Apparently, Mark Zuckerberg is a man with a cryptocurrency plan. According to a BBC News report, Facebook plans to launch its highly anticipated cryptocurrency in about a dozen countries as early as Q1 2020, with possible testing to begin at the end of this year.
Inside Facebook, the cryptocurrency is reportedly being called “GlobalCoin,” which not only hints at the company’s, well, global aims but points out a missed opportunity to dub it ZuckCoin, or FaceBitCoin, or some other clever moniker. The BBC reports Facebook has already met with Mark Carney, the governor of the Bank of England, and he has sought advice from U.S. Treasury officials. It’s also in talks with money transfer services like Western Union to potentially open up GlobalCoin to people without bank accounts. On top of seeking advice from banks, Facebook also reportedly called up Zuckerberg’s old pals the Winklevoss twins, who founded the Gemini cryptocurrency exchange.
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard Facebook is working on a cryptocurrency. Late last year, Bloomberg reported the social media giant was working on a cryptocurrency for WhatsApp. Codenamed “Project Libra,” it seemed like Facebook was developing a “stablecoin”, a digital currency backed by the U.S. dollar to minimise volatility, and Facebook is aiming to target the Indian market for testing.
That tracks with the BBC report stating Facebook plans on pegging GlobalCoin to established currencies like the dollar, yen, and euro, as well as its interest in international remittances and users without bank accounts. WhatsApp currently has 1.6 billion users, many of whom in countries where not everyone has access to a bank account. For instance, WhatsApp is the most popular messaging app in India – where Facebook is reportedly keen on testing, but roughly 20 percent of the population doesn’t have a bank account, and of the percentage that does, about half of all accounts are inactive. According to a 2017 study from The World Bank, 31 per cent of adults worldwide didn’t have a bank account.
This isn’t the first time Facebook’s experimented with digital currency. Many moons ago in 2010, Facebook experimented with a currency called Credits. Designed as a safe way to pay for virtual goods or premium features, Credits failed to gain traction and shut down in 2012. But that project wasn’t on the blockchain, and as we know, putting stuff on the blockchain solves everything.
Are there concerns? Plenty. Earlier this month, the U.S. Senate and Banking committee sent Zuckerberg an open letter demanding Facebook outline how the currency works and what sort of consumer protections it intends to put in place. That’s not to mention the volume of private spending data Facebook would gain should GlobalCoin really take off – and we all know how good Facebook is at protecting your data. [BBC]