Facebook Plans ‘GlobalCoin’ Digital Payment Push


Here comes GlobalCoin.

That’s the name of digital payments system that Facebook plans to deploy in “about a dozen counties by the first quarter of 2020,” according to a report Friday (May 24) from the BBC. According to the report, the social media giant is looking to begin testing its own cryptocurrency, “which has been referred to internally as GlobalCoin, by the end of this year.” The report said Facebook “is expected to outline plans in more detail this summer, and has already spoken to Bank of England governor Mark Carney.”

That talk reportedly involved discussion of “the opportunities and risks involved” in launching the cryptocurrency. Facebook also reportedly has had similar discussions with U.S. Treasury officials.

Not only that, but Facebook, according to this report, has also talked with Western Union, “as it looks for cheaper and faster ways for people without a bank account to send and receive money.”

Facebook Payments Push

Facebook keeps trying ways to embed itself further into digital commerce and payments — a task happening as the social media platform strives to rid itself of bogus accounts, repair a reputation soiled by privacy and data controversies and concerns over the spread of so-called “fake news” and resist pressure to break up the company.

For instance, Facebook recently selected London as the payments hub for its WhatsApp service. Shortly before that, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced that WhatsApp’s mobile payments would launch in several countries this year, after a successful pilot in India. WhatsApp Pay, which is facilitated by the Indian government’s UPI payments system, began testing its service in the country earlier this year with around 1 million users.

Facebook also made recent moves involving global crypto-based payments rails, described by a recent PYMNTS column from Karen Webster. Indeed, a decade ago this month, in May of 2009, Facebook launched the alpha version of Facebook Credits. Credits wasn’t called cryptocurrency, as at that time, the term hadn’t yet become a Silicon Valley buzzword and bitcoin hadn’t gone “mainstream.” The most popular use case for Credits? Social gaming.

Facebook Credit’s ignition strategy was more or less a brute force, take-it-or-leave-it approach. But, as Webster wrote, Facebook Credits turned out to be a big fizzle. Facebook had a lot of users then, but only a small sliver of them played games on the platform. In 2010, that number was roughly 20 percent of all users, with only a very small fraction ponying up money to buy stuff inside of those games. For diehard gamers, Credits was the only payments option in those apps, so they played along, so to speak.

Facebook also recently has been touting its Marketplace — specifically, at the social media platform’s F8 conference in April. There, it was announced that Facebook will soon let Marketplace sellers “ship items anywhere in the continental U.S.,” and consumers will be able to pay for purchases directly via the platform. “As such, sellers who are happy to ship their goods will be able to cater to customers on the other side of the country. Buyers, meanwhile, should have access to a broader selection of items and perhaps some peace of mind through purchase protection for eligible items.”

That is only the latest addition and upgrade to Marketplace as Facebook tries to become a bigger player in eCommerce, with enhancements being powered by artificial intelligence (AI). Late last year, for instance — on the second anniversary of Marketplace — the social media network operator rolled out price range suggestions and auto-categorization features to make it easier to sell things.

So what about GlobalCoin, then? What role might it play?

According to the BBC, “the social networking site is hoping to disrupt existing networks by breaking down financial barriers, competing with banks and reducing consumer costs.”

Whatever the case, the plans for GlobalCoin demonstrate the increasing appeal of digital payments.