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Calibra – Digital Wallet for Libra (calibra.com)
100 points by alcio 29 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 89 comments



> Imagine if cash became digital.

Been there, in China, with Alipay. Absolutely no way for an EU person to pay with it: doesn't accept European phone number for sign up and since the end of 2018 one can not get a proper Chinese SIM with a passport.

Don't touch cash. That's the only fallback we have for outages, when someone is without data connection (ghasp!) or for scenarios where politics or decisions make it impossible for foreigners to use it, like above.

EDIT one additional thought. One of my technical issues with Alipay is that it requires data connection from both sides. With POS terminals it's only the seller who needs to have some kind of a phone line. In a foreign country, with the current state of roaming charges, this is a serious problem. I don't know if FB plans to address this issue.

EDIT2 responding to some comments - even if a foreigner could/can get a full Chinese SIM, for spending 2 weeks there the need for a second, dedicated SIM is an overkill and an additional, tricky round, especially if you're not going to a Tier 1 city. Even if you succeed adding foreign bank accounts and debit cards could get tricky if I understand correctly, but I never actually got to test it.


Also cash is the only thing that works if your system gets unfair in some way. It's the only thing that allows a hobo to stay in touch with society, paying in a gay bar without trace, setup a political group that the state would deem immoral, experiment with banned drugs, buy censored books and journals, etc

If you like democracy, you need a small, but resiliant grey zone. You need to allow a few people to take the risk of doing what's condamned. It's not sexy, but it's necessary.

Do not outlaw cash.


>Do not outlaw cash

As much as I agree with you, cash is unfortunately already well on its way out: in many EU countries (Italy, France), cash transactions above 1.5k euros are illegal. For example, buying a car cash is illegal. The US won't be far behind, imho.

For small transactions (eg buying a loaf of bread), something flipped in small business owners minds: they used to hate plastic for small stuff, and I can increasingly feel that today, it's the exact opposite: people let out a small sigh of annoyance when they see you pull out your coins.

This is a freedom almost as important as free speech that's slowly and silently being choked to death by big govt and not a single so-called freedom fighter out there, be they on the left or on the right of the political spectrum is picking up on the significance of the issue.


> something flipped in small business owners minds

EU intercharge cap (The Regulation on Interchange Fees for Card-based payment transactions) entered into force in June 2015 [0] - it was probably that.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Interchange_fee#European_Union


>they used to hate plastic for small stuff, and I can increasingly feel that today, it's the exact opposite: people let out a small sigh of annoyance when they see you pull out your coins

If we are to preserve and force the continual issuance of physical currency, this is one of those of annoyances, which needs to be tolerated. In a decade's time, cash as a concept will be even more eroded and probably well on it's way to being gradually phased out of acceptance/existence. In another decade or more, it will become quaint and start to evoke feelings of nostalgia, perhaps even undergoing a retro revival by getting used as an underground currency.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-48133093


In Germany, cash is still king


I’m not disagreeing, but have you got a reference for your first paragraph?



No, it's not the only way anymore. Now we have decentralized crypto currencies, and some of them are even designed for privacy, like Monero or ZCash.


That doesn't solve any of the aforementioned problems.


It solves all the problems that the comment I replied to listed.


No. A hobo will not use a crypto coin. A crypto coin will not work during a natural disaster. It will not let you live out of the grid.

A crypto currency is a great complement to cash, not a replacement.



"since the end of 2018 one can not get a proper Chinese SIM with a passport"

I took my passport to a China Unicom shop in Beijing a few weeks ago, to get a SIM for a visiting relative. The process took about 10 minutes.

"Alipay is that it requires data connection from both sides"

No it doesn't. If I print out my payment QR code, you can scan it and pay me even if my phone is off. When I buy vegetables at the market, the vendors have their Alipay and WeChat QR codes displayed on stickers.

Some vendors have cheap bluetooth devices which announce the amount of each incoming payment, but most vendors trust the customer and don't bother to check whether a payment was made.


