Zuck Bucks? Facebook May Launch a Cryptocurrency

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Galactus is one of Marvel's most terrifying villains. He's giant, older than the universe and bears a hunger that can only be satiated by devouring entire planets. He also seems to be the inspiration for Facebook, because according to The Wall Street Journal's report this week, the social network plans to introduce a cryptocurrency, seemingly finding yet another market it wants to chew up.

The Wall Street Journal said that Facebook's effort is going by the code name Project Libra. According to the report, Facebook wants to create its own currency, which would be used to complement a new online checkout system that allows its users to shop on partnered sites. The company doesn't just want to create its own Bitcoin; it also wants to use that cryptocurrency to entice people to use the checkout option as they shop.

This could become a self-sustaining ecosystem. If people start using what we're imagining will be called Zuck Bucks, using their Facebook accounts to pay for things online and earning Zuck Bucks in exchange for watching ads, they're going to be constantly engaged with Facebook in one way or another. Facebook, like Galactus, doesn't just consume planets; it makes new homes, too.

These efforts were said to have started a year ago, with Facebook approaching "dozens of financial firms and online merchants," according to the report. The company is said to be seeking partners that can help launch the system--and invest a cool $1 billion to kickstart the effort. At least some of that investment would be used to connect the company's new currency to USD, which is meant to lead to more stable pricing than most "coins."

One could just add 'cryptocurrency' and 'online shopping' to the list of markets Facebook wants to compete in, (which at this point includes social networking, video streaming, mobile platforms, smart devices, gaming, virtual reality and probably others we've forgotten) and call it good. Shareholders are always hungry for a better stock price, darn it, so it's past time for Facebook to find something else to try to consume. Right?

But it's worth noting the context in which Project Libra has reportedly been worked on, according to WSJ. Facebook has faced more criticism in the last year than ever before, with regulators around the world finally questioning the social network's privacy practices, especially as the company faces blunder after blunder. It's to the point where Facebook had to swear at the F8 developer conference that it was prioritizing privacy.

Yet, apparently Facebook's also been attempting to become even more central to users' lives. Facebook plays a role in many of the ways people communicate and entertain themselves (video streaming, gaming, content discovery) already. Project Libra could allow the company to become financially important to its users as well.

There is one upside: Just like how Galactus isn't always successful in eating a given planet, Facebook doesn't always manage to devour a particular market. The company's smartphone efforts failed, its social network is becoming less popular and it's facing increasing competition in everything from VR to video streaming. Real companies are--surprisingly enough--even more unpredictable than fictional cosmic beings. It's possible that Project Libra never goes anywhere.

But it's also possible that Facebook's promises will work. Project Libra could debut, become popular and make the social network even more critical to its users. If that happens despite all of the mistakes Facebook has made and scrutiny it's faced, well, maybe the Internet deserves Zuck Bucks.

Nathaniel Mott
Freelance News & Features Writer

Nathaniel Mott is a freelance news and features writer for Tom's Hardware US, covering breaking news, security, and the silliest aspects of the tech industry.