Facebook is branching into cryptocurrency, unveiling a new blockchain-based currency called Libra that could challenge bitcoin. Libra will be controlled by a nonprofit group in which Facebook will share responsibilities with companies ranging from Mastercard and PayPal to Uber and eBay.
The currency, which is still in the testing phase, is expected to launch in 2020. Facebook says Libra will have very low fees and that people using its apps will make a number of payments simply by sending a text message.
Facebook also is touting the new digital currency as a service for the 1.7 billion adults worldwide, by a World Bank estimate, who don’t have access to a bank account, which could particularly benefit women and people in developing countries.
“All over the world, people with less money pay more for financial services,” the Libra site states, citing burdens such as steep usage fees and high-interest payday loans.
“The cost of that exclusion is high — approximately 70% of small businesses in developing countries lack access to credit and $25 billion is lost by migrants every yearthrough remittance fees,” Facebook says.