> I took my passport to a China Unicom shop in Beijing a few weeks ago, to get a SIM for a visiting relative. The process took about 10 minutes.

Tried to do the same in a tourist city (not a tier 1 city), beginning of May, didn't work. I wanted a full SIM, not a data only SIM though, which one did you get?

> No it doesn't. If I print out my payment QR code, you can scan it and pay me even if my phone is off. When I buy vegetables at the market, the vendors have their Alipay and WeChat QR codes displayed on stickers.

So the vendor (receiver) doesn't need connectivity, but you (sender) do, correct? That's the polar opposite of POS.


For what it's worth (and this was in 2018), I tried to buy a SIM in Changsha, and was told that I had to go to a specific China Unicom shop - apparently only one of them was allowed to register foreigners' details.


"Tried to do the same in a tourist city (not a tier 1 city), beginning of May, didn't work."

I'm curious - did you go to an official China Unicom store (i.e. owned and operated by China Unicom) or an independent retailer that happens to sell SIM cards?

"I wanted a full SIM, not a data only SIM though, which one did you get?"

A regular SIM with a voice+data plan.


> Tried to do the same in a tourist city (not a tier 1 city), beginning of May, didn't work. I wanted a full SIM, not a data only SIM though, which one did you get?

You just got unlucky... I bought one recently at China Mobile (Shenzhen). They do ask for passport and it takes about 10 minutes.


Both Beijing and Shenzen are Tier 1. And again, a full SIM or a data only SIM?


Full SIM. I'm fairly sure you got unlucky with that particular shop. I've been living in China for about a decade and never heard such a thing (passport was not even required a while back).


> No it doesn't. If I print out my payment QR code, you can scan it and pay me even if my phone is off. When I buy vegetables at the market, the vendors have their Alipay and WeChat QR codes displayed on stickers.

That's fine for very small amounts like groceries in a market but this is very easy to cheat with a fake client app on the buyer's device.


I went to a music festival last weekend. All of the vendors had machines for taking card payments, and none of them worked because there was no phone signal.

Of course, I had a pocket full of cash, so didn't care, but a lot of people didn't.


Responding to your EDIT2:

I don't understand how you can both be concerned with the 'current state of roaming charges', yet think that getting a local SIM for a 2 week trip is 'overkill'.

I agree that it's probably harder to find the right place to buy a SIM in a non-tier-1 city, but you can probably Google it before you get there.

However, to get Alipay working you probably need a Chinese bank account. You can get one of those with your passport (even with a tourist visa) but I can understand if that seems like overkill for a 2 week trip :)

Nevertheless, if we contrast the situations in the US and China, they each have pros and cons for tourists:

USA pros: - cash gladly accepted almost everywhere - visa/MC accepted almost everywhere

USA cons: - can't get a local bank account as a tourist (at least not easily) - can't set up a local mobile wallet (PayPal or Venmo)

China pros: - tourist can get a bank account - tourist can get a mobile wallet (after getting a bank account)

China cons: - some places don't accept cash - many places don't accept visa/MC

So the US is a little more convenient for a tourist. You can get by fine without a local bank account or payment app.


Being Facebook, they probably don't have to worry about the China market, but other countries also want to have some degree of control over money crossing their borders. It will be interesting to see how Calibra plans to handle that.


> Been there, in China, with Alipay. Absolutely no way for an EU person to pay with it: doesn't accept European phone number for sign up and since the end of 2018 one can not get a proper Chinese SIM with a passport.

This is not true.

I got a "proper Chinese SIM" and new bank account two months ago in Shenzhen. Both Alipay and WeChat pay work fine. Whole process took under two hours, including getting the sim and I had bank card in my hand by the end of it.


I guess you were not on vacation in Hangzhou and in scenic areas. The last thing I'd want to do on holiday is opening a bank account.


Last that I was in China I used my standard Danish phone subscription from 3. Fast, flat rate data and full access to Google etc. in mainland China.

https://www.3.dk/abonnementer/fordele/3likehome/


This is orthogonal. Yes, my UK giffgaff worked, but UK - or Hungarian - phone numbers are not accepted by the Alipay app for registration.


