After limited updates on its cryptocurrency project over the last year, since it was first announced by The Social Network, Facebook is now reportedly ramping up its plans, with more information on the project - codenamed 'Libra' - believed to be forthcoming later this month.
There are no official details, but TechCrunch has reported that Facebook will release an overview of the specifics on June 18th, with the launch of a whitepaper that will explain how Facebook's on-platform currency will work. The currency is now believed to be called 'Project Libra' - or 'Libra' for short - as opposed to 'GlobalCoin', 'ZuckerBucks', 'FaceCoin' or any other variation you may have heard.
The Information has additionally reported that:
"The digital token is designed to function as a borderless currency, without transaction fees, and will be aggressively marketed in developing nations where government-backed currencies are more volatile."
That's largely in line with what's been hinted at previously, that Facebook will follow the same game plan as WeChat has in China, in order to transform WeChat into that nation's dominant payment platform.
WeChat is now used by more than 900 million Chinese people daily, and facilitates over $10 trillion in payments each year. WeChat's strategy was to first target funds transfers, by making it easy to move money around within the app, and then add in more options for users to spend on the platform by facilitating an ever-increasing range of regular payment processes.
Facebook, reportedly, will target India first, with a specific focus on funds transfers via remittance - i.e. money sent home to family members. By making that process fee-free and simple, Facebook will look to build on its internal funds transfer process, with a view, eventually, to keeping that money on platform, and facilitating an increasing amount of purchases in-app.
"Facebook’s cryptocurrency will be transferrable with zero fees via Facebook products, including Messenger and WhatsApp. Facebook is working with merchants to accept the token as payment, and may offer sign-up bonuses. The Information also reports Facebook also wants to roll out physical devices for ATMs so users can exchange traditional assets for the cryptocurrency."
The Information also reports that Facebook will allow employees to accept the new coin as salary, reinforcing their confidence in the project (though there's no confirmation that Facebook employees are doing so as yet).
The project has the potential to be one of the most significant shifts in Facebook's history, facilitating a whole new element within The Social Network that would enable purchases, exchanges and more. It could essentially build The Social Network into a critical utility, where you could do everything from paying bills, to buying clothes, to paying for Marketplace items, etc.
Everything would be housed within Facebook itself, which may not seem so transformative right now, but it would mean, if successful, that a huge amount of your daily transactions could be taken care of within the app, quickly, easily and, at least at this stage, fee free. Which could actually make it cheaper overall.
You can see, then, how it could form the next big shift for the platform, and for digital commerce more broadly. There's still a way to go, and Facebook will likely roll it out in stages. But this is a key area to watch.
We'll keep you updated as more information comes to hand.