Facebook Pay does 100% of the useful bit of Libra. Why do a cryptocurrency as well? I still don’t know the answer

Facebook Pay is a new-ish service to send money between Facebook users or businesses. It’s available to US users in Facebook and Messenger, with plans to add it to Instagram and WhatsApp and to release it in other countries.

Facebook Pay doesn’t store a balance, the way PayPal does — it’s just an interface to your credit card or PayPal. Go to Settings → Facebook Pay and give Facebook access to even more of your data!

“For example, if you buy a baseball glove on Facebook Marketplace, you might see an ad for a baseball bat,” Facebook says — because everyone loves stalkerish advertising.

The main competitor Facebook seem to be thinking of is Venmo — which is mostly for people to send each other money, because the US banking system is a bit rubbish.

You can also make your Facebook payments publicly available, as you can in Venmo, because apparently there are people who don’t think that’s a terrible idea.

Facebook has processed payments since 2007, in various ventures that weren’t joined together.

Facebook Pay seems to be an expanded version of Messenger Payments, which launched in 2015 — when David Marcus from Libra was in charge — though that service is presently only available in the US. Facebook launched Messenger Payments in the UK and France in November 2017, but shut it down in June this year — apparently from a lack of users.

Instagram launched Checkout in March this year — to buy a small selection of branded goods.

WhatsApp Pay in India is still stalled with regulators — because Facebook don’t want to be forced to process all data locally.

So what about Libra? Facebook’s only comment is:

Facebook Pay is built on existing financial infrastructure and partnerships, and is separate from the Calibra wallet which will run on the Libra network.

That is, the money transmitters do the hard bits of Know-Your-Customer, and Facebook just brings the users together and collects the data — the things it’s good at.

Facebook Pay does 100% of the useful bit, that plays to Facebook’s strengths. Why on earth would they do a cryptocurrency as well? I still don’t know the answer.

I don’t really think Facebook spent two years building blockchain-based castles in the air, and going through three congressional hearings, and the immediate ire of financial regulators around the world, just to make a consolidated payments app look less threatening by comparison.

But that’ll certainly be an added bonus.

In related news, Google want to get into reselling bank accounts. DATA!


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