There was an immediate reaction on Twitter (TWTR) to the news that this was a big steal of a top exec by Facebook. Some concluded that this hire was a sign that Facebook was about to move into payments in a big way. Others said it was a sign that Facebook was about to copy Tencent's (TCEHY) WeChat, which has been a global leader in tying their popular messaging app to payments.
None of us knows what really went down to drive Marcus's decision to leave PayPal and for Facebook to offer him a job. And we probably never will. However, this move raises more questions than it answers about the direction of both companies.
Here are some alternatives to the kneejerk reaction to the news yesterday:1. Did Marcus really leave PayPal to take this job -- or was he pushed?
After the news broke yesterday, I tweeted to ask what Marcus's PayPal legacy would look like in two years.
VC Keith Rabois immediately tweeted back: "The rise of Square and Stripe." Keith should know. He worked at Square as COO and now is a backer of Stripe. But his point is a good one: it's difficult to identify how Marcus has helped PayPal in the last three years.
When he was appointed -- after its former head Scott Thompson decamped for Yahoo! (YHOO) -- Marcus was seen as a guy who got mobile and would finally make PayPal into a mobile company. Things have improved but it's tough to see that there's been huge progress here.
Is it all his fault? Probably not.
He was hamstrung by the fact his boss, John Donahoe at eBay, refused to spin off PayPal. Maybe Donahoe was frustrated with Marcus' performance and told him to leave but that he could spin it as if he was taking another job.
2. Maybe Donahoe really wanted Bill Ready to run PayPal.
To me, Marcus' biggest accomplishment during his tenure was that he bought payment start-up Braintree, and brought on board its CEO Bill Ready. Maybe Donahoe saw Ready, not Marcus, as the guy who could finally deliver PayPal to the promised land of mobile.