General, Cryptocurrencies

What is GlobalCoin and when will it launch? Everything you need to know about Facebook's new cryptocurrency

Ben Weiss, Wednesday, 29 May 2019

GlobalCoin

Satoshi Nakamoto can’t have known the colossal affect their (Nakamoto's identity is still unknown) creation, Bitcoin, would have caused back when it was launched in 2009. Since then, it has driven up unprecedented speculation and popularity. And now the world’s eighth richest man is delving into the crypto world, as Mark Zuckerberg leads Facebook towards releasing Libra - formally known as 'GlobalCoin.' But what is it, how will it work, and will it be successful? Here’s everything you need to know about Facebook's new digital currency.

Libra is the name of the proposed cryptocurrency that Facebook are intending to release. Although not too much has been revealed at this point about Libra, it’s clear the social media giant is well into the process of making this idea come to fruition. Zuckerberg has recently had a meeting with Bank of England Governor, Mark Carney, regarding the plausibility of the imminent crypto. Meetings have also taken place regarding operational and regulatory issues with US Treasury officials, as well as payment providers Mastercard and Visa. 

A number of companies are already on board with the new crypto. 

GlobalCoin tweet

 

The plans have long been in the making though, and Facebook have even tried (but ultimately failed) to launch its own digital currency before in the form of Facebook Credits. Unbelievably, the initiative was launched just a few months after Bitcoin recorded its first client. Given the fact that Facebook Credits are now worthless, it’s not as surprising to hear they company pulled the plug on its digital currency just a couple of years after its inception.

When is Libra going to be launched? 

Libra is going to be launched in 2020 in ‘about a dozen countries.’ Testing for the crypto is scheduled to begin in the fourth quarter of 2019. Little else is being said about Facebook’s plans with what’s internally being referred to as Project Libra, but more information is expected to be released over the summer.

What is the purpose of Libra?

The purpose of Libra is to allow for easy payments within Facebook, WhatsApp and Messenger, as well as payments outside the Facebook ecosystem. The name it was previously known by (GlobalCoin) implies scalability on a ‘global’ basis, so the ambition at Facebook is evidently high. It seems Zuckerberg and co. are seriously looking to challenge the likes of Bitcoin and establish GlobalCoin as a more efficient and safer form of the popular cryptocurrency.

Facebook has said that 'almost anybody' with a smartphone can use the currency. It's hoped that it will be able to be used for every-day transactions, and with ride-share giants Uber and Lyft already backing Libra, it seems that's at least one aspect of our lives where Libra payments will be accepted. 

How will Libra work? 

The exact logistics are not yet known, but from the information that has already been released Libra looks set to mirror the likes of Bitcoin. Facebook has confirmed that it will work via its own blockchain, meaning transactions will be verified via complex mathematically solutions. 

There has been talk of physical ATMs where Libra can be withdrawn from, but the primary method of purchase will be online. The currency can then be stored on Facebook's version of a crypto wallet - named Calibra. Smartphones must also have access to Libra currency in some form due to Facebook's proposition of making Libra accessible to the majority. 

What is a cryptocurrency?

We know Libra is a cryptocurrency, but what exactly does that mean? A cryptocurrency is a digital currency where transactions are verified via encrypted cryptography, that also acts as a regulator for the generation of units. In essence, they are usually decentralised (have no regulatory central bank) and are primarily used for online transactions. Although token coins have been made, cryptocurrencies have no physical form.

Bitcoin was the first cryptocurrency to be developed. It was created in 2009 by someone using the alias Satoshi Nakamoto – to this date their exact identity is a mystery. How Bitcoin actually works is very clever. All Bitcoin transactions are sent to the blockchain network, where they become widely visible. Powerful computers are then able to validate the transaction, and once completed it becomes part of the blockchain and cannot be altered in any way. The reward for validating a transaction is a certain number of Bitcoins – currently 12.5 Btc. This number is halved as the supply of unmined Bitcoins falls, with the mining reward initially being 50 Btc.

Bitcoin has been so popular due to its unique nature as a currency that is not centrally regulated. As we saw when the 2017 bubble burst, its price can completely crash at any moment, and there’s little anyone can really do about it. Bitcoin is at the entire mercy of natural market forces in the form of investor sentiment and nothing else. This is similar to other altcoins, but the fact that Bitcoin was first to the party means it’s seen as the staple cryptocurrency. As a result of these factors, it’s by far the most valuable crypto, with a current market price of around $8,700 for just one Btc.

Some altcoins, a term used to describe all cryptos apart from Bitcoin, are also very popular. Ripple, Ethereum and Litecoin are the most well-known, but there are thousands of altcoins available. Many of them are bound in a way to Bitcoin, with the founding crypto being the ambassador for the industry. If it succeeds, it can pave the way for other altcoins to be embraced into society. Were Bitcoin to fail, it would not bode well for altcoins - if the most popular, well-known and most commonly traded crypto has failed why would any other succeed in the near future?

Libra v Bitcoin: What’s the difference

  • Libra is centralised. 
  • Libra is backed by a number of payment services and large corporations.
  • Libra already has an incredibly large potential user base (when Bitcoin started the term 'cryptocurrency didn't even exist), with over 2.38 billion monthly active users on Facebook.
  • Libra is set to be more accessible than Bitcoin in terms of both online purchasing, and physical purchasing. 
  • Libra will not face predetermined phenomenon that may severely interfere with its price,  such as Bitcoin's reoccurring 'halving.'
  • Libra will not be able to be mined, and instead will simply be purchased. 

