But for now, there’s a lot of wiggle room, as the tech leaders invest around the edges of blockchain while focusing their time and money elsewhere.
“I can’t imagine they view any of what’s happening right now as a competitive threat to their business,” said Barry Silbert, founder and CEO of Digital Currency Group (DCG), which invests in an array of blockchain companies, projects and currencies. “They’re not going to be a first mover. They’re going to watch innovation happen, they’re going to learn, sit on the sidelines and to the extent they see something that plugs in nicely to their business model, they’ll acquire.”
It’s important to differentiate between blockchain and crypto.
The blockchain is a distributed electronic ledger that allows all transactions such as payments, loans and contracts to be tracked in real time. Cryptocurrencies are an application of blockchain technology that take advantage of its decentralized nature to create alternative forms of money that aren’t tied to central banks. Hundreds of crypto projects have created their own currencies.
While the tech giants are practically non-existent in crypto, they’re at least paying attention to blockchain and putting a little money to work.
Microsoft has a product in its Azure cloud called blockchain as a service, which essentially hosts blockchain start-ups and workloads. Amazon Web Services was working on a similar offering with DCG as of a year ago, according to a Forbes story, though no official announcement has been made.
Most of Alphabet’s activity in the market is through its venture arm GV, which has backed start-ups including Blockchain (the company) and Ripple, a distributed payments network used by banks. Google’s AI unit DeepMind is using a blockchain-like ledger to track and protect medical data.
Apple and Facebook, meanwhile, have been near silent on the subject.