- Payments: Mastercard, PayPal, PayU (Naspers’ fintech arm), Stripe, Visa
- Technology and marketplaces: Booking Holdings, eBay, Facebook/Calibra, Farfetch, Lyft, MercadoPago, Spotify AB, Uber Technologies, Inc.
- Telecommunications: Iliad, Vodafone Group
Blockchain: Anchorage, Bison Trails, Coinbase, Inc., Xapo Holdings Limited
- Venture Capital: Andreessen Horowitz, Breakthrough Initiatives, Ribbit Capital, Thrive Capital, UnionSquare Ventures
- Nonprofit and multilateral organizations, and academic institutions: Creative Destruction Lab, Kiva,Mercy Corps, Women’s World Banking
- Facebook's Libra could threaten the global financial system (Sky News) — "it's effectively reinvented PayPal, only with Facebook Pounds instead of regular ones."
- Why We’re Joining the Libra Association (Spotify) — "One challenge for Spotify and its users around the world has been the lack of easily accessible payment systems."
- The real risk of Facebook’s Libra coin is crooked developers (TechCrunch) — "A shady developer could build a wallet that just cleans out a user’s account or funnels their coins to the wrong recipient, mines their purchase history for marketing data or uses them to launder money. Digital risks become a lot less abstract when real-world assets are at stake."
Ben McKenzie, an actor turned anti-crypto activist, argues in his new book Easy Money that while cryptocurrencies highlight legitimate flaws in the financial system, they are essentially a Ponzi scheme.
He criticises the “Hollywoodisation” of crypto and the lack of regulatory oversight, warning that the tech utopianism surrounding crypto and now AI could leave many losers in its wake. It’s funny how people seamlessly move from one grift to the next without ever being properly called out on it.
The secret behind most conspiracy-driven movements is that there is often a glimmer of truth at the centre of their beliefs. Anti-vaxxers, for instance, can point to the past behaviour of large pharmaceutical companies as evidence that the medical establishment can’t be trusted. This glimmer is what’s used to ensnare you, says Ben McKenzie, the actor and cryptocurrency critic.Source: “The biggest Ponzi of all time”: why Ben McKenzie became a crypto critic | New Statesman
After a friend urged him to buy Bitcoin, McKenzie – a former economics student with a degree from the University of Virginia – took a 24-part online course on cryptocurrencies, taught by the current US Securities and Exchange Commission chair Gary Gensler. He came away thinking the entire cryptocurrency thing was a scam. Worse, it was a scam with a lot of momentum behind it. “Advocates will tell you there is no ‘Bitcoin marketing department’,” McKenzie said. “But of course, if Bitcoin and crypto doesn’t have a product, if there is no actual tangible asset behind it, then in fact, Bitcoin and crypto is only marketing. It’s only a story.”
During the peak of 2021, some of the most recognisable people in the world – including Matt Damon, Reese Witherspoon and Kim Kardashian – began promoting cryptocurrencies and non-fungible tokens (NFTs).
McKenzie told me this is part of a more aggressive “hustle culture” in which people use their social contacts to promote products. Multi-level marketing (or MLM) and pyramid-selling schemes have existed for at least a century, but they have been transformed by technology. “In the 1950s, if you wanted to sell someone Mary Kay Cosmetics or Tupperware, you would need to invite them over to your house, cook them dinner, spend three hours trying to convince them [to buy products].” Now, he said, “the MLM can be done through TikTok and Instagram.”
Though McKenzie is openly critical of the celebrities who have pushed these products, he reserves ultimate blame for the sluggish regulators that allowed it to happen. “I think in many cases the celebrities didn’t really understand what they were selling. Which is not to absolve them of a moral, ethical [or] potentially even legal responsibility for their actions. But they don’t need to be bad people – they just see easy money, right?”
Nothing surprising about attractive person + financial advice getting people interested, but I thought this was interesting from the ‘monetizing stupid’. Do you interact with the world as it is, or as you want it to be?
I focus pretty squarely on the latter, but there’s lots of money to be made from the former…
Everything in me wants to make fun of Altman here (and anyone who reads horoscopes for that matter). I want to say: “Hey, don’t you think it’s a little ridiculous to think that astrology (which is just another name for fake science) has any bearing whatsoever on imaginary digital tokens idolized by virgins!?”Source: Monetizing stupid | Contemporary Idiot
But I won’t say that, because I think she might actually be some sort of accidental genius. Credit to me for showing self-control.
She’s taken 2 things that people go absolutely bat-shit crazy over (astrology & crypto) and smashed them together in bite-sized clips made so that even an ADHD-riddled-crypto-obsessed chimpanzee can digest them.
Angela Carter with the story of my life there. I can't help but be skeptical about 'Libra', Facebook's new crytocurrency project. I'm skeptical about almost all cryptocurrencies, to be honest.
