Facebook has confirmed that it and a group of 27 other companies plan to launch their own cryptocurrency by the first half of 2020. Libra, announced today, is being described by the consortium as a technology that will enable “a simple global currency and financial infrastructure that empowers billions of people“.
The Libra Association, which will collectively govern the project, will (according to the white paper released today) consists of ” geographically distributed and diverse businesses, nonprofit and multilateral organizations, and academic institutions“. So far, in addition to Facebook, the Libra Association includes Mastercard, PayPal, Visa, eBay, Lyft, Spotify, Uber, and Vodafone.
The group is touting the technology as a way for people who have internet access but no means of entry to the financial system to gain access to it:
The advent of the internet and mobile broadband has empowered billions of people globally to have access to the world’s knowledge and information, high-fidelity communications, and a wide range of lower-cost, more convenient services. These services are now accessible using a $40 smartphone from almost anywhere in the world.
This connectivity has driven economic empowerment by enabling more people to access the financial ecosystem. Working together, technology companies and financial institutions have also found solutions to help increase economic empowerment around the world. Despite this progress, large swaths of the world’s population are still left behind: 1.7 billion adults globally remain outside of the financial system with no access to a traditional bank, even though one billion have a mobile phone.
The currency will be underpinned by a scratch-built blockchain called, imaginatively, the Libra Blockchain. Unlike most cryptocurrencies, the Libra Blockchain will also be backed by “a reserve of real assets” that will theoretically provide Libra with “low volatility, wide global acceptance, and fungibility“.
As part of launching Libra, Facebook will also be launching a new subsidiary called Calibra, with its first product being a “digital wallet for Libra“. This wallet will be made available in Messenger, WhatsApp and as its own app. According to Facebook, the wallet will allow you to save and spend Libra, in addition to sending it instantly at “low to no cost“.
With the amount that people trust Facebook, I’m sure this will be received well.