Where on earth is Facebook going with Libra? Desperation City?

Facebook Libra
Image credit | Pojo Josef Polc

You have to hand it to Facebook and its partners in Libra – they don’t give up easily.

The cryptocurrency based project that was going to take over the world and become the defacto method of paying and transferring money online has lost impetus – to be polite.

When it was launched, the team was an impressive, world class one. Vodafone was on board, as were VISA, Mastercard, eBay and others.

Then the Libra project began to hit the buffers. Companies began to back out, fearing a backlash. Regulators and politicians tightened the screw further and the Libra revolution looked as if it had hit the end of the road.

Our own headlines were not positive:

  • ‘Facebook’s Libra faces privacy concerns, political backlash’
  • ‘BoE warns Facebook, Libra not to expect unregulated free-for-all’
  • ‘Facebook is facing further hurdles on its way to Libra’
  • ‘Mastercard, Visa quit Facebook Libra’s digital currency project’
  • ‘Is the backlash over Libra more than just about Libra’?

Now, though, it is back, or so it seems.

Libra has relaunched as an ordinary, run of the mill, global payments platform that will take over the world anyway.

Except that now it is ordinary and run of the mill it has lost its USP, lost its innovative wind-swept look and is competing with other ordinary run of the mill payments companies like PayPal, Venmo and an emerging army of other payments start-ups (and not so start-ups).

The question is, then, can it compete with established players on level terms? Is Facebook still vibrant and cool enough to convince people to use it for payments and transfers? If surveys from a few years back are anything to go by, then the answer is a resounding ‘no’.

Every tech and finance company on earth knows that if you win in payments you win in life. Apple, Google, Amazon and [insert name of operator], [insert name of ecommerce platform], [insert name of credit card], [insert name of bank] all know this.

So just because Facebook is Facebook (now, not five years ago when it was still reasonably clean and blameless and cool) does not mean it will win in a straight fight. Far from it.

In fact, when you think about the picture as a whole, you look two years down the track and can’t help but see a chaotic scene of intense competition, which usually means an uptick in mergers and acquisition activity.

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