After weeks of anticipation, the day has finally arrived: In a dramatic push into uncharted waters for the social media behemoth that saw Mark Zuckerberg make overtures to his former arch-nemises (the Winklevii), Facebook has finally published the white paper for its long-awaited stablecoin, "Libra".
It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that Facebook's white paper was the most hotly anticipated crypto whitepaper ever - made more so by Facebook's extreme secrecy surrounding the project, which Zuck reportedly hopes will steer the company out of a morass of scandal and into a new, even more profitable, era. But Facebook will also be expanding into a major new business (payments) just as the FTC and DoJ initiate anti-trust investigations against FB and a handful of other tech giants, and regulators on both sides of the Atlantic have already expressed some concern.
Per the white paper, Facebook’s global stablecoin will be dubbed "Libra." It will operate on its own "Libra" blockchain, and will be backed by a reserve of assets, which technically makes it a "stable coin" (not unlike Tether). The coin will be governed by a non-profit consortium, the "Libra Association," which will oversee development of the "Libra" ecosystem from Switzerland.
Per the FT, Facebook will spin off a unit called Calibra, which will be "totally separate" from FB, to manage the Libra digital wallet offering, which will be integrated into Facebook's family of apps. Facebook said that financial data gathered by Calibra wouldn't be shared without users' consent.
Some 28 partners, including Visa, Mastercard, PayPal and a smattering of others, have pledged to help build out the ecosystem and will kick in $10 million to kick start the "Libra Association" that will govern the coin, and its reserve assets.
According to the Guardian, the coin will facilitate payments across Facebook’s various platforms (including WhatsApp and Instagram), as well as a new "Libra" payments app. The coin's software will be open source according to FB, allowing developers to build out an ecosystem around it (possibly incentivized with gifts of sensitive user data.
Across the developed and developing worlds, Facebook hopes its app will help plug the "payments gap" created by 1.7 billion adults without bank accounts.
Fox Business adds:
Facebook’s new cryptocurrency platform could provide the embattled social media giant with a new revenue stream of historic proportions as it contends with a possible federal antitrust probe and continued scrutiny over its data privacy practices.
Facebook’s cryptocurrency could thrive in emerging markets, providing a more stable alternative for transferring money in areas with volatile currencies and unstable governments, according to RBC Capital Markets. The firm expects "Libra" to facilitate person-to-person payments, traditional e-commerce and spending on apps or gaming services on Facebook-owned properties.
"We believe this may prove to be one of the most important initiatives in the history of the company to unlock new engagement and revenue streams," RBC Capital Markets analysts said in a note to investors.
Facebook plans to make transactions no- or low-fee, but reportedly hopes to make money by offering loans and other financial products. Analysts have largely reacted favorably, opining that, if successful, Libra could be hugely profitable for Facebook. The new coin is set to launch early next year.
Here's a rundown, courtesy of BBG, of the highlights from the Libra paper.
- As with Bitcoin, software developers would be able to build digital wallets and other services on top of Libra.
- Unlike Bitcoin, it would be directly backed by government currencies like the dollar or euro, so it wouldn’t fluctuate wildly in value.
- To acquire Libra digital tokens, which would be dispensed through a new Facebook subsidiary called Calibra, people would probably have to show government identification. That would make it unappealing for illegal activit.
- Initially, Libra would be used for payments - but in the future, it could be used for lending and investing.Facebook hopes it will go live next year.
- The currency would be controlled by an independent nonprofit entity in Switzerland overseen by other companies.
- So far, Facebook has 27 partners, including Visa, Spotify, eBay and PayPal. That’s expected to rise to 100 next year. Each partner will be expected to invest at least $10 million.
- "It would be the most far-reaching attempt by a mainstream company to jump into the world of cryptocurrencies," Mr. Isaac and Mr. Popper write. The company hopes that Libra "could become the foundation for a new financial system not controlled by today’s power brokers on Wall Street or central banks."
Read the full white paper below: