The Facebook GlobalCoin stablecoin won’t kill Bitcoin but many companies should be worried.

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TLDR. Facebook’s move into crypto enabled payments has led to hyperbolic reactions that Bitcoin will be roadkill in front of their thundering truck. This post argues that we are nearing the end of the Facebook era and that the Bitcoin honey badger is not scared of Facebook and that Facebook is moving into dangerous territory where they will be competing with other behemoths.

This update to The Blockchain Economy digital book covers:

  • What we know and don’t know about Facebook’s stablecoin
  • Bitcoin is the honey badger that is not scared of Facebook
  • Big players who will feel threatened by Facebook
  • The end of the Facebook era is coming
  • No, don’t short Facebook, yet.
  • Which companies should be most worried
  • Context & References

What we know and don’t know about Facebook’s stablecoin

The news outlets did a copy/paste on Facebook Press Release. Plus we get the salacious factoid that Mark Zuckerberg spoke to the Winkelvoss Twins.

PR also tells us that all doors are open to Facebook, telling us about conversations with:

  • Bank of England governor Mark Carney.
  • Officials at the US Treasury.
  • Western Union.

Facebook has the clout to talk to anybody on the planet, not matter how high and mighty, but talk is cheap.

What we don’t know:

  • what will be the the real name of Facebook’s stablecoin when it finally launches? PR says it is “internally dubbed” GlobalCoin but that is too close to GlobalistCoin and that does not play well in the cyperpunk/anarchist/libertarian crowd that loves Bitcoin. There is a cute sounding internal name which is Project Libra, which maybe more consumer friendly.

 

  • When Facebook will launch. PR says “first quarter of 2020”.

 

  • Where Facebook will launch. PR talks about “in a dozen countries”. Earlier PR in December 2018 talked about India as launch venue.

 

  • What Facebook will launch. It will be a cross border digital payments system aka a remittances system.

 

  • Which Fiat currencies they will peg to.

There is lots of negative sentiment. You can expect this from the privacy and crypto crowd. It must be more worrying when Bloomberg, which is hardly known for bleeding heart anti establishment ranting, has this headline:

Dr. Evil Would Love Facebook’s “GlobalCoin”. “More than 2 billion users spending one currency, controlled by one billionaire. What’s to worry about?”

Facebook’s strategy in the past with negative sentiment has been to take one step back, issue an apology, then proceed to do exactly as they had planned. However that may not work today, because Facebook’s Stablecoin is between a rock & a hard place. Bitcoin is the rock. The hard place is all the big players who will feel threatened by Facebook. 

First the rock…

Bitcoin is the honey badger that is not scared of Facebook

You cannot shut down Bitcoin. Facebook can lobby Governments all they like and Governments would love to shut down Bitcoin and do deals with Facebook, but you cannot shut down a decentralised permission less network. You need a CEO that you can pull onto the carpet and grill.

Next, the hard place….

Big players who will feel threatened by Facebook 

The hard place is all the big players who will feel threatened by Facebook.

This is a huge move by Facebook. They are moving well beyond their media comfort zone into currencies, payments, remittances and e-commerce. The big players in those markets, including Governments, will feel threatened by Facebook’s move into their territory.

The end of the Facebook era is coming

You can see trend from the chart at the top of this Chapter (based on research by Daily Fintech) – the dominance years are getting shorter. Our thesis is that decentralization won’t lead to one dominant company because dominance is a feature of centralization. In the decentralization era, dominance may go to a leaderless open source protocol (Bitcoin), with many companies thriving within the ecosystem created by that protocol.

I never got the Facebook habit. I am as addicted to social media as the next 21st century human, but my social drugs of choice tend to be blogs, Twitter, Whatsapp, YouTube, & LinkedIn. Occasionally I can only see something online if I have a Facebook account. So I set up a fake account and enjoy the recommendations I get from that fake account where I am a woman born in 1997 in Chiang Mai, who now lives in Mongolia and who studied Thermodynamics at The College of Hard Knocks. My bio says “FB algos do not deserve to know me”.

The usual way that big tech eras come to an end is a mix of:

  • Regulation. That is happening to Facebook in Europe and China and there is even political pressure in America
  • Disruptive Technology. In past eras, the regulators jump on board just when disruptive technology is doing a much more effective job. For example, IBM could manage regulators but could not control PCs, Microsoft got sideswiped by the Web, Google by Social. In the coming transition, centralized services will be replaced by decentralized services.

Facebook the service is no longer cool, even if Facebook the company controls the two biggest competitors – WhatsApp and Instagram. Soon Facebook the service will be a digital landfill populated by:

  • Institutions selling you stuff. Institutions, both political or corporate, use pinpoint personalised marketing to make sure you buy/vote what they want. My little messing with Facebook’s algos is not likely to do them much harm, but billions tuning out ads will damage them at some point.
  • People willing to view ads for a fee. Pay to view ads is desperate race to the bottom by sites with low quality content. Advertisers get the attention of the people with the least money or influence brought in by Mechanical Turk to compete with robot scam traffic.

