Libra, Facebook’s long-awaited digital currency, is set to launch early next year, according to people familiar with the matter. The Financial Times is reporting that the release will be significantly scaled back when compared with Libra’s ambitious original plans.
When Libra was first announced back in June 2019, it was set to be supported by a mixture of backing from several currencies and government debt. Since then, however, the cryptocurrency has received much regulatory scrutiny, as well as the loss of some high-profile backers.
Now it seems that Libra will be launching as a heavily watered-down version, perhaps as early as January. The launch will now involve just a single digital coin backed by the US dollar. Other currencies and the Libra digital composite of all its single-currency stable coins are expected to follow at a later date.
The exact launch date is still pending regulatory approval from the Swiss Financial Market Supervisory Authority but when it does arrive, it could pass with limited fanfare. Libra has faced its fair share of difficulties and there are worries that a move to single-currency coins could result in users facing additional fees.
Libra has also been damaged by its close association with Facebook, which has faced accusations that it erodes user privacy. Although in theory, the Libra Association is independent of the social network, Facebook does serve as one of its 27 members.
Facebook has also launched its own subsidiary, Novi, which aims will provide a digital wallet for Facebook users to use the Libra currency. That too will face regulatory scrutiny, with Facebook confirming that the wallet will need to secure approval from each US state individually, as well as any other national jurisdictions that it decides to launch in. Clearly, although the launch is now in sight, there remain many hurdles that Libra will have to overcome before it makes a major impact on the financial sector.