Facebook to ‘launch digital payments in 2020’

Facebook is reportedly planning to launch its own cryptocurrency and digital payments in 2020.

It was first reported in December last year that the social media giant was working on plans for a digital payments system in around a dozen countries for the first quarter of 2020.

Engineers working on Project Libra, as the initiative is known, are hoping to start testing the currency - known internally as Global Coin - by the end of 2019, according to the BBC.

In October last year, FStech reported comments from Facebook’s Northern Europe Finance chief which pointed towards plans to extend its social messaging platforms WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger to become leading channels for digital payments.

It is widely expected that the move, if rolled-out successfully, will disrupt the digital payments landscape, with big tech firms such as Amazon and Google set to explore their own potential to tap into the payments and financial services market.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, is also reported to have met with Mark Carney, the Bank of England governor, to discuss the plans last month, including the risks and potential implications for launching a cryptocurrency to Facebook’s user base – which currently stands at more than two billion accounts worldwide.

The company is also reportedly in touch with money transfer service Western Union, as it seeks ways to enable digital payments for so-called ‘unbanked’ users who do not have a current account.

The project is exploring ways to enable users to make purchases across the Facebook, WhatsApp and Instagram platforms, as well as the wider internet and real world transactions.

Facebook is also reportedly in discussions with online merchants to accept the token-based currency as payment with lower transaction fees.

Last month the social media giant announced it was closing down its peer-to-peer (P2P) payments service on Messenger, which enabled Facebook users to send and receive payments on the Messenger platform, after it saw weak takeup for the service.

It is thought that a crypto-currency style payments system that works across platforms for payment of goods and services will overcome the restrictions that led to the winding down of Messenger payments.

Responding to the reports detailing the projected timescale for Project Libra, a spokesperson for Facebook said the company had “nothing to share at this stage”.

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