In the approach to the launch of the Facebook-spawned Libra payments ecosystem, a key subsidiary has been given a new name and a new look.
According to an announcement on Tuesday, Facebook subsidiary and Libra wallet provider Calibra has now been rebranded to Novi – a portmanteau of the Latin root words, “novus” meaning new and “via” meaning way. The first wallet product from the firm is intended to hold Libra’s various digital currencies, once the Facebook-led initiative goes live.
Novi also comes with a design revamp that is said to represent “the fluid movement of digital currencies,” but maintains an element of the Libra icon in its logo.
“While we’ve changed our name from Calibra,” Novi said in a statement, “we haven’t changed our long-term commitment to helping people around the world access affordable financial services.” Just in case you were worried about that.
Novi also provided a little insight into how the product will work. The digital wallet will operate as a standalone app, as well as providing interoperability with Facebook’s social messaging apps Messenger and WhatsApp.
Aimed to make sending funds to friends or family as “easy as sending a message,” transactions with Novi will arrive instantly, according to the announcement, and will contain no “hidden charges.” Novi didn’t offer any detail on what any standard transaction fees might be.
All Novi customers will need to be verified using government-issued ID, while “fraud protections” will come baked in. The wallet will initially be rolled out to a limited number of countries.
The release date still remains unclear, but the project hopes to introduce “an early version of Novi when the Libra network is available.”
The wallet and future financial services for the project will now be operated by a new entity, Novi Financial – a Facebook subsidiary that, it said, will operate independently from the social media giant at its Menlo Park, California, headquarters.
The Libra project has suffered a series of setbacks as regulators and governments set off alarm bells over the perceived risks of the project in terms of financial crimes, some even calling it a threat to monetary sovereignty. In 2019, Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg said his company, which is part of the Libra Association, would quit if the project were released prematurely.
In the face of all the pushback, the Libra Association’s original model for its digital currency – a stablecoin pegged to a basket of fiat currencies and government bonds – was restructured in mid-April. The project will now issue a number of stablecoins based on individual national currencies in different markets.
Libra still has plans for a multi-currency stablecoin but it will be backed by the new stablecoins and not directly by fiat currencies.
There have been other issues too. In June 2019, major firms including Uber, PayPal, Visa, Stripe, MercadoLibre, Bookings.com and Mastercard were all reported to be backing Facebook’s new crypto project.
However, pressure from U.S. regulators and lawmakers in October prompted Visa, Mastercard and Stripe to withdraw their affiliations with Libra. It’s been adding more new members since then, though, including its first state-owned entity, Temasek. Checkout.com also joined the project last month.
Libra has notably been on a hiring spree of ex-U.S. government officials – presumably to help smooth its regulatory path to launch – having signed up two former staffers at FinCEN in recent weeks