Meet ‘Libra’, the new cryptocurrency by Facebook

Ollie's Photo by Ollie Jackson

This post is part of The Changing Web series - articles noting discoveries or announcements from across the web. We keep our ear to the ground to call out the fads, report on the good stuff and celebrate the awesome.

Facebook is making its move into the world of cryptocurrency.

They’ve recently announced Libra, which is described as “a simple global currency and financial infrastructure that empowers billions of people.”

When it comes to cryptocurrency, we’re all most familiar with Bitcoin. The success of Bitcoin and other major cryptocurrencies has given rise to plenty of alternative ways to buy online goods and services using them.

With Libra, Facebook hope to reach people around the world who do not have access to a bank account - current estimates put this figure at around 2 billion. And, whilst there is some skepticism about Facebook’s motive, it does at least pose the question; will cryptocurrency soon become a major payment method?

Might trust in cryptocurrency grow to a level that users expect the option of ‘Pay with Bitcoin’ or ‘Pay with Libra’ on the websites they visit?

BitPay - the online Bitcoin payment processor - think so.

There are already examples of cryptocurrency in use - for instance, if your online shop uses Shopify, you can allow your customers to pay with cryptocurrency as an alternative payment method. Facebook’s arrival on the scene will surely accelerate this trend.

Having said this, there is still plenty of uncertainty around cryptocurrency. A study of 2000 Americans (conducted by Finder - the personal finance comparison company) found that:

  • 35% think the risk is too high
  • 27% find it too difficult to understand
  • 18% think it’s a scam
  • 16% are waiting for the bubble to burst

One of the main reasons for the nervousness is market volatility. To ease concerns about this Facebook say, 'Libra has been designed to be a currency where any user will know that the value of a Libra today will be close to its value tomorrow and in the future.’

They are obviously making efforts to normalise the use of cryptocurrency and make it available to more people world wide.

Whilst major players like Facebook and Shopify are promoting the use of cryptocurrency, Stripe ended support for Bitcoin last year stating that the demand from their customers to accept Bitcoin as a payment method had decreased. Stripe believe that this is in part due to Bitcoin being seen as more of an asset than a means of exchange.

What does this mean for you and your website?

If you accept payments online, or are planning to in the future, you likely don’t need to make support for cryptocurrency a priority.

In the event that demand for paying with cryptocurrency grows, you can bet that Stripe will return with a solution so you are able to offer it as a payment option for your customers.

Unless payment in cryptocurrency is particularly suited to the market you serve, have it on your radar but don’t worry about it just yet.

‘Libra’ is an interesting development. And with Facebook’s involvement, it has the potential to drive popularity to a point where cryptocurrencies become a common method of online payment. Definitely one to watch!

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