Facebook Messenger chief explains why Facebook isn’t rushing into cryptocurrencies

Key Points
  • Facebook's VP of Messaging David Marcus joined Coinbase's board, but don't expect bitcoin payments to come to messenger anytime soon.
  • "Payments using crypto right now is just very expensive, super slow," Marcus told CNBC's Julia Boorstin in an interview at Upfront Ventures' annual summit.
  • Marcus also defended Facebook's recent decision to ban all cryptocurrency ads.
David Marcus
Michael Newberg | CNBC

Facebook's VP of Messaging David Marcus may have just joined the board of digital currency exchange Coinbase, but that doesn't mean bitcoin is about to show up on Facebook Messenger.

In fact, crypto won't have play role on his platform anytime soon, Marcus told me in an interview on stage this week at Upfront Ventures' annual summit in Los Angeles.

"Payments using crypto right now is just very expensive, super slow, so the various communities running the different blockchains and the different assets need to fix all the issues, and then when we get there someday, maybe we'll do something," said Marcus.

This skepticism is despite what Marcus says is a longtime interest in cryptocurrencies and his expertise in digital payments. He founded a mobile payments company called Zong which he sold to PayPal, becoming its president, before leaving to run messaging for Facebook.

While Marcus is wary of enabling Messenger's 1.3 billion users to pay with bitcoin, he's focused on encouraging people to exchange money. "When you want to pay someone you always have a conversation about it...Payments is really at home in a conversational environment," Marcus said. "The experience is really frictionless because it's debit card to debit card experience."

Earlier this week, Facebook banned all cryptocurrency-related ads. Marcus defended CEO Mark Zuckerberg's decision to block all ads related to the category, even though that means passing up ad revenue.

"We want to protect the community. That's job number one. All the legitimate people in the crypto world that I spoke to at least thanked me for what we just did with that move," Marcus said. "The reality is the vast majority of these ads were a scam and we cannot allow scams to exist on our platform."

Marcus left the door open to reverse course, saying "once the industry self regulates a lot better and you have better more legit products that want to be advertised on the platform. When we get to that stage, we'll figure out a way to reintroduce these things. But right now, I think the whole industry is actually very worried about what was happening because as a whole it delegitimizes the whole industry."

I asked Marcus how much cryptocurrency he owned. He said he owned some. When I asked if it was more or less than rapper 50 Cent who admitted to forgetting about a bitcoin stash now worth millions, he said no comment.