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Facebook-backed Libra cryptocurrency is scaling back its plans

After months without any updates, Facebook’s planned cryptocurrency project Libra announced significant changes to scale back its global payment system. 

The Libra Association, which is comprised of Facebook and a diverse lineup of businesses and nonprofit organizations, announced several updates to the project. Most notably, the association is shifting from creating an open global financial network to instead offering both single-currency and multi-currency coins that would be tied to local real-world currencies. 

Other updates include a network-level system around anti-money laundering and replacing the initially planned permission-less system with a market-driven network that is open and competitive.

David Marcus, who heads Facebook’s side of the development of the cryptocurrency, tweeted Thursday that he is excited about the progress that has been made. 

Marcus said only 10% of the Libra Association’s funding comes from Facebook and that other members have stepped up in a big way. There are currently 22 members in the Libra Association, which include Lyft, Uber, Spotify, Shopify, Coinbase, and more. 

A spokesperson from the Libra Association told Digital Trends that it remains committed to the goal of being ready to launch Libra in 2020.

Facebook’s Libra was announced last June and was projected to be ready by this year. However, the program has been met with widespread criticism. 

Lawmakers have questioned if Facebook having a currency is a good idea, with both Republicans and Democrats attacking the plan since its inception last summer. Regulators have also questioned Libra’s initial plans.

Facebook Libra
Anadolu Agency / Getty Images

Beyond lawmakers, many of Libra’s initial partners appear uncertain about the cryptocurrency’s chances. In October, PayPal decided to end its participation in the Libra Association following regulatory scrutiny from lawmakers in both the U.S. and Europe.

Visa, Mastercard, eBay, Stripe, Vodafone, and Argentine e-commerce giant Mercado Pago have all since pulled out of the project. 

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg testified before Congress in October about Libra, defending the idea but acknowledging the struggles left to overcome. 

“I understand we’re not the ideal messenger right now. We’ve faced a lot of issues over the past few years, and I’m sure people wish it was anyone but Facebook putting this idea forward,” he said in his testimony.

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