Has Facebook given up Libra?

Dominik Olech
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Mark Zuckerberg has recently posted some thoughts about the incoming decade. How do they apply to Libra and the cryptocurrency industry?

The relation between the blockchain industry and the social media giant is not an easy one. Libra, a stablecoin announced by Facebook, has met frequent problems along its way. What will the future bring for this cryptocurrency?

Libra’s journey through 2019

In the recent summary of 2019, I stated that the announcement of Libra was one of the most essential crypto news of the last 365 days. Not only has this clearly boosted the performance of Bitcoin on the market, initiating a long term bull run in the middle of the year, but it has also set a trend for stablecoins among blockchain developers. 

Yet not all voices about Facebook’s coin were positive. Many have claimed that the announced project is missing the idea of cryptocurrency because of its centralized character. Outside the industry, it caused an ongoing discussion about the legal status of digital assets. All those complications caused Libra to stuck in legislative limbo and its major partners in the fintech industry (like MasterCard, Visa, and PayPal) are retreating from the project.

Since the announcement, Libra has been facing many troubles, that undoubtedly affected the process of development. The initial enthusiasm for Facebook’s stablecoins was slowly vanishing, and the appearing news about the cryptocurrency mostly concerned another problem on Libra’s way. Eventually, we have entered the new year without even knowing the date of the launch of this already infamous cryptocurrency. What is Facebook up to in both its first blockchain project and the crypto industry in general?

Mark Zuckerberg, and his plans for the next decade

Facebook CEO, as many people around the world, was willing to share something personal at the beginning of the new year. In a lengthy post on his own social media platform, Zuckerberg talked about what he had achieved through the last year (he learned to hunt wild bears with a bow – hurray?). But more importantly, he also gave insights about his predictions (and plans) for the upcoming decade. And since he is the owner of one of the most influential companies around the globe, that news is pretty vital to the global economy.

Mark Zuckerberg basically focused on two aspects: personal and global. He began by reflecting on the growing influence of younger generations, who will soon hold power. Next, he paid attention to the importance of providing more private ways of communication on the Internet, yet without any specific references to Facebook’s own experience in that field (spoiler alert – they don’t have many).

And finally, Facebook CEO moved on to more economical and technology-related conclusions. He noticed the importance of decentralization – but not in the way related to the blockchain industry. Zuckerberg talked about ongoing decentralization in the context of small businesses, pointing at the Facebook input into their success.

Regulate yourself

At first glance, Zuckerberg didn’t have anything to say about the blockchain industry, which is odd since he intended to make a fundamental shift in the crypto world with his decentralized currency. However, one of the points of his statement seems to be related to the Libra – or, to be more specific, to the problems encountered by legal stablecoin.

Facebook CEO pointed at the importance of regulations in the field of new technologies and digital communities, saying: “I don’t think private companies should be making so many important decisions that touch on fundamental democratic values.” He agreed in his post that government legal guidance might be a solution for possible abuses concerning privacy, harmful content, or political elections. 

However, according to Zuckerberg, a better solution for dealing with that matter is the self-governance of the communities themselves, likely via social platforms, pointing at their own project named Oversight Board. No wonder Mark is in favour of such an idea – since the form of such a system would remain in the hands of the owner of social media platform. With Facebook remaining the leading player in that field, there is a risk that community voting would primarily lay under the control of one company.

The solution for the potential centralization lies in the blockchain technology. The implementation of decentralized solutions might exclude any interference from the side of third parties. Unfortunately, such a possibility didn’t occur in Mark Zuckerberg’s “to-do list” for the next decade. But it wasn’t the main absentee in his post.

Retreat (and regroup)?

Libra, one of the most endorsed Facebook’s topics of the last year, didn’t appear even once in the long post about Zuckerberg’s reflections for the next decade. The cryptocurrency, which was meant to be the revolution in financial technology sector, providing easily accessible money for everyone, has been gaining surprisingly low attention in recent weeks. It may indicate that Facebook has lowered expectations for this project.

Does it mean that Libra missed its chance, and all we can expect is the project cancellation rather than the announcement of the launch? It is a likely possibility, but the Libra Association may still have something to say. Current silence might be caused by ongoing works on the project, which must meet the expectations of both the customers and the U.S. government, which in turn isn’t eager to give a green light for this cryptocurrency yet.

Nevertheless, the upcoming months will be crucial for Libra. There is still much to be done if this currency is going to be launched, especially with the coming stablecoin from China on the horizon.

Blockchain solutions for Zuckerberg’s questions

Leaving aside the absence of Libra, Zuckerberg’s statement point to some issues where the implementation of blockchain might be helpful. Moreover, this technology is already present in many fields. For example, the privacy aspect mentioned by Facebook CEO is a popular subject of work for many cryptocurrency developers, and projects like LBRY are dedicated to creating a decentralized and comfortable space for their users. As for the decentralized governance, it is already being considered or implemented in some places, like in Thailand or West Virginia.

Will Mark Zuckerberg (and Facebook at all) use similar solutions to push the world into the direction described in his predictions? We have an entire decade to see it. Let’s hope that those implementations will go more smoothly than the process of developing Libra.

Image by Frederic Legrand – COMEO / shutterstock.com

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