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Facebook plans to launch cryptocurrency for WhatsApp, reports say

With more than 1.5 billion monthly active users, analysts say it could beat bitcoin to become the world's first truly mainstream cryptocurrency

Anthony Cuthbertson
Friday 21 December 2018 15:04 GMT
What is cryptocurrency and the technology behind bitcoin and its rivals?

Facebook's secret plans to launch its own bitcoin-style cryptocurrency could soon be offered to users of the messaging app WhatsApp, reports suggest.

First reported by The Independent in May, Facebook began working on the cryptocurrency following one of the biggest management reshuffles in the company's history.

The social network is now planning to launch a so-called stablecoin – a cryptocurrency pegged to the US dollar to avoid price volatility – to WhatsApp users in India, according to Bloomberg.

Citing sources close to the matter, the media outlet claimed Facebook would focus on the remittance market in India, where more than 200 million people use WhatsApp, but is still "far from releasing" the coin.

David Marcus, who heads Facebook's exploratory blockchain group, has previously worked as the president of PayPal before subsequently serving as vice president of Facebook Messenger.

Mr Marcus gave few details about the project when he announced his appointment in a blog post, but did reveal he is reporting directly to Facebook's chief technology officer Mike Schroepfer.

A Facebook spokesperson told The Independent: "Like many other companies Facebook is exploring ways to leverage the power of blockchain technology. This new small team is exploring many different applications."

No further details were given about the project, despite several further requests for comment and clarification about what type of applications the team is working on.

A WhatsApp cryptocurrency may soon be introduced in India

Cryptocurrency analysts say introducing a cryptocurrency to a platform with such a large user base – more than 1.5 billion people around the world – could result in the world's first truly mainstream cryptocurrency.

"Cryptocurrency is already recognised as a digital alternative used by millions for the safe and secure transfer of funds online, so enabling it to be used on platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp is the next logical step in its progression," said Alex El-Nemer, director of blockchain enterprise Nexus.

"This would provide users with the ability to purchase products, goods and services at the touch of the button, including making charitable donations and supporting good causes.

"Forward-thinking industries and organisations should acknowledge this as the beginning of a new era for alternate digital currencies, and plan ahead to integrate services for the inevitable mass adoption which will follow."

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