Meta’s plans for an internal digital currency have turned away from blockchain-based cryptocurrencies since the collapse of its Diem stablecoin project earlier this year.
With CEO Mark Zuckerberg all-in on creating a Facebook metaverse he calls the future of social media, speculation was high that another stablecoin — such as the Pax Dollar (USDP) its WhatsApp messaging service is integrating — might simply replace it.
Instead, Meta is looking at creating a metaverse token more akin to its failed Facebook Credits virtual currency, which ran from 2001 to 2013, the Financial Times reported on Thursday (April 7).
Citing Facebook insiders, the article said Meta Financial Technologies is focusing its metaverse payments efforts on a centrally controlled “Zuck Buck” more akin to gaming platform/metaverse Roblox’s Robux, used by its 230 million players.
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While the efforts are in an early stage, the paper reported, the decision to turn away from cryptocurrencies suggests that the Facebook metaverse the company spent $10 billion on last year wouldn’t be based on blockchain either.
“Staffers are now trying to find the least regulated way to offer a digital currency, two people said, with a digital token that is not based on the blockchain emerging as the most attractive option,” according to the newspaper.
The company’s head of metaverse product, Vishal Shah, said in November that its “goal is to provide a way for as many players as possible to build a business in the metaverse.”
Backing away from blockchain?
That said, it’s too soon to say anything definite about Zuckerberg’s broader metaverse ambitions.
Particularly as the Novi digital wallet Facebook built for the doomed Diem project — renamed from its original Libra after a massive global backlash from regulators, central bankers and politicians — now accepts the fiat-backed, dollar-pegged USDP stablecoin. And it may well support whatever virtual asset crypto-focused Silvergate Bank makes for the assets and intellectual property it purchased from Diem in January.
Beyond that, Meta is pushing ahead with the integration of NFTs, with the cryptocurrency-based non-fungible tokens that carry various unique and unalterable forms of media coming to Instagram.
NFTs will also be making a May debut on Facebook, the FT said. This will start with the ability to post and share collectables, but soon be followed by NFT-gated groups and the ability to mint new NFTs. Eventually, fees and ads will likely kick in.
The Zuck Buck
Along with the inevitably nicknamed in-app payments token, which would likely be usable throughout the social media giant platform — including on its Facebook Shop eCommerce venture — Meta is also looking at two other virtual currencies.
One, would be a “social” or “reputation token” usable as a reward in Facebook groups, and the other a “creator coin” for Instagram influencers.
As for the Zuck Buck, its noteworthy that Meta is reportedly looking into launching a small business lending product, which could reinforce the Facebook Shop eCommerce site that Zuckerberg said had attracted 1 million businesses and 250 million users as of March 2021.
In June, Facebook Shop announced plans to expand Shops into its Marketplace, as well as to WhatsApp users. In November, the company announced it had expanded Facebook Shop into Groups, allowing admins to set up marketplaces within their communities.
All of which means there are a lot more uses for the reportedly forthcoming payments coin than Facebook Credits — which suffered from a lack of places to spend it as well as high overhead — had in its brief lifespan.
Facebook has been aggressively pushing its Shops, cutting a payments deal that allows Facebook Shop and Instagram Shop merchants to use Shopify’s Shop Pay service a year ago. Shopify returned the favor by making Facebook Pay available to Shopify vendors in July.