Google reportedly planning blockchain-based services

The hotly hyped technology, which has the potential to rewrite the rules of commerce, could become part of Google's cloud computing service, Bloomberg reports.

Stephen Shankland principal writer
Stephen Shankland has been a reporter at CNET since 1998 and writes about processors, digital photography, AI, quantum computing, computer science, materials science, supercomputers, drones, browsers, 3D printing, USB, and new computing technology in general. He has a soft spot in his heart for standards groups and I/O interfaces. His first big scoop was about radioactive cat poop.
Expertise processors, semiconductors, web browsers, quantum computing, supercomputers, AI, 3D printing, drones, computer science, physics, programming, materials science, USB, UWB, Android, digital photography, science Credentials
  • I've been covering the technology industry for 24 years and was a science writer for five years before that. I've got deep expertise in microprocessors, digital photography, computer hardware and software, internet standards, web technology, and other dee
Stephen Shankland
2 min read
Blockchain decoded

It looks like the blockchain bug might have bitten Google. The tech colossus' cloud computing group is working on a service that could let customers use the heavily hyped transaction processing technology, Bloomberg reported Wednesday.

Blockchain is a potentially disruptive technology to track assets and transactions in a digital record held collectively among many computers instead of a single centralized database. It could speed transactions like home or car purchases, cut down on counterfeiting, cut out middlemen like brokers and escrow firms, and speed up multiparty processes like getting goods through a port. And it's the foundation of cryptocurrency projects like like bitcoin and Ethereum.

Blockchain is complicated, though. Its full potential is realized when transactions are stored across many independent computers, a design set up to thwart efforts to compromise its cryptographically secured integrity. And anyone considering embracing blockchain -- for example to cooperate with payments among companies and suppliers -- must reckon with technical, legal and even social complications.

There's hot activity in the blockchain world. Startups are working on dozens of blockchain-based projects to track diamonds, record property sales, enable digital voting and more. Several startups are working improvements to blockchain itself, trying to make it a better foundation that doesn't suffer today's shortcomings like slow transaction times and high energy consumption.

At the same time, tech bigs like Microsoft, IBM and Intel are pushing blockchain, too. IBM has more than 1,500 employees in its blockchain group.

Watch this: What the heck is blockchain?

It's not clear what exactly Google has in mind -- whether it plans its own blockchain technology or whether it hopes to tap into broader services, for example.

In a statement, though, it acknowledged blockchain experiments, similar to what it does with 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," Google said.

Blockchain Decoded:  CNET looks at the tech powering bitcoin -- and soon, too, a myriad of services that will change your life.

CNET Magazine: Check out a sample of the stories in CNET's newsstand edition.