Facebook launches own cryptocurrency
On the basis that if they'll trust you with their cat videos they'll trust you with their money, Facebook has announced it will launch its own cryptocurrency called Libra.
Facebook also announced a swag of partners in the venture and is launching with support from PayPal, Visa and Mastercard on the payments side and Vodafone, Uber and Spotify from a retail perspective.
Customers will be able to give Facebook actual money and in return receive Libra digital coins to spend on taxi rides and music. Later no doubt other services will come along as well. Facebook will develop the technology behind the scheme and is seeking around $1 billion in backing to do so.
Facebook says the emphasis for the scheme is as a global currency which means no more pesky money transfer fees when converting currency. Of course, customers will have to convert their pesos, yen, dong and pounds into Libra in order to use the service - no doubt a small fee will be applied to that trade.
In order to avoid suggestions that this is yet more of a Facebook data land grab, the company says it will set up a not-for-profit organisation to oversee the currency and base it in Switzerland. Facebook has set up a new subsidiary, Calibra, to develop the technology.
However, all that's unlikely to stop regulators around the world from taking a very close look at the scheme and its potential implications in terms of privacy, money-laundering and tax avoidance.
The currency will be based on blockchain technology and Facebook hopes to avoid the wild fluctuations of both value and public support which have hampered early efforts like Bitcoin.
Facebook expects the deployment to take between six and 12 months.
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