The website is marketing. It's all about 'empowering' the 'unbanked' worldwide. However, let's dive into the white paper:
Members of the Libra Association will consist of geographically distributed and diverse businesses, nonprofit and multilateral organizations, and academic institutions. The initial group of organizations that will work together on finalizing the association’s charter and become “Founding Members” upon its completion are, by industry:
We hope to have approximately 100 members of the Libra Association by the target launch in the first half of 2020.
So, all the usual suspects. How will Facebook ensure that we don't see the crazy price volatility we've seen with other cryptocurrencies?
Libra is designed to be a stable digital cryptocurrency that will be fully backed by a reserve of real assets — the Libra Reserve — and supported by a competitive network of exchanges buying and selling Libra. That means anyone with Libra has a high degree of assurance they can convert their digital currency into local fiat currency based on an exchange rate, just like exchanging one currency for another when traveling. This approach is similar to how other currencies were introduced in the past: to help instill trust in a new currency and gain widespread adoption during its infancy, it was guaranteed that a country’s notes could be traded in for real assets, such as gold. Instead of backing Libra with gold, though, it will be backed by a collection of low-volatility assets, such as bank deposits and short-term government securities in currencies from stable and reputable central banks.
So it sounds like all of the value is being extracted by founding members. Now let's move onto the technology. Any surprises there? Nope.
Blockchains are described as either permissioned or permissionless in relation to the ability to participate as a validator node. In a “permissioned blockchain,” access is granted to run a validator node. In a “permissionless blockchain,” anyone who meets the technical requirements can run a validator node. In that sense, Libra will start as a permissioned blockchain.
This is as conservative as they come, which is exactly what your strategy would be if you're trying to transfer the entire monetary system to one that you control. People often joke about Facebook as 'social infrastructure', but this is a level beyond. This is Facebook as financial infrastructure.
Given both current and potential future regulatory oversight, Facebook are very careful to distance themselves from Libra. In fact, the website proudly states that, "The Libra Association is an independent, not-for-profit membership organization, headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland."
To be fair,Josh Constine, writing for TechCrunch, notes that Facebook only gets one vote as a founding member of the Libra Association. It does actually look like they're in it for the long-haul:
In cryptocurrencies, Facebook saw both a threat and an opportunity. They held the promise of disrupting how things are bought and sold by eliminating transaction fees common with credit cards. That comes dangerously close to Facebook’s ad business that influences what is bought and sold. If a competitor like Google or an upstart built a popular coin and could monitor the transactions, they’d learn what people buy and could muscle in on the billions spent on Facebook marketing. Meanwhile, the 1.7 billion people who lack a bank account might choose whoever offers them a financial services alternative as their online identity provider too. That’s another thing Facebook wants to be.John Constine
Whereas before there's always been social pressure to have a Facebook account, now there could be pressures that span identity and economic necessities, too.
Some good commentary on the hurdles ahead comes from Kari Paul for The Guardian, who writes:
The company claims it will not attempt to bypass existing regulation but instead “innovate” on regulatory fronts. Libra will use the same verification and anti-fraud processes that banks and credit cards use and will implement automated systems to detect fraud, Facebook said in its launch. It also promised to give refunds to any users who are hacked or have Libra stolen from their digital wallets.Kari Paul
Would this be the same kind of 'innovation' that Uber uses to muscle its way into cities without a license? Or to muscle its way into cities without a license? Perhaps it's the shady business practices beloved of PayPal? Both companies are founding members, after all!
Right now, developers can get access to a 'test network' for Libra. The system itself won't be running until the end of 2020, so there's a lot speculation. Here's some sources I found useful, but you'll need to make up your own mind. Is this a good thing?
Dudes make millions (or billions) of dollars via cryptocurrency. Hurricane hits Puerto Rico. They decide to build a new state.
They call what they are building Puertopia. But then someone told them, apparently in all seriousness, that it translates to “eternal boy playground” in Latin. So they are changing the name: They will call it Sol.Oops.
Of course it does. But look at what they've got planned:
Puerto Rico offers an unparalleled tax incentive: no federal personal income taxes, no capital gains tax and favorable business taxes — all without having to renounce your American citizenship. For now, the local government seems receptive toward the crypto utopians; the governor will speak at their blockchain summit conference, called Puerto Crypto, in March.
Some are open to the new wave as a welcome infusion of investment and ideas.
“We’re open for crypto business,” said Erika Medina-Vecchini, the chief business development officer for the Department of Economic Development and Commerce, in an interview at her office. She said her office was starting an ad campaign aimed at the new crypto expat boom, with the tagline “Paradise Performs.”
Others worry about the island’s being used for an experiment and talk about “crypto colonialism.” At a house party in San Juan, Richard Lopez, 32, who runs a pizza restaurant, Estella, in the town of Arecibo, said: “I think it’s great. Lure them in with taxes, and they’ll spend money.”
Andria Satz, 33, who grew up in Old San Juan and works for the Conservation Trust of Puerto Rico, disagreed.
“We’re the tax playground for the rich,” she said. “We’re the test case for anyone who wants to experiment. Outsiders get tax exemptions, and locals can’t get permits.”
Source: The New York Times