With more than two billion daily active users on its platform, spanning virtually every country with a decent internet connection, it’s safe to say Facebook (FB) has achieved its goal of connecting the world.
But as he has done every year, CEO Mark Zuckerberg has sought out new challenges and important topics to address. This year, in addition to the proliferation of hate speech and misinformation on Facebook, Zuckerberg wants to tackle the polarizing subject of cryptocurrency, particularly bitcoin, which has taken the world by storm.
“There are important counter-trends to this — encryption and cryptocurrency — that take power from centralized systems and put it back into people’s hands,” Zuckerberg wrote in his 2018 mission statement, issued on Thursday. “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.”
Zuckerberg says his challenge for 2018 centers on finding ways to help technology “give people the power.” In terms of cryptocurrency, part of the challenge Zuckerberg sees is that only a select few or a small segment of the world’s population truly understand how bitcoins work, and for that matter, cryptocurrencies, in general. And those who wish to learn more are often immediately discouraged to do so given the proliferation of negativity surrounding the topic.
Prominent Wall Street figures such as JPMorgan (JPM) CEO Jamie Dimon calls cryptocurrencies a fraud. “It’s just not a real thing, eventually it will be closed,” Dimon insists. “It’s worse than tulip bulbs. It won’t end well.”
Then there’s billionaire investor Warren Buffett, who is widely regarded at the world’s best investor. “I can say almost with certainty that cryptocurrencies will come to a bad end,” Buffett told CNBC in an interview.
The digital currency bitcoin soared in value last year from around $1000 at the end of 2016 to as high as $19,000 per bitcoin in early December. It has since fallen to around $12,000 to start 2018. Where it ends next is anyone’s guess, given the geopolitical events causing the wild price swings.
For cryptocurrency enthusiasts, however, such as Paul Snow, co-founder of the trade group Texas Bitcoin Association, Zuckerberg’s interest in the topic should serve as welcomed news. Facebook’s size, scale and technological expertise could lend not only immediate credibility to cryptocurrencies, but its two billion users could help drive mass global adoption of the industry. To that end, Snow believes “The cryptocurrency space has an amazingly bright future.”
In terms of other digital currencies such as Ethereum, Litecoin and IOTA, Snow sees a way for all of them to survive. “There isn’t one kind of car, one kind of currency, one kind of house, one kind of crop. Different blockchains and currencies have different target uses, and they are likely to prosper in their different applications.”
Beyond just wishful thinking, there’s no way to be truly certain of the future of cryptocurrency. But if anyone can have a positive impact on the industry’s outcome, it’s Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook’s worldwide users of two billion people. And figuring out a way to make money from it? Yeah, he’s thinking about that too.
The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.