Facebook exec says libra cryptocurrency won't spread 'like a social network'

Kevin Weil, VP of product at Facebook's Calibra, speaks on stage at the Web Summit technology conference in Lisbon, Portugal on November 5, 2019.

Horacio Villalobos | Corbis News | Getty Images

LISBON, Portugal — A top Facebook executive has said the tech giant's proposed libra cryptocurrency won't go viral like a social media platform and will take decades to roll out.

"This is not going to be a thing that spreads like a social network," Kevin Weil, vice president of product at Facebook's Calibra digital wallet unit, told an audience at the Web Summit technology conference. "This is going to be the work not of years but of decades, and it's worth making."

The company has come under intense regulatory pressure ever since it first announced its plans for a digital currency back in June. The Libra Association, a Switzerland-based consortium overseeing the project, lost multiple key initial backers including Mastercard and Visa last month on the back of that pushback.

But Weil seemed optimistic on the interest among other companies in joining Libra. "18 months ago, this was an idea," he said. "Today we have 21 fantastic committed organisations that are members of the Libra Association; a bunch more that are looking to be involved. So expect that number to continue to grow."

Libra's value would be tied to a basket of government currencies and debt to maintain a stable value, similar to the many so-called "stablecoins" that look to avoid the volatility seen in cryptocurrencies like bitcoin. Facebook says its primary use case would be for remittances, where people send money across borders.

Weil said that the libra token would address the pain currently involved in sending money abroad, claiming the average fee for remittances comes in at about 7% of the total transaction amount.

One of the key concerns among some political and regulatory figures has been the fact that Facebook has so far been the organization leading the digital currency initiative. The social network's boss Mark Zuckerberg has said that Facebook "would be forced to leave" the association if members voted to move forward without the clearances it feels it needs.

"There are going to be people who are not comfortable using a financial product built by Facebook," Weil said, adding that it's "OK" if they feel that way. "You don't have to use a Facebook product ever to get the greater value of the accessibility and lower cost brought by the libra ecosystem."

The idea is that Calibra would be Facebook's way of making a business out of libra, utilizing it with its digital wallet which users would be able to store and exchange funds on. Weil said there will be plenty of other wallets from companies both small and large that can incorporate libra.


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