Facebook Says Libra Can Change the World. It Needs to Convince Users.

The key to getting consumers and merchants to use the digital currency will be incentives

Facebook Inc. FB +0.04% has big plans to remake the financial system with its cryptocurrency-based payments network. First, it has to get people to use it.

The social-media giant’s plan for Libra—the digital currency it is launching with a few dozen partners including Visa Inc., Mastercard Inc., PayPal Holdings Inc. and Uber Technologies Inc. —is the most ambitious yet to get consumers comfortable with the technology that underpins bitcoin. Facebook’s ultimate goal is for consumers to use Libra to pay their bills, buy things and send money to family members abroad, among other everyday financial transactions.

Facebook has a built-in advantage because of its massive reach; around one-third of the world’s people visit the site monthly. But persuading them to change their habits and adopt a brand-new technology could be a tough slog. Privacy concerns also could hinder adoption of the new currency, though Facebook has said it won’t mingle Libra users’ social and financial data.

Bitcoin is a case in point. Its pseudonymous creator, Satoshi Nakamoto, pitched the original cryptocurrency to the world a decade ago as a way for people to exchange value directly, without the intervention of banks or other middlemen. Yet it has failed to catch on as a payments platform.

Facebook’s toughest sell will be in the developed countries where established payment options such as cash and credit cards remain king, and in places like China, where mobile-payments networks dominate the market. Consumers in countries with limited access to banking services may be quicker to adopt the new currency.

The key will be incentives. Fiat currencies work for a simple reason: Governments decree that their citizens must use and accept them. Digital currencies such as bitcoin and Libra without ready-made communities have to give consumers a reason to use them.

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WSJCoin: To Understand Cryptocurrencies, We Created One
In an original WSJ documentary, markets reporter Steven Russolillo ventures to Japan and Hong Kong to explore the universe of cryptocurrencies. His mission: create WSJCoin, a virtual token for the newspaper industry. Image: Crystal Tai. Video: Clément Bürge

The founding members of the Libra Association, the Geneva-based not-for-profit that will govern the currency, will be tasked with designing and spreading user and merchant incentives, which could include discounts.

Libra’s appeal, at least in the beginning, likely will depend on how many merchants and service providers sign up to accept it, said Dante Disparte, head of policy and communications for the Libra Association. It also needs to work like the established financial networks that consumers are accustomed to using, he said.

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Libra aims “to make the transfer of currency more efficient than the alternatives,” Mr. Disparte said.

Bitcoin’s development wouldn’t have been possible without incentives. The miners that provide the computing power to maintain and secure the network upon which it exists get a shot at winning a competition for newly created bitcoin.

That was Satoshi’s brilliance,” said Dan Held, a bitcoin investor and entrepreneur. “It wasn’t even the code. It’s that the code aligned incentives among participants.”

Still, bitcoin has struggled to grow beyond its core base of users and aficionados because of technical limitations.

Libra won’t carry the force of law, and it will have little investment value. It is being designed as what is known as a stablecoin, pegged to the value of a basket of fiat currencies that will shield it from the big swings typical of bitcoin and its descendants.

Thus stability and cost—Libra user fees are expected to be minimal—are likely to be its biggest draws, said Eswar Prasad, an economics professor at Cornell University.

But trust could be a stumbling block, he said. The question of Libra’s stability will be tied to Facebook’s reputation, at least in its early years.

Facebook still has a “reasonable amount of trust among its users,” despite concerns about its privacy practices, Mr. Prasad said. But it is competing with the central banks that issue hard currency, he said, and that could be a difficult fight to win.

“For all of Facebook’s wealth and domination of the social-media space, it is difficult to see its currency becoming a durable and significant store of value,” Mr. Prasad said.

Why Silicon Valley Loved Uber More Than Everyone Else

Uber was the most valuable private company in history, but the public market has not been as enthusiastic. The reason explains a lot about how the tech industry works.

But some of it should go to Silicon Valley’s cultural divergence from the business reality. Investors loved the company not as an operating unit, but as an idea about how the world should be. Uber’s CEO was brash and would do whatever it took. His company’s attitude toward the government was dismissive and defiant. And its model of how society should work, especially how labor supply should meet consumer demand, valorized the individual, as if Milton Friedman’s dreams coalesced into a company. “It’s almost the perfect tech company, insofar as it allocates resources in the physical world and corrects some real inefficiencies,” the Uber investor Naval Ravikant told San Francisco magazine in 2014.

Robert Reich: Trump’s Brand is Ayn Rand

Robert Reich explains why Ayn Rand’s ideas have destroyed the common good.

