Those familiar with the early history of Facebook, Inc. (FB) likely know about founder Mark Zuckerberg's longtime rivalry with his co-founders (and later enemies) the Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss. Disputes over Facebook's origins prompted legal action between the Winklevoss brothers and Zuckerberg, and the twins eventually earned a $65 million payout. Now, a decade and a half after these rivals parted ways, they may be partnering up again. The Winklevoss' cryptocurrency exchange, Gemini, may help to provide liquidity and warehousing for a stablecoin that Facebook is developing, according to the Financial Times.
The Winklevoss twins launched Gemini in 2015. Since then, Gemini has become one of the leading cryptocurrency exchanges, helping to pioneer the trading of ethereum, bitcoin futures and more.
GlobalCoin to Launch Next Year
According to the report, Facebook plans to launch GlobalCoin, a digital currency pegged to the U.S. dollar, in 2020. The coin, which will be unique to the social media platform, will aid users in transmitting payments across the WhatsApp network. Though Facebook aims to initially launch GlobalCoin in a group of roughly a dozen countries, the social media giant has much larger aspirations for its cryptocurrency: GlobalCoin could eventually serve as a current account for close to 2 billion individuals around the world who have internet access via smartphones but who lack traditional bank accounts.
Details of the currency are few at this point, but Zuckerberg has met with potential partners across the digital currency and traditional banking spaces. Besides the Winklevoss twins, Zuckerberg has also reportedly engaged in talks with major cryptocurrency exchange Coinbase as well as the governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney.
Reasons to Be Wary
While the prospect of Facebook entering the cryptocurrency space is an exciting one, particularly as the social media powerhouse has faced widespread criticism in recent times, there are many reasons why GlobalCoin may fail to launch. The discrepancies between traditional banking regulations, cryptocurrency regulations, and Facebook's status as an outsider in the world of banking may prove insurmountable. If GlobalCoin is a success, its impact could be enormous and potentially difficult to predict. ING economist Teunis Brosens indicated that, owing to Facebook's dominance, "banks may find themselves disintermediated, with business suppliers increasingly bound to Facebook's platform." GlobalCoin could even disrupt central banks.
In considering a stablecoin launch, Facebook may be aiming to reproduce the success of China's Tencent. Tencent's WeChat app has come to dominate the nation's $4.7 trillion mobile payments market along with rival e-commerce giant Alibaba (BABA).