Sure. I still couldn't do KYC in China and get an wechat wallet but global mobile roaming and internet connectivity is a first step ...


Digital payment is now almost ubiquitous in India also. But, I still always carry cash with me, because of sketchy data network in crowded areas(including my workplace). All digital payment system in India requires data connection on payer phone.


Alipay appears to be available in Europe now, as the UEFA Nations League tickets could be bought using either alipay or card. source: I bought Nations League tickets.


Did you pay using Alipay? If so, are you a Chinese citizen?

I'm asking because I have never been able to use Alipay at retailers or web sites outside China. When I tried to pay with Alipay at Uniqlo in Japan, the transaction failed and I received an SMS explaining it was because I don't have a Chinese national ID card.


I did not use Alipay but the fact that it was available as an option and it was a sponsor heavily featured on materials even inside the stadiums made me think it must be available.


To sell, yes. Not to buy with it. I couldn't rent a bicycle in Hangzhou because if this.


From the FAQ:

> Question: How will you prevent fraud?

> Anwer: All accounts and transactions are verified, and fraud prevention is built in throughout the app. Accounts are verified with government-issued ID, so you know people are who they say they are. Facebook and WhatsApp account information are also used when available to verify identity and prevent fraud. Calibra also has in-app reporting and dedicated customer service. In the rare event of unauthorized fraud, you will receive a full refund.

How can they refund the money? Would that mean that they have full control on the currency? And if they do, doesn't that defeat the purpose of a blockchain?


You don't need to ask Facebook permission to transfer the money, but they reserve the right to intervene if you commit fraud. That's why they are using a blockchain.

The governments will love it because it allows for perfect surveillance, the people will love it because it makes international payments seamless, it can erase the predatory remittance business out of existence. If they can convince merchants to accept it, they can also improve on credit card UX.


How is that different from transferring money through a bank?

I can understand the benefit of this from the standpoint that it will be essentially a global currency, which will reduce transfer times and just generally make it easier to send money, however I don't understand why a blockchain is involved. We already have similar solutions (Paypal, Transferwise etc), is blockchain just a way to market this thing?


Banks transfers take longer, banks transfers cost money and international banks transfers outside of SEPA network are a nightmare and they can get blocked/stalled for odd reasons.

Blockhain is a technical convenience - the Libra Association consists of 28 members. Everybody is more comfortable with money being stored on the public ledger rather than on a database server owned by Facebook. Blockchain is useful in cases where a collaborative/adversarial relationship exists between multiple parties. In this case this is regulators, governments, Libra association members and users. Blockchain keeps everybody honest, compliant and ensures data integrity.

It also removes some of legal responsibility from Facebook because they don't actually process the transactions themselves, it's peer 2 peer.


It's just marketing. Of course if you really want to you can bend a blockchain for this purpose, eroding it as much as possible, with the central validators and what not. A rose by any other name...


A transatlantic bank transfer will cost you over 30 euros in correspondent bank fees, in addition to the fees your bank and their bank charge. And you'll get no receipt for that, because banks suck.


> A transatlantic bank transfer will cost you over 30 euros

Not will, but can. I did a transatlantic SWIFT payment recently and it cost me $9 in correspondent bank fees. I did another one and it cost me $0 in fees. I did another and it cost $18.

In each instance, I was able to get a SWIFT trace by asking the emitting and receiving banks to provide this. I didn't get a receipt for the SWIFT fees correspondent banks charged, but I did get receipts for the bank fees at either end.

Banks do suck, and the payment networks also suck, but sometimes they can suck less.


How is a VISA/Mastercard not 'seamless' for international payments?


I would assume they have full control of the currency, but it doesn't negate the purpose of blockchain, but perhaps the purpose of proof-of-work, so I hope they use something different.

But long and short I think is that people don't want to have the possibility of losing their wallet, meaning someone else needs to have authority over it. I dislike the slowness and transaction fees of banks, not the state backed security.