A main, and highly significant, difference between Libra and Bitcoin is centralisation. Where Bitcoin is purposely not centralised or regulated, Facebook is looking to be transparent, backed by banks and governments and pegged to actual currencies such as the USD or JPY. This means that sentiment alone will not alter price, as 1 Libra will have corresponding amount to regular currencies and that amount won’t change as freely as Bitcoin’s price.

Secondly, Libra looks set to be widely accepted as a form of payment in society. Bitcoin on the other hand, despite being accepted by some independent shops, is almost exclusively used as an investment asset. 

A final main difference between the two cryptos will be the accessibility of Libra. Where with Bitcoin, purchasing it requires opening an account with certain exchanges - a process that can be long and tedious - Facebook's Libra will be available from any Facebook-run app. This means by simply accessing Instagram, Messenger or WhatsApp, billions of users instantly have the opportunity to purchase the currency. 

Libra VS Bitcoin 

From what we know, here is our evaluation of Facebook's new Libra currency compared to the most popular cryptocurrency. 

SAFETY

Libra

With an array of security breaches and data leaks to its name, many concerns are arising over how Facebook will protect its crypto wallet. They will argue that as the largest storer of personal information, they are susceptible to data attacks and a hack is inevitable - regardless of strength of security.

However, Facebook are likely to understand the severe consequences any breach may have, and so will take every precautionary measure to stop this from happening.

Bitcoin

Bitcoin is certainly not immune to hacks. Many cases of wallet being hacked have been reported.

However, a key factor that perhaps might separate Libra from Btc. is the fact that Bitcoin is anonymous, and thus very difficult to track down its users.

Winner: LIBRA

Although we can only speculate at this point as to how Facebook will protect its users, it seems that the critical benefit it has over Bitcoin is the fact that Libra will be regulated.

ACCESSIBILITY

Libra

Libra is set to be available to all Facebook users across 'almost every' country. Part of Facebook's intention is to make Libra as accessible as possible to make payments easier.

Bitcoin

Ignoring the fact that most people don't have $9,000 (current price) lying around to purchase a full Bitcoin, the crypto is widely accessible. All that is needed is access to the internet.

Winner: LIBRA

Although Bitcoin is widely available, Facebook is using accessibility as a USP for Libra.

EASE OF USE

Libra

Libra is set to be very easy to use for both within Facebook purchases and external buys. It already has backers that imply physical use in the real world will be widely available.

Bitcoin

Bitcoin is rather easy to use as well. The only downsides are that there are often small transaction fees and also not many places accept it as a form of payment.

Winner: LIBRA

Due to its limitations for physical, real-world transactions, Bitcoin doesn't seem like it will content with Libra's ease of use.

EASE OF PURCHASE

Libra

Purchasing Libra will be available both through hysical ATMs, and also online via most Facebook-run applications.

Bitcoin

Although Bitcoin ATMs are somewhat of a thing, they are more for the novelty factor as opposed to functioning as an operational dispenser.

Winner: LIBRA

Even without Libra ATMs becoming commonplace, its wide availability to purchase across multiple apps means it pips Bitcoin for ease of purchase.

VOLATILITY

Libra

Being pegged to some of the world's largest currencies means Libra won't be so susceptible to volatility. Of course, FX pairs and currencies can experience volatility, but typically it has not compared to that experienced by cryptos.

Bitcoin

Bitcoin is notorious for its volatility, and as such often deters traders from investing - in fear of another epic crash seen in January 2017 occurring.

Winner: LIBRA

With Facebook's crypto being pegged to currencies, volatility is somewhat nullified.

VERDICT

Libra Wins

Anything we say about Libra is all theoretical, as until all the plans are actually implemented, it's impossible to say how well it will fare. With Bitcoin already being established, some caution must be had when evaluating Libra, as planning a project of this stature and Facebook successfully achieving its intentions are two very different things.

However, based on what we know it seems that Libra could really have the potential to challenge Bitcoin, whether that's the intention or not. It will be more easily accessible, easier to purchase and looks like it could also be used in far more ways than Bitcoin.

Facebook's stature as one of the world's largest corporations means the financial backing and exposure is already in place. To Bitcoin's testament, it had none of that when it first became available and has since been hugely successful, but now might be time for it to move aside.

Even if Libra is successful, it may not eclipse Bitcoin. But if just a small percentage of Facebook's two billion users embraces it, Libra may crack the mainstream and begin to operate on a wide scale within society. At that point, a payment revolution may be on our hands.

Has Bitcoin been disrupted by Libra and will it affect it in the future?

At this preliminary stage, we can only speculate over exactly what it will be and how successful Libra may become. Due to the fact that there is no product as of yet, Bitcoin has not been affected negatively as some might expect; with Libra looking to directly compete with Btc by offering a ‘safer’ coin that will be less volatile and yet still offers all the benefits of a cryptocurrency.


In fact, Bitcoin’s price jumped nearly 10% from when the market closed on 24 May, the day Facebook made its initial announcement, to when it reopened on the 26 May. With 2.4 billion monthly users, perhaps an increase in exposure of cryptocurrencies will enhance Bitcoin and drag it further into the mainstream. If the scale of people that use Facebook become more educated in cryptocurrencies, some suggest there’s a strong indication that Bitcoin might benefit as people begin to embrace cryptos as a form of payment in wider society.


24 May Bitcoin price


Of course, there’s a fine balance between enhancing the status of all cryptos and destroying all other existing cryptos altogether by Libra’s sheer volume of backers and efficiency of use. If Libra's rise is drastic, who’s to say Bitcoin won’t become redundant?

Facebook's altcoin is a regulated cryptocurrency that is not only backed by major payment providers, but also pegged by valuable centralised currencies, and has been created by one of the largest corporations in the world. So, it’s not too far-fetched to say Libra could one day replace Bitcoin as the most valuable and widely-used crypto.

Share article