With the rising pressure to provide privacy, Facebook feels its cash cow slowly slipping away. This has caused an urgency for an alternative income source at Facebook HQ. The proposed solution seems to be something no one thought of.
Userbase Acquired, Healthy Monetisation Pending
Across its 3 products, Facebook has around 2.5 billion users. This includes 2.4 billion on Facebook, of which 1.56 are daily active users, 1 billion on Instagram with 500 million DAU, and 1.5 billion on WhatsApp, 1 billion of those using the app daily.
Sign up for your weekly dose of what's up in emerging technology.
Users are leaking from the main Facebook platform owing to its recent series of PR disasters. Privacy has become a sore point of contention for Facebook, as scandals and data leaks have become commonplace on the platform. Moreover, advertisers have misused the platform to swing public opinion on many matters.
There is also a problem of a spread of misinformation and fake news. Democracies all over the world have been subverted with the use of social media. Overall, Facebook is currently in a bad way with the need for a rebranding. While a refresh of the site was seen at their latest conference, the fundamentals of their new campaign focused on privacy and security.
This shows that their primary revenue model is in danger of failing. For a multi-billion dollar company, this presents a dangerous situation.
Looking At Different Monetisation Streams
Facebook has been exploring new ways to monetize its platforms, including digital marketing spots for companies, personalized campaigns and many similar models. They also have a multitude of other monetization streams tucked away into smaller Facebook features.
While user privacy is given a more in-depth focus, these may start drying up. Increased regulatory pressure has also seen Facebook trying to clean up its image when it comes to data collection. Facebook has already began a foray into fintech when it offered payments as a feature on their Messenger application.
Provided both the participants are over 18 years old and are friends with each other, they can send and receive money on the platform. Using the experience from this, and seemingly gauging public opinion, Facebook began work on a blockchain payments solution.
They set out to work, hiring David Marcus, a former head executive at cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase, to be in charge of the project. As it became more and more fleshed out, information began to emerge regarding what was earlier known as Facebook Coin. With the registration of a trademark, the Facebook blockchain payments project called ‘Libra’ materialized.
Blockchain Can Add A New Revenue Stream For FB
The project has been in development for over a year, with many hires being made to show for it. The company has continued to expand in the blockchain space, hiring coders and managers alike for the project. The coin is reportedly a blockchain system that works for cross-border payments across the world.
This should come with easy integration to existing payment systems, so as to allow a high degree of adoption. This is what experts think will occur. The currency offers a monetization stream for the company by keeping users locked within the ecosystem. Experts also propose that the coin will be used as a reward system for spending time on the website.
This, according to Barclays analyst Ross Sandler, could give the company profits of #3 billion to $19 billion. The coin could be employed in place of the removed Facebook Credits system. Either way, Facebook is seeking a $1 billion investment in the product as collateral to back the token. Each token will be pegged in value to a “basket of foreign currencies”, keeping its value stable.
However, regulation still continues to get in its way. The United States Senate Banking Committee is concerned about the use of consumers’ financial information by Facebook. Owing to its highly sensitive nature, added security features are required.
Facebook Looks To Corner The Largest Market In India
In India, its largest market, the Libra project may run into roadblocks before its launch. The subcontinent has a backwards view on the regulation of cryptocurrencies, with their current stance being to ban financial institutions from interacting with the technology.
While this is being argued in court, it creates an interesting regulatory environment for the company. On one hand, it is already facing both flak and misuse from political parties today. On the other, India is the world’s biggest remittance market.
Moreover, the company is already facing regulatory roadblocks with a fintech product in the country. WhatsApp Pay, a payments network based on the UPI standard, is currently stuck in the beta stage due to data localization norms.
Breaking into the Indian market with Facebook coin could spell lots of profit for Facebook. Easy integration with existing applications will begin to drive the adoption of the service. However, the company will have to figure out a way to work with, or through, regulations in India.