology because we believe it can be a decentralizing force that puts more power in people’s hands. (The first four words of Facebook’s mission have always been ‘give people the power’).”
Reports daily about his and other technology-based companies potentially cooperating with authorities, helping them to gather large nets of personal information, have taken a toll on the average person’s confidence in using such sites.
Indeed, Mr. Zuckerberg notes “many people have lost faith in that promise. With the rise of a small number of big tech companies — and governments using technology to watch their citizens — many people now believe technology only centralizes power rather than decentralizes it,” he lamented.
As a possible answer to centralization, he ends his statement with a provocative call to “counter-trends.” Through “encryption and cryptocurrency,” which can “take power from centralized systems and put it back into people’s hands,” Mr. Zuckerberg is “interested to go deeper and study the positive and negative aspects of these technologies, and how best to use them in our services.”
It’s difficult to know exactly what he’s getting at, but a platform such as Facebook embracing any cryptocurrency, or creating its own, would be a dramatic market entrant. This appears to be one of the few statements Mr. Zuckerberg has made on cryptocurrency. Loads of rumors have spread through the ecosystem for years about his possible involvement in this or that project or coin. None of them have been formally confirmed.