On June 18, Facebook introduced its own Libra cryptocurrency. The company received support from Visa, Mastercard, PayPal, Uber, eBay, Farfetch and other financial and technology companies. Libra’s global launch will take place in the first quarter of 2020, and testing will begin at the end of 2019.
Facebook’s cryptocurrency project was launched about a year ago when the company hired former president of PayPal and Facebook Messenger vice president David Marcus to manage.
The team also included Coinbase employees, former Instagram vice president Kevin Vale, and in early 2019, the Chainpace project team. Christian Catalini, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, became the project’s chief economist.
A total of about 100 people are working on the project now, while the company constantly hires new people — Facebook has posted 28 vacancies related to the blockchain.
Unlike the open culture of Facebook, the cryptocurrency project team keeps any information in secret and works in a separate building.
Initially, BBC assumed that the cryptocurrency would be called GlobalCoin, but The Information and TechCrunch say about a different name — Libra. In May 2019, Facebook registered Libra Networks, a financial company in Switzerland, and bought the brand from a startup of the same name.
The main interest in the crypto project was shown personally by Mark Zuckerberg, despite skepticism from the operating and financial directors of Facebook.
Zuckerberg chose the most expensive of the three investment scenarios, and the payment system inside Facebook fits into the statements of Zuckerberg that all money transfers should be no more difficult than messages sending in the messenger.
Libra Token and its Use
Facebook cryptocurrency is tied to a currency basket and low-risk securities, and not to a single currency. This will eliminate course jumps, like other cryptocurrencies.
This was confirmed by the head of Facebook for financial services and payment partnerships in Northern Europe Laura McCracken in a conversation with the WirtschaftsWoche German magazine.
The company integrates cryptocurrency not only in Facebook but also in Messenger and WhatsApp, as well as in partner sites. Employees of the company will be given the opportunity to receive part of their salary in cryptocurrency.
In December 2018, the Bloomberg edition reported that Libra will be used to transfer money between users in messengers. In February 2019, The New York Times told about the change of plans and the desire of Facebook to sell coins to users, as well as to negotiate with crypto exchanges.
The company plans to launch “Crypto ATMs” — ATMs for the sale and purchase of Libra offline.
Facebook is also negotiating with sellers who will accept tokens for payment, and is considering the possibility of paying users for viewing advertisements and online purchases for a similar with retail stores loyalty system, Guardian writes.
It is noted separately that Facebook will not use the payment system for advertising targeting.
Who will Manage the Cryptocurrency?
The company takes into account its negative reputation in the field of personal data processing and understands that the project’s ambitions to control online payments can scare users away.
To defend against regulators, to reduce the centralization of cryptocurrency and to avoid the influence of negative reputation, Facebook will transfer control over Libra to the Libra Association independent fund. Sunita Parasuraman, the former head of treasury operations on Facebook, will lead the fund, — The Information reports.
The Block edition has received Libra’s Facebook marketing materials and found out that there are 29 companies in the consortium. In total, Facebook counts on attracting 100 members to the Libra Association in order to fulfill a plan to attract $ 1 billion of investments to ensure the stability of the cryptocurrency.
Libra’s partners include eBay, Uber, Lyft, Spotify, Coinbase crypto-exchange, Vodafone telecom giant, Mastercard, Visa, Paypal, PayU, Stripe payment systems and other organizations. Each investor contributes $ 10 million to gain access to the network and manage their own site.
Why Facebook Needs Libra
With the help of Libra, the company plans to completely rebuild its own infrastructure and combine WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Instagram under one platform, – The New York Times writes. The total audience of potential users of the token is 2.7 billion people.
Facebook is developing its own payment system to integrate it into applications of partners, stores and financial organizations, as well as on websites — just like the Facebook profile is currently used for authorization on various platforms without having to register and create an account.
The system of rewarding users for social network activity, viewing ads and interacting with content serves as a tool that will reduce the level of criticism of Facebook about making money on user data and improve their interaction with content, — according to The New York Times.
It will also strengthen the core business of Facebook — its own payment system will improve the understanding of what products and brands customers like and help to more accurately evaluate, rank and target advertising.
Creating your own cryptocurrency may be Facebook’s attempt to enter the mobile payment market and take a leading position on it, – David Martin says, the investment director of Blockforce Capital financial company.
Libra can become a powerful payment tool in emerging markets, for example, in Venezuela, where the purchasing power of fiat currencies is unstable. Thanks to Libra, citizens of such countries will be able to get access to a more reliable financial platform than the national currency, financial and cryptocurrency expert Caitlin Long writes in Forbes.
No less attractive for Facebook can be the domestic market, in which only 44% of the population use a smartphone for payment. With its user base, the company can establish itself as a national and then world leader in the field of mobile payments, — David Martin considers.
Usually, banks, payment systems and networks charge a commission of 2-3% for each transaction that sellers pay. But, according to the source of The Wall Street Journal, Facebook does not plan to take a commission for operations with Libra, it is unclear how the company will earn on cryptocurrency.
Thus, the company will create an increased interest of sellers online and increase the audience of users of its platform before monetizing it.
Moreover, Facebook can monetize the user base through advertising and make money on a basket of currencies and securities that provide cryptocurrency — according to Caitlin Long, Facebook can receive about $ 235 million for every $ 10 billion in deposits.
Problems with the Regulators
Regulators in countries, where there are no clear rules for working with cryptocurrencies, can stand in the way of launching Libra. In May 2019, the US Senate Banking Committee wrote an open letter to Facebook, demanding the disclosure of the project details. Senators are interested in how the company will process the personal data of users.
Facebook representatives are also negotiating with the Commodity Futures Trading Commission to determine if the cryptocurrency falls under jurisdiction. The company held several meetings with the US Ministry of Finance, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney and top managers at Western Union.