Facebook has reignited speculation about its plans in the payments space by aqui-hiring the team behind London-based blockchain startup Chainspace.
The move, first reported by Cheddar, marks a significant development for Facebook's new blockchain unit, which was set up last year under the leadership of former PayPal president and Coinbase board member David Marcus. Facebook carried out the deal without fanfare, with Chainspace's website simply saying: "We're excited to announce the team is moving on to something new".
Set up by University College London researchers, Chainspace has been working on "sharded" smart contracts - a distributed web of blockchains designed for "scalability, speed and privacy". Speed is seen as a central issue for the team because blockchain-based transactions are currently far slower than traditional payment alternatives.
According to Cheddar, Facebook has hired four of the five academics behind Chainspace's founding academic white paper. Facebook has confirmed that it has hired the Chainspace staffers but has not bought the company or any of its technology. The social media giant says its "small" blockchain team is "exploring many different applications" but is not offering specifics.
However, job adverts for the unit state: "Our ultimate goal is to help billions of people with access to things they don’t have now - that could be things like healthcare, equitable financial services, or new ways to save or share information." "Equitable financial services" could even include a 'FaceCoin': in December, Bloomberg reported that Facebook is working on a cryptocurrency that will let users of its WhatsApp messaging service send and receive money.