CEO and Co-Founder of publicly listed cryptocurrency and Blockchain investment firm KR1 George McDonaugh takes a look at what’s motivating Facebook to launch its own cryptocurrency.
Facebook is creating its own cryptocurrency something that even those of us necking the crypto cool aid back in the early Bitcoin days never in our wildest dreams thought would happen. The details are thin on the ground but what we do know is that the asset will be called Libra, it will be a ‘stablecoin’ (ie pegged to a dollar value, backed by a basket of assets in order to prevent it from being volatile) and there are so far 28 confirmed ‘validators’. The cost to be a validator is $10m (USD) each, there’s a foundation in Switzerland and Facebook has stated that their main focus for this crypto is to help facilitate payments across the developing world.
Facebook is essentially trying to create a stable medium of exchange that can be used for making payments across its networks and therefore across borders. Think the current functionality of Wechat, Venmo and PayPal but instead of transacting pounds and dollars, users will be transacting in Facebook’s Libra.Let’s cut to the chase, Facebook (and Libra’s supporting corporations which include Ebay, Visa, Uber and PayPal) are doing this for one reason and that’s data. It will be spun as banking the unbanked, revolutionising payments and connecting the world, but don’t be fooled, this move into the murky world of cryptocurrency is about tapping new wells of data, the modern day oil.
No doubt there’ll be plenty of assertions over privacy protection and ‘decentralised’ hand waving, but this is all about Facebook enriching their reservoirs of data, knowing who you are (for real), what your buying, who you’re paying and how much you have. This is why Facebook’s Libra will not compete with Bitcoin but rather validates the underlying Blockchain technology more than ever. Bitcoin is open, borderless, permissionless, censorship resistant, publicly verifiable and immutable. Facebook’s coin cannot be any of these things because Facebook is a corporation, they have to exist within jurisdictions and comply with every rule ever devised by the legacy financial system including vetting every participant, and unlike Bitcoin’s Blockchain, Facebook cannot be neutral in regard to who is using their system.Further, adding a consortium of global companies as validators does nothing to decentralise the system. All the validators are known and as such can be fully ‘leaned on’ to adhere to the pressures that exist from the global financial systems.
So, if Bitcoin doesn’t need to worry (indeed it’s possible Libra may even help Bitcoin adoption by potentially driving millions of people to seek out what a real cryptocurrency is) whose piece of the pie is Facebook taking? You’ve guessed it, the banks. To one side of them there’s the open source, borderless Bitcoin growing in adoption every day and on the other is Facebook with their 2.3 billion users. Banks are being squeezed between two hugely powerful forces and remember Facebook have built a global phenomenon through reinventing what we’ve come to understand as a user experience. What they’ve done with interfaces, they’re going to do with money, and in that arena, the banks don’t have a chance.