No, don’t short Facebook yet.

Mark Zuckerberg is one is the greatest entrepreneurs of all time. He has navigated one big disruption before. When mobile threatened the Facebook franchise he solved the problem by buying into the game at great cost with the WhatsApp and Instagram deals.

So, don’t count him out. He could pull it off with GlobalCoin. The odds are against him because this disruption is different:

– mobile changed delivery front end but the core concepts of centralized data to sell advertising remained valid.

– Decentralized Blockchain networks challenge the core concepts of centralized data to sell advertising.

It is inconceivable that Facebook, which has a market cap of over 500 Unicorns (ie over $500 billion), could head into a deep decline. Look at past eras and the dominant company of the day looked equally invincible.

Although Facebook’s long term decline is inevitable, don’t try shorting Facebook stock yet as there is a big difference between inevitable and imminent. 

There are companies that should be worried by Facebook’s move into crypto-enabled payments. They could be accidental roadkill as Facebook searches for relevance in a game that they no longer control.

Which companies should be most worriedWhich companies should be most worried

A. Decentralized social media companies funding via Tokenomics such as Steem and Brave. Content creators will prefer to be paid in either Bitcoin or a reputable Stablecoin from a neutral player.

B. Remittances companies such as WorldRemit and Western Union. The latter may do OK as Facebook will need their off ramp into local Fiat, but that will be a hugely reduced role.

Context & References

Facebook Ambitions in Fintech. Note date (2014); over 4 years ago we were forecasting this move by Facebook.

The PewDiePie deal with Dlive is a big move forward for decentralized Blockchain media.

Why I am closing my Steemit account and why I am a bear on EOS.

Bernard Lunn is a Fintech deal-maker, investor, entrepreneur and advisor. He is CEO of Daily Fintech and author of The Blockchain Economy.

I have no positions or commercial relationships with the companies or people mentioned. I am not receiving compensation for this post.

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FB doing a Tencent – Cryptos mainstream adoption in sight?

We have had a record breaking February in the UK weather-wise. One of the days in Feb saw temperatures go up to 21 degrees Celsius. While the cold has returned a little bit, it seems winter is largely done. I get that sense with cryptos, as large institutions one after another are announcing projects, and it only takes one of them to take off for cryptos to go mainstream.

Messaging applications thinking of launching their own cryptos is nothing new. Telegram and Signal have been at it for sometime. However, it is a bigger deal when Facebook looks at introducing cryptocurrency based payments on Whatsapp. The size of the opportunity for Facebook and their partners when the platform is Finteched will undoubtedly get them out of their issues they have faced over the past 24 months.

The Facebook Opportunity

Facebook has two problems to solve, and both potentially powered by Blockchain.
Facebook’s Blockchain team has been spearheaded by former PayPal president David Marcus since last May. In order to replicate Tencent’s successes, they need to leverage the user base of their apps (FB, Whatsapp, Instagram). Bringing payments to Whatsapp would have have been a good starting point, however Facebook’s attempt at doing that in India (the largest Whatsapp) hasn’t gone too well.

About 1 Billion people in India have a mobile, and about 300 Million of them use Whatsapp. Last year, Whatsapp pay launched in a controlled fashion to 1 Million users in India. They used the government backed UPI (Unified Payments Interface), and during the pilot, they achieved about a Million transactions per month. However, the regulators weren’t happy that the payments engine was on Facebook servers. They wanted the servers to be in India, and despite several conversations there is no solution.

The payments market in India is a $1 Trillion market by 2023, and it would be a shame if they missed the bus.

Facebook is looking to create a stablecoin attached to a basket of currencies. There is a team of about 50 people working on this project. If FB planned to use the Indian market as a testing ground for the crypto-powered Whatsapp pay, they may now have to deal with the crypto currency regulatory ban too. However, if they managed to clear the regulatory hurdle, their growth could dwarf the likes of PayTM, and that would just be the start. On top of it, Indian remittance market boomed to $80 Billion last year. If I could use whatsapp to send money to my mom, that would be awesome!!

The other issue that FB has had is around data privacy. With identity management being one of the key concerns, FB saw record number of millennials leave their platform last year. However, with a Blockchain powered Self Sovereign Identity engine, Facebook connect could redefine it’s position with data privacy as a distributed identity management platform.

How decentralised it (the identity engine) will stay if launched is another challenge. Most federated and decentralised identity management engines have ended up creating a centralised monopoly in the past. With Blockchain behind the scenes, one would expect that to be different.

Will Facebook replicate Tencent inspired successes through Whatsapp? Will FB change perceptions through a genuinely decentralised identity engine? Would 2019 be the year of mainstream adoption of cryptos? Watch this space.


Arunkumar Krishnakumar is a Venture Capital investor at Green Shores Capital focusing on Inclusion and a podcast host.

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