It literally does negate all the purpose of a blockchain though. Blockchains do no not provide any value if you have a trusted party, they only make things less efficient.


refund => reverse commit forward

Refund is not necessarily reversing a transaction.


This is Facebook's attempt to cash in on the cryptocurrency hype with a high tech type of bank before real cryptocurrencies can scale and become mainstream.

I consider it a moral imperative for developers to stop this. In fact I will probably make some comment like that at some point on their GitHub pages. Which I expect to be removed. But this is the good fight. It's what Star Wars is really about. Defeating the evil empire.


I agree with your first point. Calibra without the "cryptocurrency blockchain" keywords would still have the same utility.

As to your second point, may I ask why you consider it a moral imperative for developers to stop this?


> Accounts are verified with government-issued ID, so you know people are who they say they are. Facebook and WhatsApp account information are also used when available to verify identity and prevent fraud.

What could be a bigger achievement for an ad company than being able to track all transactions between its users and customers? That's why your payment account will be associated with your social account. What Facebook is doing here, it's providing a lower-margin (payment processing) service for free to grow its higher-margin (ad targeting) business.


> Aside from limited cases, Calibra will not share account information or financial data with Facebook, Inc. or any third party without customer consent. For example, Calibra customers’ account information and financial data will not be used to improve ad targeting on the Facebook, Inc. family of products

https://scontent-ams4-1.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t39.2365-6/65083631_3...


> without customer consent

Which every customer will give by agreeing with carefully crafted "Terms and Conditions".


https://github.com/libra/libra and

https://libra.org/en-US/

Built in Rust. Interesting. Nice choice.



This is their custommer commitment document which specifies some details about how they will maintain user privacy and Libra's relationship to Facebook: https://scontent-ams4-1.xx.fbcdn.net/v/t39.2365-6/65083631_3...


"We are working to bring Calibra to as many countries as possible, as soon as we can."

I hope my country won't allow a currency controlled by a foreign company.

The power of companies is already influencing democracy in a bad way.


I can't believe any good will come of this


Can someone give something like eli5 how this works? Is the currency pegged to some currency? How is that peg supposed to hold? Is facebook a bank? Where are the assets supporting the currency ( if they exist) invested?


From the whitepaper:

> it will be backed by a collection of low-volatility assets, such as bank deposits and short-term government securities in currencies from stable and reputable central banks.

and

> The assets in the Libra Reserve will be held by a geographically distributed network of custodians with investment-grade credit rating to provide both security and decentralization of the assets.

https://libra.org/en-US/white-paper/#the-libra-currency-and-...


Big news. Nice to see more details.

- They have GAS fees. (unlike say EOS which is free). - Not sure how they will make accounts anonymous? Knowing an account lets anyone query the account balance? - They will start with permissioned chain and transition to non permissioned


I think a cryptocurrency doesn't make sense if it's managed by a company.


Let's see if they will allow non-custodial wallets for libra, that might make them the catalyst that enables real world bitcoin payments. There could be a service that pays libra invoices for you if you send them bitcoins. If this happens automated/transparently in wallets that would be a big step forward. Let the POS terminal tell you which currency it wants and your wallet will send it. If they want USD send libra, if they want BTC send BTC via lightning. Switching from accepting USD to BTC would become seamless (e.g. in case of increasing inflation).


Something tells me the calibra wallet will be the only wallet authz and it will be no different than your paypal app both as functionality and flexibility. As far as bitcoin is concerned it has no place in the payments world. It's a flawed coin for payments due its volatility.


> Accounts are verified with government-issued ID, so you know people are who they say they are.

I would prefer a global payment solution that defaults to anonymity, or at least pseudonymity, especially when it comes to transferring small amounts of money, such as paying for groceries.

This requirement is nothing more on Facebook's part than defaulting to the lowest common denominator in order to harvest as much data as they possibly can.


That would be illegal almost everywhere in the world for natural persons.


