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Facebook is launching a new team dedicated to the blockchain. Messenger’s David Marcus is going to run it.

What is the blockchain? Facebook wants to find out, too.

Facebook VP of Messaging Products David Marcus Justin Sullivan / Getty

What is the blockchain? And how should Facebook be using it?

Finding answers to those questions is now the responsibility of David Marcus, the Facebook executive who has, until this week, been running the company’s standalone messaging app, Messenger.

Marcus is leaving Messenger to take over a new internal team dedicated to exploring blockchain technology, according to multiple sources familiar with the matter. The team will be small at launch, fewer than a dozen people, but will include a few key Instagram executives who are moving over to join Marcus: Instagram’s VP of Engineering, James Everingham, and Instagram’s VP of Product, Kevin Weil.

Messenger’s head of product, Stan Chudnovsky, will take over the Messenger app and its team.

Facebook Head of Product for Messenger Stan Chudnovsky
Facebook Head of Product for Messenger Stan Chudnovsky
Noam Galai/Getty Images for TechCrunch

The move is noteworthy for a couple of reasons:

  1. As the former president of PayPal, Marcus has a lot of payments expertise and has been in charge of Messenger through a lot of significant changes over the years. In fact, Facebook’s decision to split Messenger out of the core app so that users had to download the standalone app in order to receive messages on mobile happened during Marcus’s first month on the job. He oversaw Messenger’s push into customer service bots, shopping and, more recently, advertising. His departure from that role is notable, especially since Messenger is just starting to ramp up its advertising business.
  2. The blockchain, which serves as the technical foundation for all cryptocurrencies — like bitcoin — is all the rage. Facebook’s decision to pursue blockchain technology will most certainly add some validity to the crypto industry, which has been very chaotic. This doesn’t mean that Facebook will build its own cryptocurrency, but there are many ways that blockchain technology could be used that have nothing to do with cryptocurrencies, including encrypted data storage. Marcus does have a personal interest in cryptocurrencies, though. He joined the board of cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase in December.

In his new role, Marcus will report to Facebook CTO Mike Schroepfer; Chudnovsky will report to Facebook Chief Product Officer Chris Cox. Both new roles are part of a much larger Facebook re-org that was announced internally this week; it is arguably the company’s biggest restructuring in history.

Update: Marcus confirmed his new role on his Facebook page Tuesday afternoon.

After nearly four unbelievably rewarding years leading Messenger, I have decided it was time for me to take on a new...

Posted by David Marcus on Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Weil, who joined Instagram from Twitter back in early 2016, is one of the new additions to the blockchain team. Weil will be replaced at Instagram by another well-known Facebook executive, Adam Mosseri, who has been running the Facebook News Feed. You can watch him onstage at our Code Media event talking about News Feed:

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