Meet Novi: Facebook rebrands its digital wallet, Calibra

Remember Libra – Facebook’s much-maligned attempt to create a sovereign cryptocurrency with an accompanying digital wallet named Calibra? We’d forgive you if you didn’t.

To recap, Libra is a proposed digital currency that would – among an association of other corporate entities – be managed on a permissioned (read: private) blockchain by Facebook. Intended to serve as a unified digital currency which could be used for borderless payments, Libra espoused some of the libertarian philosophy of blockchain enthusiasts along with some of the strengths of a permissioned blockchain. Unfortunately, the whole affair started to fall apart when everyone remembered that the concept (and the eventual launch and maintenance thereof) would largely sit in Facebook’s domain.

In just a few months, major names such as Mastercard, Visa, eBay, Stripe and Mercado Pago had all departed the association – leaving Facebook and its remaining partners to limp towards its intended release date which would (apparently) see Libra launched at some point in 2020.

As part of a move to shed some of the stigmas that Facebook’s own brand possesses, the company has now rebranded its Calibra digital wallet; accordingly, a new member of the Libra Association, named Novi Financial, will maintain the official Libra wallet, accordingly renamed Novi.

Facebook confirmed (lessons in Latin and etymology notwithstanding) that the name was inspired by a portmanteau of the words “novus” and “via,” which mean “new” and “way”. With the release of Novi’s new website, the company has also confirmed that Libra will no longer see its value pegged to a basket of assets or one particular currency, and that the service will rather now attempt to peg its value to a multitude of national currencies.

Effectively, this could mean that Libra exists in multiple instances and serves as a “stablecoin” (a cryptocurrency running on blockchain technology) that is pegged to the value of a regular (fiat) currency.

While some proponents have argued that marrying the speed and security of blockchain technology with regulated fiat currencies could promote acceptance and innovation, critics have instead offered that pegging a cryptocurrency to a regulated currency derails all the benefits of the former in any case.

With Novi, Facebook clearly hopes for a fresher start. The company came under fire last year for the fact that Calibra shared a very similar logo to a startup bank named Current.

Though details on Libra’s official launch remain scarce, Facebook has confirmed its plans to integrate Libra into its popular messaging apps such as WhatsApp and Messenger, and furthermore release a standalone app in the future.

What are your thoughts? Would you use Novi or, by extension, Libra? Let us know in the comments below.