Amazon is apparently working on “a Blockchain ledger, billing and reconciliation systems to provide data transparency on transnational financial data” for advertising.
That’s according to a job posting for a Senior Software Engineer to join their new team in Boulder, CO, United States.
It appears however Coindesk reached out to them and were told the team “doesn’t have anything to share at this time.”
So the same ad now says: “Our new team in Boulder, CO is looking for a Sr Software Engineer to work within our Advertising FinTech team focused on a financial ledger, billing and reconciliation systems to provide data transparency on transnational financial data.”
You might have missed the difference. Initially the ad said “a Blockchain ledger.” Now it says “a financial ledger.”
Not a huge difference, except everyone has a rough idea of what a blockchain ledger is, while pretty much no one has a clue of what a financial ledger is. So why did they change it?
Pretentious Amazon or Secret Out?
Amazon is not the first company to shy away from using the word blockchain, let alone – god forbid – bitcoin.
Samsung launched a whole blockchain integration of sorts for their phone, and yet barely mentioned it once during their official presentation.
Maybe they don’t want to be seen hyping, or maybe the 50 year old IT boss thinks all this new tech stuff is stupid rubbish by silly kids with their coded ledgers and all that nonsense.
So the HR and marketing team as well as young coders may have thought: wow, cool. While when stuffy old mustached men were told about it back at the office, maybe there was a bit of shouting.
Or perhaps they’d rather not have this much spotlight. It is a new team. It is presumably a very experimental team, so who wants to now deal with media speculation of whether it will work or the rumor mill that can turn it into Amazon to buy one trillion bitcoins.
Yet the cat is now out of the bag, so can this “totally not a blockchain” financial ledger actually work?
Blockchain Ads, Has The World Gone Mad?
Yes grandpa. Completely lost it. Hold on, let’s reverse it. “So in your day, you didn’t know whether someone actually bought a book after clicking your affiliate link?”
Nope, had no clue. Could see how many clicked it, but how many actually bought it… no idea.
So if you were paid based on purchases, and if you had no clue whether 100 books were bought or none, then why wouldn’t they just lie and say none… or maybe ok 1 to make it a bit credible?
Well… they probably did son. You know, a lot was based on trust back then. Nowadays with your blockchains and all that stuff you just know don’t you.
Affiliate advertising is an easy one, but even if you take something like adsense, which kind of permeates everything, as a publisher you have no clue just how much the advertiser paid Google, and thus what percentage you actually got.
Google says it’s something like 70%, but have they ever even been audited? Who is to say some employer didn’t shave some percentages.
The entire advertising business operates on a lot of trust, but can
the blockchain this financial ledger actually work?
It is probable Amazon shied away from the mention of blockchain because they’re not serious.
Maybe it was just a way to appear cool or attract top talent, with whoever was hired then finding out it’s kind of nothing like a blockchain.
That’s the approach many are taking to the technology. Just have a shared database sort of thing and call it a blockchain.
Because it’s easy and someone has to start somewhere. In addition it does offer a bit more than otherwise, and you can look like you’re keeping up.
To do it properly, however, can be very hard, if at all possible, and if we go by history, it is probably quite unlikely it would come from something like Amazon because it would require real innovation and actual thinking.
Not to disparage, but business pressures necessarily force one to keep moving to address the trillion things that need be addressed with little time to… well what peasants would call gazing at the stars.
Google adsense is a server. An actual physical “laptop” somewhere where all the ad data and information is downloaded and stored with payments then pretty much sort of automatically too based on the code running on this server.
To decentralize this server and open it to all so as to remove any trust element is pretty hard, but not impossible.
It’s hard because there’s an input. An advertiser right now enters some ad image and then completes a form. This then goes to the centralized server which stores it, and serves it. If you are to properly blockchain it then this order would have to go to many nodes who store it and then through some sort of consensus formation serve it.
The conceptual design of such system would have to re-imagine and re-think pretty much everything. There would have to be a browser created for the very purpose of this ad focused blockchain. You’d have to get cookies to speak to all these nodes. You’d have to get a way of validating the entered form, tracking impressions, and automatically taking payment.
You’d have to zk-snark or stark for privacy. You’d need a way of getting people to accept and reject the ad, with all this somehow in a decentralized fashion – through the node – and through that node somehow update all other nodes while having a way of rejecting “invalid” acceptances or offers.
Basically, it would be a work of passion. A challenging intellectual endeavor for someone who kind of lives for the sole purpose of solving this sort of problem and happens to have the knowledge or insight on how to do it.
But that’s kind of the end result. That’s the full trustless finished product. To get there presumably one has to start with a “financial” ledger. You know, a bit of decoration to the current stale ad servers. Then build on top while hoping one doesn’t end in a maze.
Probably working on the same problem there are the garage basement dwellers hungry for Amazon’s trillions and perhaps full of free time to play with the very complex maths that would probably be required to address this rocket science.
So we can’t blame Amazon, except that they could have accepted bitcoin already. The pictured Bezos would have done so back in 1999.