Facebook, you’ve come a long way.
From its humble beginnings as a platform to stalk your high school girlfriend, the social media giant has evolved to become one of the world’s largest and most influential advertisers, news aggregators and data gatherers.
We can now add “fintech firm” to that list. This week Facebook released a whitepaper formally introducing the world to its highly anticipated cryptocurrency. But don’t get excited just yet. Libra, as the coin is called, won’t arrive until sometime next year.
As I see it, Libra is by far the most ambitious foray into cryptocurrencies since bitcoin itself came on to the scene 10 years ago. Whether you’re a crypto novice, or whether you’ve been a bitcoin enthusiast since day one, this development is well worth your attention.
There are a number of key differences between bitcoin and Libra, some of which I’ll get into. But for now, I think the biggest distinction lies in its sheer scalability. Whereas it’s taken bitcoin years since its inception to break into the public consciousness, Libra has the benefit of being made available on a massive social media platform that boasts as many as 2.4 billion users worldwide.
And whereas relatively few people overall, even now, own or have owned bitcoin—a recent survey estimated the ownership rate in the U.S. to be around 9 percent—I would bet good money that Libra adoption will multiply exponentially.
As proof, just take a look at the growth in Venmo’s payment volume. The PayPal-owned payment app reported an eye-opening $21 billion in transactions in the first quarter, up more than 1,500 percent from the same period only four years earlier.