Facebook is reportedly developing its own cryptocurrency in an attempt to go toe-to-toe with other online payment platforms like Apple Pay (and they could give some away for free).
Rumors of Facebook’s crypto platform first surfaced last year, when Bloomberg reported that the social media juggernaut was developing a “stablecoin” (a cryptocurrency backed by the U.S. dollar) that users could send to each other via WhatsApp. Now it seems that Facebook has bigger plans for it.
The social media giant has reportedly been in talks with “dozens” of online retailers and financial firms to help launch the cryptocurrency platform, according to The Wall Street Journal. The goal, it seems, is to develop a full-fledged payment system akin to current offerings like Apple Pay or PayPal.
Facebook has been working on the project, codenamed Project Libra, for at least a year now. And the system won’t just be restricted to first-party platforms, users will be able to check out and make purchases with it on other websites, too. WSJ says the checkout option will be similar to the ability to use Facebook to log in and create accounts on third-party websites.
The Menlo Park firm has been going all-in on the payment system for quite a while now, too. A Coindesk report from earlier this year suggested that Facebook is seeking up to $1 billion in funding for the project and has bumped up its in-house blockchain team. Facebook has also talked to existing financial firms like Visa and MasterCard.
Additionally, Facebook is reportedly planning to give away some of its cryptocurrency for free — at least initially — in an effort to entice users to adopt the platform. Users of Facebook’s currency could stand to earn fractions of a coin when they interact with content, watch ads or use Facebook’s platforms to shop, the WSJ notes.
Presumably, the fact that the payment system will be built around a cryptocurrency will tie into Facebook’s larger goals to take a page from Apple’s book and give its platforms a privacy overhaul. But for a company beset by privacy and data scandals, it may just be an uphill battle.
Still, Facebook’s cryptocurrency has the potential to gain a lot of ground if the company does it right. By last count, Facebook has roughly 2 billion monthly active users on its platforms.