A pair of British media reports (involving the same source?) shine a little more light on Facebook's (FB) much-reported plans to launch a cryptocurrency that could be used on its platforms and elsewhere.
The BBC reports Facebook wants to launch its cryptocurrency, which the company internally refers to as GlobalCoin, in 12 countries by Q1 of 2020. It adds that Facebook has talked with the U.S. Treasury and the Bank of England about its effort, and has also talked with money transfer firms such as Western Union (WU) about its efforts to use its cryptocurrency to enable cheaper money transfers.
Separately, The Financial Times reports that Facebook has talked with major financial trading firms and cryptocurrency exchanges about supporting GlobalCoin. Amusingly enough, Gemini, a crypto exchange founded by the Winklevoss twins, is said to be one of the firms Facebook has held discussions with.
Bloomberg previously reported that Facebook wants to use its cryptocurrency to enable cheaper international money transfers via WhatsApp. The Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook is looking to get about $1 billion worth of investments from incumbent payments firms to help underpin the value of its cryptocurrency, and is also talking with e-commerce firms and app developers about supporting it, with low payment-processing fees serving as incentive. Also said to be mulled: Using the cryptocurrency to support microtransactions that are too small to cost-effectively handle via credit or debit card payments.
Shortly before the BBC and FT's reports arrived, Facebook announced at a European advertising event that it will start running ads against WhatsApp's Status stories service, which now has over 500 million monthly active users (MAUs). The ads will look a lot like the ones that are run on Instagram Stories and Facebook Stories, with users able to swipe up to access an advertiser's promotional page or website.
The success that Facebook has had to date in getting advertisers to embrace Instagram Stories -- COO Sheryl Sandberg said in April that Facebook now has over 3 million stories advertisers -- gives it a springboard for scaling WhatsApp's stories ad business, as do Facebook's ability to support cross-platform campaigns and provide access to its advanced targeting and measurement tools. Meanwhile, the fact that WhatsApp has very high penetration rates in many emerging markets could help its stories ads appeal to a number of advertisers who haven't yet embraced Instagram or Facebook Stories.
Also potentially arriving in 2020: Facebook's plans to integrate WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger and Instagram's messaging services, and to support end-to-end encryption across them. During Facebook's Q4 earnings call, Mark Zuckerberg called messaging integration "a 2020 thing or beyond." Given how much of a priority this effort now is for Zuckerberg, one has to think he'd prefer a 2020 launch if it's feasible.
All things considered, 2020 is shaping up to a pretty big year for Facebook's payments efforts, as well as for its still-largely-unmonetized messaging apps.