First, the Libra Association underwent a radical overhaul in an attempt to make Facebook’s controversial stablecoin project more palatable to investors.
Now, the embattled social network’s cryptocurrency wallet, Calibra, is being given a new name, too.
In a May 26 Twitter thread, Calibra CEO David Marcus, Facebook’s frontman on the Libra project, revealed that the wallet will now be known as Novi.
“After announcing Libra last summer, it became clear that there was more confusion than we wanted,” the wallet’s CEO admitted.
Novi is a portmanteau of two Latin words — novus meaning new, and via meaning way. Marcus said this will be the premier platform for sending, receiving and storing Libra currencies.
Cause for more confusion?
Although Calibra’s (presumably expensive) rebrand is designed to reduce confusion, there’s a real risk that the new name could exacerbate it.
Most companies that unveil a suite of complementary products include a word that unites them—think Amazon Prime, Amazon Web Services. Marcus says “there’s a nod to Libra” in the Novi logo, but unless its users happen to have a degree in graphic design, will this be enough to establish a meaningful connection?
Of course, one possible answer is that confusion is the real goal of the rebranding. Specifically, distancing a name associated with the widely distrusted Facebook from the Libra project.
Brand new direction
Marcus’s announcement was accompanied by a slick new video illustrating the Novi wallet in action, with the executive confirming it will launch “as soon as [the] Libra mainnet goes live.”
In the 75-second clip, set to some hip music, Novi is described as “money movement reinvented.”
The footage appears to show a father sending $100 Libra dollars (a cryptocurrency version of USD) to his son, along with the message: “Here’s some money for the month! Take care.”
It heralds the creation of “global connections for every one of us”—and as a rapid stream of photos from people around the world, Novi makes it clear it is setting its tanks on the lawn of expensive remittance services by allowing consumers to keep more of their money.
“You’ve deserved better for a long time,” one stinging tagline reads.
Marcus, who has 67,200 followers, had surprisingly little traction for his three tweets. At the time of writing, they had been retweeted 85 times, and liked 224 times.
Aside from the inevitable congratulatory messages sent to the CEO, there were a couple of burning questions bubbling underneath the surface: what does this mean for Facebook Pay, and when is the Libra mainnet going to launch?
Nailing down a release date really is going to be the million ≋USD question. Libra (and Novi) still have a long way to go until regulators are satisfied that the project isn’t capable of throwing the global economy—already in disarray because of the coronavirus pandemic—into a full-on meltdown.
Last month, the Libra Association unveiled watered-down plans for the stablecoin project in direct response to the fierce and unequivocal pushback it received from regulators and governments the world over.
A new white paper assured these organizations that “key items of feedback” had been listened to, and four “notable evolutions” had been made. One especially big concession saw Libra abandon plans to launch with a “permissionless” system where no single entity would enjoy full control.
Unfortunately, the Libra Association looks like it will have to make do without some of the big-name members that contributed to an exceptionally headline-grabbing launch. The British telecoms giant Vodafone announced it was pulling out of the nonprofit back in January—joining a long, heavyweight list of quitters including eBay, PayPal, Mastercard, and Visa.
On the back foot
Libra has been struggling to play catch-up ever since U.S. and European Union lawmakers demanded that Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg pause development on the project altogether until regulatory and legal issues can be properly put to bed. Indeed, in fall last year, the billionaire admitted he couldn’t be confident that Libra would ever launch at all.
It is far too early to assume that its watered-down white paper and newly renamed cryptocurrency wallet will change anything. Earlier this month, a detailed publication from the European Central Bank suggested that officials in Brussels believe the latest iteration of Libra has the potential to be just as dangerous as the first.
Although the ECB struck a positive note by acknowledging that stablecoins can make payments faster and cheaper for consumers, it warned that strict conditions must be met if Libra can even dream of operating on E.U. shores.
Its central bankers were mainly concerned about the original version of the Libra stablecoin, which was set to be backed by a basket of fiat currencies including the euro, yen, dollar, and pound. The ECB suggested that, based on some usage projections, Facebook could end up holding an eye-watering $3.2 trillion in reserve in a worst-case scenario—potentially impacting exchange rates and unleashing mayhem if there’s ever a run for cash.