The technology powering bitcoin could help improve Facebook in the future, Mark Zuckerberg has said.
As part of a commitment to help fix the site over 2018, its founder said that he would look into the use of new technology to stop it being quite so centralised.
One of those technologies is bitcoin, he said, in an ambitious post that suggested Mr Zuckerberg is taking to heart the claims that Facebook is broken.
In a long post on his own site, the Facebook founder said that he recognised that the problem with the internet is that it is becoming too centralised, and controlled by a few huge companies that include Facebook itself. That was in contrast to people’s vision that the web could be the perfect way of distributing and decentralising power, he said.
“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”.) Back in the 1990s and 2000s, most people believed technology would be a decentralizing force,” he wrote in a long post.
“But today, 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.”
In order to counteract that, he would look at bitcoin and other technology, he said.
“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. But they come with the risk of being harder to control. I’m interested to go deeper and study the positive and negative aspects of these technologies, and how best to use them in our services,” he wrote.
The mention of cryptocurrency is likely to be at least partly a reference to blockchain, the technology that powers new kinds of currency like bitcoin. That allows information – like who owns what bitcoins – to be distributed across a range of computers, rather than centralised in one specific place.
Numerous technology experts have suggested that blockchain could have revolutionary impacts far beyond its use in cryptocurrency and bitcoin. It could be used to store whole different kinds of information, for instance, in a way that would be controlled by no specific company like Facebook and so theoretically be free from its influence.