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Friday, May 24, 2024

Jack Dorsey’s Square Is Now Block

Jack Dorsey is no fan of Mark Zuckerberg. He once told Rolling Stone that at dinner at Chez Zuck, the Facebook CEO served him a goat he had killed, and the meat was cold. More recently, he made fun of Zuckerberg’s metaverse ambitions. Nonetheless, however unintentionally, today the CEO of Square finds himself making a similar move to the social media mogul who changed Facebook’s name to Meta just five weeks ago.

Square is now Block. Got it? Block.

Just as Meta retained the Facebook name for its flagship product, Block will continue using Square for its “seller” business, which includes payment systems and banking products for merchants. The new name, which takes effect today—the 12th anniversary of Square’s launch—reflects the broader scope of the company’s business, which now includes the personal payment service Cash App, the music service Tidal, and a nascent crypto-based open developer platform it calls TBD54566975.

In its statement announcing the switch, Block marvels about the connotations contained in its new moniker: “Building blocks, neighborhood blocks and their local businesses, communities coming together at block parties full of music, a blockchain, a section of code, and obstacles to overcome.” Buried in the middle of that list is the one that most likely has driven the change: blockchain. Square, and particularly Dorsey, has embraced the crypto revolution, almost to the point of having a sticker on its products saying “Bitcoin Inside.” (By the way, the company’s Square Crypto division will now be called Spiral, though the company did not provide a similar word-association list for that.)

Here’s another linguistic feature: Just as with Alphabet, which made a similar move when it changed its name from Google and called its various businesses “bets,” Block will refer to its divisions as “building blocks.”

Block says that everything else at the company will be the same, with employees engaged in everything they did previously, except with new email addresses. The new corporate website will have the address of block.xyz; the seemingly preferable block.com appears to belong to a stealth cryptocurrency firm. Currently, the company’s NYSE ticker symbol SQ will remain unchanged.

Dorsey was unavailable for comment (you’d think he’d have more time after his resignation as Twitter CEO on Monday), but he gave a quote in the press release announcing the change: “Block is a new name, but our purpose of economic empowerment remains the same. No matter how we grow or change, we will continue to build tools to help increase access to the economy.”

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Actually this is the second time the company has changed its name. Originally, Dorsey named it Squirrel, inspired by a critter that dashed across the road after a brainstorming session that hatched the company. The original hardware dongle that allowed phones to accept credit-card swipes was shaped like an acorn. But another company in the payment space was already called Squirrel, and after consulting a dictionary, Dorsey settled on Square, reflecting a fair deal—and that settling debts meant you would “square up.” He didn’t need a dictionary for this new name: Satoshi Nakamoto provided it in his work based on a blockchain ledger.

As for that other name change, Dorsey’s switch only incidentally happened to, um, square with Zuckerberg’s Meta maneuver. The company says that the pivot has been in the works for almost a year, long pegged to the anniversary date.

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