Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) continues to move its crypto initiatives forward, primarily on the sly, unless they funnel a leak through either Bloomberg, the New York Times, or the Wall Street Journal. Not known for disguising its presence in a market, the social media giant has chosen to operate its highly anticipated Project Libra out of Switzerland, if recent investigative sleuthing is on the mark.
According to reports: “Facebook has reportedly set up a fintech company dubbed Libra Networks in Switzerland”. Observers believe this action is tied at the hip with the firm’s Project Libra, its effort to leverage cryptos and blockchain technology across its 2 billion plus customer base. Filings indicate that the entity will provide financial and technology services by developing related hardware and software, with a focus on the blockchain, payments, data analytics, and investing.
Switzerland is one of many countries that is competing for the attention of the crypto industry by introducing accommodative legislation and openly inviting all comers to set up shop in its homeland. Specifically in Switzerland, the town of Zug already has a reputation around the world for being known as the “Crypto Valley” of central Europe. It has the trappings of a technology center for development efforts related to the “New Age”, and while the “invites” have been directed deliberately at blockchain related projects, we presume Swiss authorities will have no problem with the cryptocurrency connotations of Project Libra, as long as a company like Facebook is behind the effort.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg has often espoused that distributed ledger technologies will play a big role in the future strategies of his firm, but he has chosen not to boast about the details of this project. From other reports, we can ascertain that:
Facebook launched Project Libra more than a year ago to allow money transfers between WhatsApp users. Over time, however, the scope of the project has expanded. That includes the decision to include e-commerce payments on Facebook and other websites as well as rewards for viewing ads, shopping online, and interacting with content.
Other details that have leaked suggest that the initial foray will be in the cross-border payment space. A stablecoin derivative, which has already been dubbed “FaceCoin”, will be the vehicle that drives the payment service through blockchain driven platforms. It is believed that a pilot test has been running in India to support the enormous diaspora of millions of Indian citizens working in the Middle East that send funds home on a regular basis. The pilot will work out the “kinks” to facilitate a launch in the latter part of 2019.
Facebook is not the only company that has been working with the WhatsApp platform to deliver a cross-border payment offering. Several crypto startups have been working in this same space for some time. Per one report: “On Sunday, Zulu Republic tweeted that they had launched a special “bot” for WhatsApp users to send and receive such currencies as Bitcoin (BTC) and Litecoin (LTC) using a new Lite.Im bot.” Its native token, “ZTX”, can also be used. There are others, too, that seek to use Facebook platforms, i.e., WhatsApp, Messenger, and Instagram, and are waiting to see if the heavyweight lowers the boom on its rivals with restrictions of some type.
As large as Facebook is, however, it is rumored to have had several problems to date. Indian authorities have been slow to endorse the domestic and cross-border service. U.S. legislators have been concerned about privacy issues, and industry recruiters have noted that Facebook is having difficulty filling many blockchain development positions, whether in the U.S., its new London center for Project Libra activities, or Dublin. Due to privacy issues, development talent apparently prefers to go with other competitors, like Amazon, Google, and Microsoft.
Even if you are a large industry player, there is always a learning curve when new technology is involved. There will be early challenges that will be addressed, and the eventual product design will be better for it. In any event, Facebook’s efforts will be demonstrably positive for all things crypto.
As we reported one week back:
Spencer Bogart, a partner at venture capital firm Blockchain Capital, recently remarked to Bloomberg that the fact that Facebook “plans to launch a bitcoin rival” has “lit a fire in the pants of every major [financial technology] and financial institution in the U.S.