One can legally pay with cryptocurrencies for various services around the world, without submitting a government ID.

https://www.lifewire.com/big-sites-that-accept-bitcoin-payme...

https://coinmap.org/#/world/31.80289259/-82.96875000/3


Bitcoin is a nightmare for both buyer and seller due its volatility, not to mention the difference between exchange rates. You may buy your bitcoin with a specific price but the merchant/payment processor values it differently(lower). Just check bitpay to see for yourself


All payment solutions have drawbacks, we are talking about legality at the moment.


Cash payment is an obvious counter-example. Yes, the seller needs to keep records for tax purposes. But the buyer does not.

For an example of a crypto payment system (though not crytpocurrency) that attempts to provide anonymity in a way that doesn't make governments unhappy take a look at GNU Taler.


I’m skeptical, but it’s too early in the morning to deep dive into the white papers. Will save it for later.

Based on what I have read though, this digital currency isn’t really a crypto coin. The users are verified through government issued identification and it appears the coin is issued by a centralized system.

Seems like the companies invested into this system are trying to act like the Federal Reserve in the United States.


I am curius how refund works? Is there a "master key" that allows Facebook customer service to reverse a transaction or create a transaction from an arbitrary account?

And how does this play with current financial legislation. Do they have a banking license?

And where is the blockchain stored?

Otherwise great news; I am looking forward to something that probably has a very good end-user experience compared to what else is out there.


What's the use case for it? It looks like the point is to send money from people to people easily. But how about businesses? Currently I can pay with Contactless in shops, and on online services, paying by debit/credit card is straightforward. So I'm not seeing exactly what it will be used for.


More data mining?


Yes I don't expect Facebook to do anything for the greater good, however they still need to convince people to use it, and I'm curious what's the plan. "More data mining" won't cut it on their press release :)

Well I guess at this point they can pretty much force people to use the currency (by not giving any other payment options) since people are locked into their platform and won't leave no matter what Facebook do.


So the GAFAM wants to get independant from the banks. Great.

But they don't want to be controled by anything, or share the power, or make it fair, or good for humanity.

So they call it a cryptocoin, yet it's locked in and centralized.

I'm all for taking power from the bank, giving more power to the Silicon Valley is a terrible idea.


Currently 404 for me, was the site up ?


It was for around 17 mins and then everything is returning is 404. The website, link to WP.

Edit: Well, it's up now!


Can not open in Firefox :( but works fine with Chrome.

> ReferenceError: requireLazy is not defined


I guess, you might have enabled "Facebook Container" add-on while browsing this site. It is very restrictive in terms of blocking content that comes from Facebook Inc. addresses.

[0]: https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/facebook-cont...


Are you blocking some Facebook CDN domains perhaps?


Found the problem, Facebook Container extension blocked the js file.


Works for me using Firefox for Android, version 67.0.2


> "In the rare event of unauthorized fraud, you will receive a full refund."

How?


As I understand it Calibra is a custodial wallet. I'd guess that transactions between Calibra users never hit the libra blockchain, so reverting them should be possible.


Presumably by giving your money back to you.

That's generally how a refund works.

Did you have something else in mind?


That would mean they are an intermediary in the blockchain.


They create a new transaction from their probably inexhaustible wallet to your wallet.

I don't know much about Calibra, is it a public blockchain? Can anyone build a client to generate transactions and mine blocks?


Congratulations to Facebook for releasing code. I’m excited to see how the industry evolves.

We look forward to showing the world what we’ve been working on at MobileCoin when it’s ready.

Privacy matters.


I remember they announced reliable messaging across Facebook-owned apps (fb messenger, whatsapp, instagram), but looks like Instagram is not supported yet.


Don't use Facebook's cryptocurrency.


Open access? NO

Decentralized? NO

Censorship resistant? NO

Fixed monetary policy? NO

Unseizable? NO

Transaction fee market? NO

There's no point in FB using a blockchain for their digital payments network, other than touting it as a 'cryptocurrency'. A centralized or federated database is all they need.




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