Rumors have swirled for some time about a Facebook cryptocurrency and now it's official. It's called Libra and its lofty mission is similar to that of other digital currencies that have come before it, to "reinvent money" and "transform the global economy." At the same time, Facebook is sharing the wider plans for Calibra, a newly-formed subsidiary in charge of blockchain and financial services products going forward.
Calibra's first order of business is a digital wallet product that will exist as a standalone app as well as within Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, due for launch in 2020. The new app and currency will hope to reach a wide audience, including the many users of Facebook's services in developed countries as well as the roughly 50% of adults around the world who don't have a bank account of any kind. Libra is being positioned as a global currency available to everyone, with fast, secure transactions the major selling point.
The Calibra app will be the place to save Libra and easily send it to just about anyone with a phone. According to the site, Libra is backed by a reserve that should allow it to remain more stable than some other cryptocurrencies, potentially enticing more users. The usual security measures are promised, including the same protection systems put in place by traditional banks for verification and fraud prevention.
It sounds like the Calibra app is still relatively early in development and could change somewhat before it goes live next year, but forming a whole new subsidiary is likely a wise move for Facebook. Confidence in the company's privacy practices are not exactly at an all-time high, so distancing themselves even slightly from the financial services they offer is probably a good idea. It will be interesting to see if it's enough to convince people around the world to buy into the Calibra project — time will almost certainly tell.