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Facebook is reportedly starting a blockchain team

No, not Bitcoin: Blockchain is the encrypted-in-plain-sight technology that can make for trustworthy transactions online.

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Facebook is reportedly shaking up its management team in a gigantic way today -- and according to Recode, the head of the company's popular Facebook Messenger app will now be in charge of "a new internal team dedicated to exploring blockchain technology." 

Recode reports that several prominent Instagram executives will be joining the blockchain team as well.

You might be wondering: What is Blockchain? And why would Facebook be pursuing the technology? We've got a whole article dedicated to answering the former question -- not to mention our series Blockchain Decoded -- but if you're in a hurry: 

Blockchain is the digital ledger technology that famously powers cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin, but is more generally an encrypted way to keep a record of digital transactions, and can be used as a way to figure out who to trust online. 

Recode doesn't say specifically why Facebook might be looking into Blockchain right now, and Facebook didn't immediately respond to our request for comment. 

But in his January memo, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wrote that he wanted to study decentralizing technologies like encryption and cryptocurrency -- "that take power from centralized systems and put it back into people's hands," in his words -- and figure out how to use them in Facebook's services.

Blockchain's promise hasn't kept pace with the hype, but it's catching on for everything from tracking shipments through ports and across oceans to guaranteeing the provenance of a diamond necklace. At Facebook, it could be used in any number of areas, from running advertising infrastructure to easing person-to-person e-commerce to assuring user identities in an era of scams and bots. Facebook has a lot of users and a lot of industry clout, and that increases the importance of any efforts to form industry-spanning partnerships built on blockchain.

That said, exploring blockchain is hardly a surprise. In this day and age, a tech company doing so is about as shocking as exploring mobile phone apps or artificial intelligence tools.

Disclosure: Sean's wife works for Facebook as an internal video producer.