Why is Big Tech frosty on blockchain?

Sometimes a thing *not* happening is newsworthy. Silicon Valley giants’ reticence to build on public chains should fit that bill.

Peter A. McKay
2 min readFeb 11, 2024
Photo by Maria Lin Kim via Unsplash

Imagine a new technology growing to trillions of dollars in market value in less than 20 years, largely without involvement by U.S.-based Big Tech. In fact, more than 70% of its valuation comes from software that’s fully open source, including even the systems’ algorithms.

To me, that sounds like a massive, historic success story. It is of course also the story of blockchain tech, dominated (so far) by the open Bitcoin and Ethereum networks.

But the story often isn’t told in quite those terms, is it?

At the very least, I believe the mainstream tech press is missing a huge story hiding in plain sight by not juxtaposing the rise of blockchain versus Big Tech’s relative reticence toward it. Something doesn’t add up there.

To be sure, Silicon Valley’s venture capital firms are heavily invested in blockchain. But it’s a markedly different story among the publicly traded, household-name tech brands that dominate users’ everyday experience of the internet.

There are a few notable exceptions in that cohort, like Meta’s stablecoin project that was eventually killed. But these outliers ultimately just underscore the general pattern of Silicon Valley’s heavyweight public companies staying away crypto.

According to CoinMarketCap, the global token market is currently worth $1.8 trillion, by the way. With a “t.” When else have we ever known Big Tech to skip a pot of money that big?

Offhand, I see two possible explanations:

The first is that Big Tech’s approach should invalidate open, decentralized tools like Bitcoin and Ethereum as consequential innovations that the rest of us should take seriously. After all, the likes of Google, Apple, and Amazon are the smartest guys in the room technically, so we should respect their judgment.


The second possible explanation is rooted more in Big Tech’s profit incentives than their technical prowess: Perhaps their neglect of public blockchains tacitly confirms that such things are their kryptonite. Not being stupid, Big Tech readily perceives that public chains’ core principle of decentralization is ultimately incompatible with their proprietary business models around hoarding user data and purposefully breaking compatibility with competitors’ products. Thus they stay away.

In its way, such reasoning would make sense for the big companies. But if that is indeed what’s going on, it’s exactly why the rest of us probably should give public blockchains a chance.

This post was adapted from my free email newsletter #w3w. To get the full version in your inbox every Sunday, including additional headlines about decentralization from around the internet, please subscribe here.



Peter A. McKay

I publish #w3w, a newsletter about decentralization. Former Head of Content & Writer Development at Capsule Social. Other priors: WSJ, Washington Post, Vice.