Donald Trump once said he identified
with ayan rands character Howard Roark
in The Fountainhead an architect so
upset that a housing project he designed
didn’t meet specifications
he had it dynamited others in Trump
Circle were influenced by Rand Atlas
Shrugged was said to be the favorite
book of Rex Tillerson Trump Secretary of
State’s Randa also had a major influence
on Mike Pompeo from CIA chief Trump’s
first nominee for Secretary of Labor
Andrew Posner said he spent much of his
free time reading Rand the Republican
leader of the House of Representatives
Paul Ryan
required his staff to read Rams I grew
up reading Iran it inspired me so much
that it’s required waiting in my office
for all my interns of my staff Uber’s
founder and former CEO Travis kalanick
has described himself as a ran follower
before he was sacked he applied many of
her ideas to obras code of values and
even used the cover art for rands book
The Fountainhead as his Twitter avatar
so who is iron Rand and why does she
matter line Rand best known for two
highly popular novels still widely read
today The Fountainhead
published in 1943 an Atlas Shrugged
in 1957 didn’t believe there was a
common good she wrote that selfishness
is a virtue an altruism an evil that
destroys nations when Rand offered these
ideas they seemed quaint
if not far-fetched anyone who lived
through the prior half-century witnessed
our interdependence through depression
and war and after the war we used our
seemingly boundless prosperity to
finance all sorts of public goods
schools and universities a national
highway system and health care for the
Aged and poor we rebuilt war-torn Europe
we sought to guarantee the civil rights
and voting rights of African Americans
we open doors of opportunity to women
of course there was a common good we
were living it
but then starting in the late 1970s
rands views gained ground she became the
intellectual godmother of modern-day
American conservatism this utter
selfishness this contempt for the public
this win at any cost mentality is it
roading American life without adherence
to a set of common notions about right
and wrong we’re living in a jungle where
only the strongest cleverest and most
unscrupulous get ahead and where
everyone must be wary in order to
survive this is not a society it’s not
even a civilization because there’s no
civility at its core it’s a disaster in
other words we have to understand who I
am Rand is so we can reject her
philosophy and dedicate ourselves to
rebuilding the common good the idea of
the common good was once widely
understood and accepted in America I
mean after all the US Constitution was
designed for We the People seeking to
promote the general welfare not for me
the selfish jerk seeking as much wealth
and power as possible yet today you find
growing evidence of its loss

  • CEOs who
    couch their customers loot their
    corporations into fraud investors
  • lawyers and accountants who look the
    other way when corporate clients play
    fast and loose
  • who even collude with
    them to skirt the law
  • Wall Street
    bankers who defraud customers and investors
  • film producers and publicists
    who choose not to see that a powerful
    movie mogul they depend on is sexually
    harassing and abusing young women
  • politicians who take donations really
    bribes from wealthy donors and corporations to enact laws their patrons
    want or
  • shudder the government when they
    don’t get the partisan results they seek
    and a
  • president of the United States who
    repeatedly lies about important issues
    refuses to put his financial holdings
    into a blind trust and then personally
    profits off his office and Momence
    racial and ethnic
    conflict the common good consists of our
    shared values about what we owe one
    another as citizens or bound together in
    the same society a concern for the
    common good keeping the common good in
    mind is a moral attitude it recognizes
    that we’re all in it together if there
    is no common good
    there is no society

With Uber’s I.P.O., Dara Khosrowshahi Is Taking Travis Kalanick’s Company Public

The C.E.O. wants to prove that the start-up has evolved past a raucous, and profligate, tech-bro culture. But Uber’s past is simply not that far gone.

Uber was just weeks away from its initial public offering. After years of scandal, infighting and user revolt, this was supposed to be a $91 billion moment of triumph, when employees would become wealthy and the public could buy a piece of an indisputably world-changing company. The problem for Mr. Khosrowshahi, according to two people briefed on the matter, was that Mr. Kalanick wanted to be there.

As a former C.E.O. and current board member, Mr. Kalanick had asked to take part in the hallowed New York Stock Exchange tradition of ringing the opening bell on May 10, the day Uber shares are slated to begin trading. He also wanted to bring his father, Donald Kalanick. It would be close to the second anniversary of the accidental death of Travis Kalanick’s mother, and of the dramatic boardroom coup that ousted him as boss. His presence on the exchange’s iconic balcony could make both Mr. Kalanick and the corporation appear resilient.

Mr. Khosrowshahi wasn’t having it. The original plan was to fill the rafters with Uber’s earliest employees and longest tenured drivers. Moreover, some people at the top of the company felt that Mr. Kalanick was still a toxic liability, and that Uber should keep him at maximum distance as it tried to convince constituents that employees truly abided by a new motto: “Do the right thing. Period.” Mr. Kalanick’s appearance would unavoidably rekindle public memories of just howmuch of a disaster his final year was.

Besides, Mr. Khosrowshahi had bigger things to worry about than I.P.O. pageantry. Uber is losing billions of dollars annually, and he needs to convince investors that it is a promising, long-term company — even if it won’t be turning a profit anytime soon. He didn’t need the distraction at Uber’s financial coming-out party. On May 3, shortly after this article was first published online, Mr. Khosrowshahi decided Mr. Kalanick wasn’t welcome on the balcony, according to an Uber executive briefed on the plans.

The C.E.O. wants to prove that the start-up has evolved past Mr. Kalanick’s raucous, tech-bro culture — and his strategy of setting barrels of money aflame in the pursuit of growth above all else. But Uber’s past, to state the obvious about a company that is only a decade old, is simply not that far gone. Almost every instance of Mr. Kalanick’s bare-knuckled approach to capitalism illuminates something about Uber’s viability as a business today.

.. The company has little good will with consumers or regulators in multiple jurisdictions. And Uber still loses money on nearly every fare, using venture capital to subsidize rides, invest in new areas and beat back a set of global competitors that offer an essentially identical service.

Mr. Kalanick’s heavy reliance on venture funding could be problematic for a public Uber in at least two ways. Arguably, it instilled habits of indiscipline, because executives could simply ask for more money whenever they wanted it, like rich kids with no cap on their allowance.