According to people familiar with the situation, Alphabet Inc., Google’s parent company, is developing its own blockchain-based distributed digital ledger that third parties can use to post and verify transactions.
Several people in Google’s infrastructure group, which reports to cloud chief Diane Greene, have been working with blockchain protocols in recent months, according to another person familiar with the company. Other Google insiders have recently pointed out that the cloud business is a natural place for blockchain-related services.
It’s certainly not a surprise Google is interested: the market for blockchain products and services is expected to grow from $706 million last year to more than $60 billion in 2024, according to WinterGreen Research.
As of late, the internet giant has been acquiring and investing in startups with digital ledger expertise. Many of these deals haven’t been announced, the sources noted. Still, Alphabet was a leading corporate investor in the field last year, ahead of Bank of America, Citigroup Inc., and Goldman Sachs Group Inc., according to research firm CB Insights.
Although the timing of any product release is unclear, the company plans to offer this blockchain service to differentiate its cloud service from rivals. It will also provide a “white-label” version that other companies can run on their own servers. Those who spoke about these developments asked not to be identified because the company isn’t ready to make an announcement yet.
“Like 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,” a Google spokesman said.
Blockchain-based Google Cloud
It was in 2016 that Google started a trial for developers testing blockchain services on its cloud. The company is now exploring much more expansive ways to deploy the technology, the people said.
To build its ledger, Google has looked at technology from the Hyperledger consortium, but it could opt for another variant that may be easier to scale to run millions of transactions: Sridhar Ramaswamy, Google’s advertising chief, said at a recent conference that his division has a “small team” looking at blockchain, but noted the existing core technology can’t handle a lot of transactions quickly.
Traditionally, when Alphabet wants to keep up with emerging technology, it often backs startups in the field and makes small acquisitions to recruit talent. So far, GV — Alphabet’s venture capital arm — has invested in wallet service Blockchain Luxembourg, financial transactions network Ripple, cryptocurrency asset management platform LedgerX, and international payments provider Veem, according to CB Insights.
“You’re going to see an unbelievable amount of R&D expenditures go into this,” said Jeff Richards, a managing partner at venture firm GGV Capital. “Everybody learned from the internet and mobile that you can’t afford to wait.”