Apr 8, 2022 - Economy

Web2 giants playing catch-up on cryptocurrency

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The internet oligarchs, referred to now as Web2, are playing catch-up with cryptocurrencies — tentatively tiptoeing into the kiddie pool with waders on — floaties, too.

Why it matters: These companies have huge networks and if one of them finds a way for crypto to complement their business, they could switch on millions of new users with the stroke of a digital pen.

What they're saying: "The market size is too big to ignore now," Electric Capital managing partner Avichal Garg, an alum of both Facebook and Google, told Axios. "Everyone under 30 is doing this so, to stay relevant, they have to."

  • Garg is now managing partner at Electric Capital, which recently raised two new crypto-focused funds with $1 billion total committed for digital money, DAOs and DeFi.

Details: Twitter made a special emoji for #bitcoin forever ago. Recently, it has offered a tipping function in bitcoin. Plus, users who want to show off a favorite NFT can verify they own it.

  • Ebay makes NFTs available to buy on the site (but don't look for any of these to be the next Bored Apes).
  • Paypal might launch its own stablecoin, a cryptocurrency designed to track the price of regular money (probably the dollar).
  • Reddit, the so-called front page of the internet, had been the top spot for crypto conversation until Twitter usurped it. Nevertheless, these days, it is slowly experimenting with tokenizing community points.

For the simple stuff, users can buy and hold bitcoin on Cash app (which earned it $46 million in profit for Q4 2021). On Paypal they can buy bitcoin, bitcoin cash, ether and litecoin.

  • For those holding, both Robinhood and Cash App's owner, Block, Inc, have made noises about making a better crypto wallet, for folks who don't want to trust a third-party.

Twitter told Axios that there will be more to come.

  • "Crypto, like Twitter, operates without global barriers and we are excited to incorporate it more into our products and infrastructure. This is just the start,” Esther Crawford, from Twitter's product team, said via a spokesperson.

Yes, but: It's not all been sparkles and light on the old-fashioned web.

  • Telegram, the messaging app with more people on it than live in the United States, tried to launch a cryptocurrency long before Facebook, and it got shot down first.
  • Microsoft has been nosing around in crypto since forever. In 2015, it launched a blockchain-as-a-service product. In 2021, it quietly backed away (Google seems to be stepping into the space that Microsoft vacated).
  • Discord. The forum for gamers vaguely hinted at some crypto integration and got scared off almost immediately.

The most epic crypto flameout in Web2 award — without a question — goes to the company now known as Meta, which launched Libra, changed it to Diem, and then finally sold it for parts in February.

Bottom line: Old companies always have a tough time with the new thing, but it's nice to see them try.

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