Andreas Sandre

@andreas212nyc

Big Tech’s growing interest in blockchain

Google, Amazon, Facebook, Square… And the list is growing. It seems that everyone wants a seat at the table.

“Like many new technologies, we have individuals in various teams exploring potential uses of blockchain but it’s way too early for us to speculate about any possible uses or plans,” a Google spokesman recently told Bloomberg.

Already back in 2016, Google Cloud joined Amazon, Microsoft, and IBM to test blockchain services beyond cryptocurrencies and onboard bank clients on its cloud, offering services like clearing and settlement. Now, the company is exploring much more expansive ways to deploy this much talked-about technology.

According to Bloomberg, among tech giants, IBM and Microsoft have so far led the charge in offering blockchain-related tools and letting companies tinker with digital ledgers using their cloud services. Two other Big Tech companies, Amazon and Facebook are also experimenting with blockchain. The first helps companies build blockchain applications, while the second, according to founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg, is looking at cryptocurrencies, encryption, and other decentralized computing approaches.

When it comes to Google, one of the goals is exactly to hedge off competition not only from big players that have already been testing blockchain for years, but also from emerging startups that are now crowding the space.

Google “is developing its own distributed digital ledger that third parties can use to post and verify transactions,” Bloomberg reports. “Although the timing of any product release is unclear, the company plans to offer this to differentiate its cloud service from rivals. It will also provide a white-label version that other companies can run on their own servers.”

Earlier in March this year, Amazon Web Services described blockchain as “a foundational technology that is as promising as it is exciting to explore,” according to a blog post by Lana Kalashnyk, Global Partner Technology Lead for Blockchain at AWS.

But Google, Facebook, and Amazon are not the only large technology company looking at blockchain. And not surprisingly as the market for blockchain-related products and services has the potential to grow from $706 million in 2017 to more than $60 billion by 2024, according to WinterGreen Research.

Jack Dorsey, co-founder and CEO of both Twitter and Square, has recently talked about blockchain and his interest in this area.

In an interview with Gren Manuel, he mentioned how financial services and mobile payment company Square is interested in blockchain as an internal ledger to improve reliability.

“It would be very hard to attack the entire thing or for the entire thing to have a failure. So it will add to more reliability, more uptime,” he told Manuel.

We’re just at the brink of understanding what it can do.

“It’s really exciting. And not just for finance — for everything,” Dorsey said.

Already in September last year, Dorsey mentioned how “there are clear global benefits to cryptocurrencies” both in terms of services and for businesses.

In the summer 2017, in an interview with Lauren Goode at the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, California, Dorsey called blockchain the “next big unlock,” but also warned: “we need to be more thoughtful.”

What are people struggling with? How does the technology help them progress or does it distract them?

Square, which briefly accepted as a form of payment in 2014, is now experimenting with Bitcoin even more.

“I don’t think we know yet what it’s going to be, but I think, absolutely, as an innovator, Square has to be there to let a customer do what they want to do,” the company CFO Sarah Friar told CNBC.

“You’re talking about it, it’s out there, and so we want to do an experiment and say, ‘OK, is this real? Do customers actually want to be able to do this?’,” Friar said. “And then what it does internally is it makes everyone who supports that sort of innovation get to work and figure out how do we do this and do this in the right way?.”

And when it comes to cryptocurrencies, Dorsey is convinced that “the world ultimately will have a single currency, the Internet will have a single currency,” he told The Times of London in a recent interview. “I personally believe that it will be bitcoin […] probably over ten years, but it could go faster.”

“It’s slow and it’s costly, but as more and more people have it, those things go away. There are newer technologies that build off of blockchain and make it more approachable,” Dorsey said.

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