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The New York Times reports that Facebook has revealed a plan to “create an alternative financial system that relies on a cryptocurrency that the company has been secretly working on for more than a year.”

The system, called Libra, currently has 27 partners, including Uber and Mastercard, and Facebook says that it would like to have a many as 100 by the time it launches, perhaps as soon as next year. “It would be the most far-reaching attempt by a mainstream company to jump into the world of cryptocurrencies, which is best known for speculative investments through digital tokens like Bitcoin and outside-the-law e-commerce, like buying drugs online,” the Times writes.

The story offers some details on how it would work:

“The currency … is being built so that any software developer in the world can build a digital wallet or other services on top of it, similar to the way that Bitcoin can be sent between people.

“The structure of the new Libra currency is based on the blockchain technology made famous by Bitcoin.

“The blockchain concept makes it possible to hold and move digital currencies almost instantly, usually with low transaction fees. Because blockchains are shared databases, they can function without any central operator like the central banks that have historically governed currencies. This structure will allow Libra to be overseen by many companies.

“Customers will be able to hold and spend their Libra with businesses that accept the currency, and there will be services that quickly convert Libra into traditional currencies and send the money to traditional bank accounts, according to project documents released on Tuesday.”
KC's View:
I’m the wrong guy to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of cryptocurrencies; I have enough trouble balancing my checkbook. But I do think it is worth noting that the Times reports that while Facebook could jumpstart the entire cryptocurrency business, there will be plenty of obstacles. Governments will have a lot of say about their viability and availability, and Facebook - it seems to me - may not be the best messenger, given its spotty (at best) record when it comes to things like consumer privacy, transparency and basic corporate honesty.

Facebook will address some of this by creating a separate entity to manage Libra, but I’m not sure that will be enough for a lot of people. I know it won’t be enough for me; I admit that I’ve developed abad attitude about Facebook, viewing it more as a possibly necessary evil rather than as something that enables people to be their better selves.