Facebook has launched a white paper today for its planned cryptocurrency, Libra
11 things you need to know:
Libra’s mission is to enable a simple global currency and financial infrastructure that empowers billions of people.
Libra is a stablecoin which will launch in H1 2020. This will be fully backed by a reserve of real assets (a basket of bank deposits and short-term government securities). The balance of the basket can be changed if needed to offset major price fluctuations.
Facebook won’t control Libra. They get one vote like other founding members of the independent Libra Association headquartered in Switzerland. This provides a level of decentralization and they hope to have 100 well geographically distributed and diverse members by launch. Other founding members include MasterCard, Visa, PayPal and Uber as well as not-for-profits such as Women’s World Banking and academic institutions. They have all invested $10million each.
It is built on the Libra blockchain which is open-source and any developer can build smart contracts using the Move code language. Move was created to prevent assets from being cloned, to facilitate exchange into fiat and to make it easier to write blockchain code that follows an author’s intention without introducing unintended bugs. The prototype of the blockchain – the testnet – launched today so it’s in beta mode until the launch in H1 2020.
The Libra blockchain is managed by nodes, which are servers that help operate the blockchain. Each founding member operates a validator node. The blockchain follows a Byzantine Fault Tolerance (BFT) consensus approach which means that only two-thirds of the nodes need to come to consensus that the transaction is legitimate and for it to be executed and written in the blockchain. Transactions incur a tiny cost to pay for ‘gas’ that covers the cost of transferring funds – similar to Ethereum.
Currently, the Libra blockchain is ‘permissioned’ i.e. only entities that fulfil certain requirements can participate in the group that governs the blockchain. The goal is to move to a permission-less system in 5 years based on proof-of-stake. This will protect against attacks by distributing control, facilitating competition and lowering the barrier to entry. The aim is for 20% of votes in the Libra Association to come from node operators based on how much Libra they hold rather than being founding members.
Facebook has launched a new subsidiary called Calibra. It’s first product will be a digital wallet so people can save, send and spend Libra. The wallet will be available in Messenger, WhatsApp and as a standalone app. It is expected to launch in 2020.
Facebook has said that they will ensure that Calibra protects users’ privacy by never mingling Libra payments with Facebook data so it cannot be used for ad targeting etc.
The Libra Association will encourage the listing of Libra on multiple regulated electronic exchanges around the world.
The Libra Association will also work to sign up businesses to accept Libra for payment and will work on programmes to encourage more developers and merchants to work with them. It plans to use incentives – probably Libra coins – to pay node operators when they sign up people to use Libra. Companies earning these incentives can either keep them or pass them onto their users in the form of free Libra coins or discounts.
You will spend and own Libra through Libra wallets such as Facebook’s own Calibra wallet, but also we expect others to build compatible wallets including Association members like PayPal or Spotify. Their goal is to make sending or paying money as easy as sending a Facebook message.
This is a seismic moment for global finance.
It is the first time that we have seen a tech giant and one of the FAANGS make a significant move into finance using crypto by launching a decentralized blockchain which will be available to billions of people.
We are pleased to see that it is open source and decentralized.
We look forward to listing Libra on eToroX, our crypto exchange, and eToro.com our trading and investment platform with over 10 million registered users across 140 countries.
We believe that this is just the beginning. We expect other tech giants to follow suit helping to realize the potential for blockchain to disrupt traditional financial services.
eToro will continue to play a key role in this revolution as we work to open up money to everyone around the world.
With over 2.5 billion people unbanked in the world, and the majority of the global population using less liquid or inefficient local currencies, there is a great technological opportunity to connect billions of people to one economy through a currency powered by technology.
With 2 billion users, Facebook has the potential to create one of the largest financial platforms in the world.
Crypto adoption is about more than money. It’s about global and local politics and the separation of state and money. It can be a powerful tool – hopefully for good.
Facebook’s Libra could mean greater financial inclusion and greater access to the digital economy.
Libra’s mission echoes that of eToro’s GoodDollar. The difference is that GoodDollar will distribute money using the principle of universal income (UBI). GoodDollar is 100% not for profit.
A remaining weakness of the crypto ecosystem is the usability and user experience (UX) which is still quite technical. There are a lot of startups working on creating a better UX for crypto and we expect this to evolve quickly as we move closer to mass adoption.